How Much Added Sugar is in Yogurt? 7 May 2015

Many yogurt lovers have bemoaned the loss of innocence when they take a look at the food label of their favorite yogurt and discover that the sugar content looks alarmingly high. But those sugar grams may or may not include added sugars.

Plain unflavored yogurt typically has no added sugar. This is true for regular or Greek style, nonfat or full fat yogurt. The sugar in plain unflavored yogurt is naturally occurring lactose sugar from milk, the primary starting ingredient.

Greek style yogurt typically has less lactose and calcium but more total protein compared to regular yogurt. This is due to how Greek style yogurt is made - there is more straining and a greater loss of whey. And for those of who are worried about lactose intolerance, the lactose is not exactly intact by the time it reaches your gut. Certain species of bacteria are added to milk to ferment the lactose sugar. Fermentation causes lactose content to decrease while lactic acid increases - and that in turn gives us the distinctive tangy tart flavor and pleasant thickened texture.

Why Care About Added Sugars?

The American Heart Association published a scientific statement entitled, “Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health” with the recommendation that people limit added sugars intake in an effort to help curb the obesity epidemic as well as lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease. The recommendation boils down to a daily intake of not more than:
Men: 9 teaspoons (38 grams) or less of added sugar
Women: 6 teaspoons (25 grams) or less of added sugar

Added Sugars in Yogurt?

Unfortunately, food labels still list total sugars - they do not identify the amount of added sugars. But here are some tips to help you estimate how much sugar is added to your favorite yogurt.

Quick Estimation of Added Sugars

# sugar grams in flavored type - # sugar grams in the plain of same type and serving size

Tip: To calculate number of teaspoons, simply divide sugars by 4. There are 4 grams sugar per teaspoon.

What’s confusing is that plain yogurt and flavored yogurts are often sold with different serving sizes. So I decided to do the math for you. I collected data from the websites of three top selling yogurt brands in the United States: Yoplait, Chobani, and Dannon. I limited analysis to just nonfat versions of regular and Greek style yogurts since their sugar content is nearly identical to their higher fat versions. For fruit flavors, I chose blueberry. If that flavor was not offered, I used strawberry instead as these two flavors were typically identical in sugar content. Typically, flavors had the same nutrient profile within a product line. See two charts below - the first sorted by estimated added sugars per ounce of yogurt so you can compare added sugar content most easily, and the second sorted by estimated added sugars by single serving size.

Yogurt Sorted by Added Sugars per Ounce of Yogurt

Estimated added sugars / oz of yogurt Yogurt Type Sugars / container Estimated added sugars / container
0 grams Chobani Blended Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 4 grams 0 gram
0 grams Dannon Oikos Plain Greek Yogurt (nonfat and lowfat) 5.3 oz (150g) container 6 grams 0 grams
0 grams Yoplait Greek 100 Calories Plain Yogurt, 1 cup (225g) container 6 g / 225g
4 g / 150g
0 grams
0 grams Dannon All Natural Plain Nonfat Yogurt 6 oz (170g) container 12 grams 0 grams
0.2 grams Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Strawberry Greek Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 7 grams 1 gram
0.2 grams Yoplait Light Blueberry Patch Yogurt* 6 oz (170g) container 10 grams 1 gram*
0.8 grams Chobani Simply 100 Blueberry Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 8 grams 4 grams
0.9 grams Yoplait Greek 100 Strawberry Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 9 grams 5 grams
1.5 grams Yoplait Original Strawberry Yogurt* 6oz (170g) container 18 grams 9 grams
2 grams Chobani Blueberry on the Bottom Greek Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 15 grams 11 grams
2 grams Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Blueberry Yogurt – 6 oz (170g) container 24 grams 12 grams
2.4 grams Dannon Oikos Blueberry Greek Nonfat Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 19 grams 13 grams
2.6 grams Yoplait Blueberry Greek Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 18 grams 14 grams

Yogurt Sorted by Added Sugars per Single Size Container

*Used 9g lactose per 6 oz yogurt for the regular Yoplait yogurt estimate - this would be equivalent to the starting milk lactose load.
Estimated added sugars / container Yogurt Type Sugars / container
0 gram Chobani Blended Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 4 grams
0 grams Yoplait Greek 100 Calories Plain Yogurt, 1 cup (225g) 6 grams/225g
4 grams/150g
0 grams Dannon Oikos Plain Greek Yogurt (nonfat and lowfat) 5.3 oz (150g) container 6 grams
0 grams Dannon All Natural Plain Nonfat Yogurt 6 oz (170g) container 12 grams
1 gram Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Strawberry Greek Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 7 grams
1 gram* Yoplait Light Blueberry Patch Yogurt* 6 oz (170g) container 10 grams
4 grams Chobani Simply 100 Blueberry Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 8 grams
5 grams Yoplait Greek 100 Strawberry Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 9 grams
9 grams Yoplait Original Strawberry Yogurt* 6oz (170g) container 18 grams
11 grams Chobani Blueberry on the Bottom Greek Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 15 grams
12 grams Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Blueberry Yogurt – 6 oz (170g) container 24 grams
13 grams Dannon Oikos Blueberry Greek Nonfat Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 19 grams
14 grams Yoplait Blueberry Greek Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container 18 grams
*Used 9g lactose per 6 oz yogurt for the regular Yoplait yogurt estimate - this would be equivalent to the starting milk lactose load.

Yogurts Lowest in Added Sugars

0 grams of added sugar. If you want a snack that has 0 grams of added sugar, use plain unflavored yogurt (Greek or regular style) and add your own fresh fruit. If you add honey or syrup, you need to count that as added sugar.

1-5 grams of added sugar (about 1 teaspoon or less). If you want the convenience of a single-serve flavored container of yogurt with the lowest amount of added sugars, then choose a 100-calorie style Greek yogurt or a light regular yogurt. However, these choices all use some form of non-caloric sweetener. Yoplait uses sucralose and acesulfame potassium whereas Chobani and Dannon use Stevia to get the sweet taste. The lowest in added sugar while also being highest in protein goes to Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Greek Yogurt with 1 gram added sugar (my estimate but Dannon markets this as 0 grams of added sugar) and 15 grams protein.

If you are curious as to how sugary some yogurt styles can be, I urge you to browse the yogurt product lines in your local supermarket. For the three brands in this post, I found that Chobani Flip and Dannon’s Caramel or Chocolate on Top product lines contained an estimated 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugars per serving - the maximum recommended limit for women. Yikes!

Resources

Visit the American Heart Association’s Added Sugars webpage for more information. If you enjoy listening to podcasts, then check out Walk Talk Nutrition’s “The Colossal Nuisance of Added Sugars.” If you want to learn how to make yogurt, then read Scientific American’s Semisolid Science: Growing Yogurt. Enjoy!

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

Tags:

Foods & Recipes/Dairy Foods Nutrients/"Carbs: Fiber, Starch, & Sugar" Weight Loss/Sugars & Sweeteners

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