Have you ever eaten plain yogurt and thought that it tastes like sadness? That’s probably because it was of the low-fat variety ― or worse, nonfat. The fact of the matter is, plain yogurt made with whole milk tastes better. It has a richer mouthfeel and a creamier body that’s so much more enjoyable to spoon up.
Not only that, it has nutritional advantages over low-fat yogurt.
When it comes to plain (unflavored) yogurt, it’s important to know the main variations:
American-style plain whole-milk yogurt, made by brands like Stonyfield, which is about 120 calories and 6 grams of protein per 3/4 cup.
There’s also skyr, which is really more like a milk cheese, but eaten the same way as yogurt. It’s high in protein and low in sugar, but tends to have a smoother flavor than its yogurt cousins. You’ll find about 170 calories and 18 grams of protein in a 2/3-cup serving of whole milk skyr from Siggi’s.
The experts interviewed for this article told HuffPost they typically prefer the Greek and skyr variations of yogurt because they’re higher in protein. Here’s why you should eat full-fat yogurt, according to the experts.
1. Full-fat yogurt tends to have less sugar
Fat wasn’t the enemy of American diets until about 1977. Around then, the government started pushing low-fat diets, which resulted in the mass manufacturing of low-fat products in the 1980s. The reason for this anti-fat craze was the belief that saturated fats were directly linked to heart disease. But newer research has shown that isn’t necessarily the case.
“People often fear full-fat yogurt for its saturated fat content and risk for raising LDL cholesterol levels,” explained Rahaf Al Bochi, registered dietitian and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition. “However, research in this area is inconclusive and is evolving, with a body of evidence suggesting a protective effect of full-fat dairy on cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk.”
Sometimes, lower fat yogurts are higher in sugar to accommodate the low-fat taste, which leaves people feeling unsatisfied (and might result in them adding even more sugar), Al Bochi explained.
2. Full-fat yogurt is less likely to spike your blood sugar
When you eat plain full-fat yogurt instead of varieties that contain more sugar, like fruit-flavored ones, you’re less likely to experience a spike in blood sugar. “If you’re having flavored yogurt, it might spike your blood sugar more, which leads to more of a crash later on,” said Lauren Sharpe, a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian. Chobani’s raspberry yogurt, for example, has 9 grams of added sugar (a total of 13), compared with about 4 total grams of sugar in the company’s full-fat plain yogurt.
When you crash after a blood sugar spike, you’re more likely to have cravings that make you want to grab the closest snacks. Instead of eating flavored yogurt, consider adding a drizzle of honey or some fresh fruit to plain yogurt.
It’s important to note, though, that even plain full-fat yogurt contains sugar. “You’re still going to get about 12 grams of naturally occurring lactose from one cup of milk, no matter what, whether that’s a cup of dairy, cup of yogurt, a cup of milk,” said Jaclyn London, head of nutrition and wellness of WW. You might not get fewer total grams of sugar, but you will get a lower percentage, which will help you feel full because it takes longer for your body to digest, absorb, and metabolize the sugar that you’re getting from dairy, said London.
3. Full-fat yogurt will curb your appetite for longer
Another benefit of eating yogurt made with whole milk is that you’re more likely to feel full for longer than if you eat low-fat or nonfat yogurt. “A cup of plain Greek yogurt can give you up to 20 grams of protein per that 6-to 7-ounce serving. So you’re really going to get a lot of that filling benefit from the protein itself, not necessarily just from the fact that the combo of those two (fat and protein) together can help you feel fuller longer,” London said.
You’ll also feel more satisfied. Sharpe explained that anything can fill you up — for example, a bowl of spinach — but for something to have staying power it needs to be more nutritionally complete. “When we have the full-fat yogurt, there’s definitely more of that satisfaction factor, so that you’re not continuing to think about food all the time because you just feel obviously full from the fat and the protein that’s in the yogurt, but also you feel satisfied,” Sharpe said.
4. It tastes better, and that matters!
As one researcher at Stanford University found, it may be easier to make nutritious food choices when you eat what tastes delicious. “Full-fat yogurt is rich, tasty, versatile and nutritious,” said Al Bochi.
Nutritionally, yogurt made with whole milk isn’t much different from plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt. They have about the same amount of protein and have probiotics. But the fat content in the whole-milk yogurt makes the eating experience go from droopy to wow, which may make you less likely to reach for the junk food later.
Full-fat yogurt is also a great ingredient to use in recipes when you want added creaminess with a boost of protein. Use it in place of milk when you’re making macaroni and cheese (especially if you make boxed mac), or use it as a substitute for sour cream.