With so many types of yogurts on the market, it can be difficult to know which yogurt is best for seniors. From the familiar Greek yogurt to the lesser-known non-dairy alternatives, you may be wondering which variety offers the best health benefits.
Luckily, a couple of simple steps can make selecting yogurt much easier. Keep reading for the top tips and answers to common questions like “Is yogurt good for seniors?”
Is Yogurt Good for Seniors?
Yogurt is a well-loved food item for many reasons. Beyond its creamy texture and slightly tangy flavor, it has health benefits, too.
Read on for the risk and benefits of consuming yogurt to determine if this delicious dairy product is right for you.
Benefits of Yogurt for Seniors
As a dairy product, yogurt contains plenty of calcium. One cup of plain, whole milk yogurt provides almost 300 mg of calcium, which is about ¼ of an elderly person’s daily calcium requirement (1,200 mg/day). Calcium is crucial to maintaining bone mineral density (BMD), and a recent study found that older adults who ate yogurt had increased BMD and higher physical function scores.
Calcium isn’t the only nutrient that makes yogurt a nutritional powerhouse. One cup of plain, whole-milk yogurt also contains 8.5 grams of protein. Protein is a nutrient that helps you feel full throughout the day, so yogurt is an ideal morning meal or snack. The protein content in yogurt can also support your body in maintaining muscle mass, which can be an important factor in your quality of life as you age.
Additionally, yogurt is a natural source of probiotics due to its fermentation process. Due to this, yogurt is thought to have health benefits beyond that of a cup of milk. The probiotics in yogurt can help balance the body’s gut microbiome (the intestinal environment), linked to other body functions, such as immunity and mood.
Yet another benefit of yogurt is that one cup of plain, whole-milk yogurt is under 150 calories per serving. This means it can fit into a low-calorie diet easily (although it is not necessarily considered a low-calorie food)
Risks of Yogurt for Seniors
One of the most obvious risks of yogurt is that it may not suit those with a milk allergy or sensitivity. Consuming dairy with lactose intolerance or a milk allergy may cause serious digestive upset. While the nutritional profile differs, dairy-free yogurt options are available at many major health stores and grocery chains.
Another consideration to make when choosing yogurt is that it does not contain all the nutrients of concern for older adults. For example, a cup of plain, whole-milk yogurt contains 0 grams of fiber.
How to Pick the Best Yogurt for Seniors
Wandering the aisles, yet to find the best yogurt? Try these tips to suit your health needs and common concerns.
1. Beware Based on Intolerances or Allergies
One of the first considerations when choosing the right yogurt for you is allergies. If you are shopping for dairy-free varieties, be sure to check the label and confirm that the food is dairy or lactose-free. Depending on the severity of your allergy, it may be helpful to experiment with A2 whole milk yogurt, which contains a special kind of protein that is easier for certain people to digest.
Additionally, you’ll want to search for dairy-free varieties that are fortified with vitamins. This makes it so that the nutrient profile of plant-based yogurt provides vitamins and minerals more similar to regular yogurt. Common fortifications include added calcium or vitamin D (which are both great for bone health).
2. Consider Health Conditions
The type of yogurt you select may depend on what health benefits you are looking for. Knowing your ultimate health and nutrition goal can help you select the variety of yogurt that is right for you.
For example, try fat-free or low-fat varieties if you want to enjoy yogurt and reduce the risk of heart disease. Low-fat yogurt can reduce heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure.
On the other hand, if you’re a senior searching for foods to help you gain weight, full-fat yogurt may be the right product for you. Full-fat yogurt contains about 8 grams of fat (including some healthy fats), which can assist you in reaching your weight goals.
3. Pump Up Protein Level
Switching to Greek yogurt for added protein is a simple way to boost protein in your diet. Greek yogurt contains almost twice the protein of regular varieties.
As mentioned above, protein is crucial in keeping seniors healthy and strong.
Keep in mind that some calcium is lost due to the processing of Greek yogurt. This means it may not be an ideal choice for people looking to boost bone health. On the other hand, due to the “good” bacteria in Greek yogurt, some of the lactose is broken down, meaning it may be easier to tolerate for some individuals with lactose intolerance.
If you opt for regular yogurt, you can increase the protein content by stirring a tablespoon or two of your favorite nut butter. You can also add yogurt instead of milk in smoothies to make them more protein and extra creamy.
4. Steer Clear of Added Sugars
Added sugars can quickly turn a cup of yogurt from a delicious snack into a not-so-healthy dessert. Some flavored yogurts pack in an average of 10-12 grams of sugar per serving.
When selecting fruit-flavored yogurt, try to find varieties that use real fruit or extracts for flavor. This may even increase the amount of vitamins available. For example, while regular yogurt generally contains no beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), one study found adding mango extract significantly increased the beta carotene content of probiotic yogurt.
A couple of ways to add flavor without risking added sugars are:
- Adding a drizzle of honey or a sprinkle of cinnamon
- Topping plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
- Using a sugar substitute
5. Compare Bulk Buys with Single Serving Size
Since single-serving yogurt can cost about $2 or $3, buying in bulk may make more sense if you consume yogurt regularly. Yogurt is also typically available in 32 oz containers (costing about $3 to $5), meaning you can spend less for more and simply scoop out your daily serving from this bigger tub.
At discounted prices, places like Costco may offer larger containers of Greek yogurt or regular yogurt. Plus, if you eat yogurt regularly, you may be able to get “variety packs” of yogurt containing multiple flavors of single serving sizes for you to try.
In Summary on Yogurt for Seniors
From probiotics to protein, yogurt has got it all! Seniors who eat yogurt have a better chance of increasing bone density, improving muscle mass, and maintaining a healthy weight. Whether you are trying to lose weight or gain weight, there’s a variety that’s right for you.
Ellis E. What to Look for in Yogurt. Eatright.org. Published June 2022.
El-Abbadi NH, Dao MC, Meydani SN. Yogurt: role in healthy and active aging. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;99(5):1263S-1270S.
Food and Nutrition Board, National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Elements. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Published 2019.
Savaiano DA, Hutkins RW. Yogurt, cultured fermented milk, and health: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2021;79(5):599-614.