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Unveiling the Best Yogurt for Probiotics and Gut Health: A Comprehensive Guide

Published By: Dr. Jeffrey Mark
Date: October 29, 2023
Gut Health Microbiome
Microbiome for gut health


The trillions of microorganisms in your gut include bacteria, fungus, and viruses and are collectively
known as the microbiome. This ecosystem contains more genetic material than all the human genetic
material in your body’s cells. '

The composition and health of your microbiome has been shown not just
to reflect the health of your gut, but also overall health, biological age, and your response to nutrients
and medications.

You can get the top desired bacteria by directly ingesting the bacteria, known as a
probiotic from food or supplements. Other options include ingesting the carbohydrate fuel they require
to grow, called a prebiotic.

One of the tastiest ways to incorporate probiotics is through yogurt. In this
comprehensive guide we’ll discuss Greek yogurt, and other top options including Skyr and Bulgarian



Prioritizing your gut health through probiotic yogurt is a simple yet effective way to support your overall well-being. Whether you prefer Greek yogurt, kefir, skyr, or another probiotic-rich option, incorporating these into your daily diet can help you maintain a healthy gut microbiome, improve digestion, and bolster your overall well-being.


Yogurt, microbiome, gut health, the real gut doctor
Yogurt, microbiome, gut health, the real gut doctor

Understanding Probiotic Yogurt and Benefits

Probiotic yogurt is simply yogurt that contains live beneficial bacteria, which can help maintain the health of your gut microbiome. These probiotics offer various benefits, including improved digestion, enhanced nutrient absorption, and support for your immune system.

Stress is a major problem we all face and if excessive, high cortisol release can damage the gut lining and may be an instigating cause for autoimmune problems such as thyroid problems like thyroiditis, joint problems seen in rheumatoid arthritis, or skin problems seen in psoriasis. Beneficial strains of bacteria can help decrease inflammation and repair the gut lining.

However, not all yogurts are created equal when it comes to probiotics. To make sure you're getting the best yogurt for your gut health, you need to consider the following factors:

  1. Live and Active Cultures

The most crucial factor in selecting a probiotic yogurt is ensuring it contains live and active cultures. These cultures are the beneficial bacteria that offer health benefits. Look for labels on yogurt containers that specify the presence of live and active cultures.

Sometimes the fruit that is added affects the pH and could result in much fewer live bacterial colonies. Common probiotic strains you might find in yogurt include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.

  1. Low Sugar Content

High sugar content can have a detrimental effect on your gut which can offset some of the numerous health benefits from the live cultures in the sweetened yogurt.  Excessive sugar can feed harmful bacteria and result in less beneficial species.

Opt for yogurts with lower sugar content, especially those that don't contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Consider avoiding the yogurts with “fruit on the bottom” which may result in a decreased number of live cultures on top of added sugar.

  1. Diverse Probiotic Strains

The best yogurt for gut health often contains a variety of probiotic strains. Different strains may offer different benefits, so choosing yogurt with diverse strains can be advantageous. This diversity can help improve the overall balance of your gut microbiome. Strains to look for include lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobaculus plantarum, and bifidobacterium lactis.

  1. Avoid Excessive Processing

Yogurts that undergo excessive processing may lose some of their live and active cultures. Choose yogurt that is as minimally processed as possible to maximize the probiotic benefits.

  1. Whole Milk vs. Low-Fat or Non-Fat

Whole milk yogurt often contains more fat-soluble vitamins and fatty acids that can support the absorption of fat-soluble probiotics. The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins D, A, K, and E.  However, if you have dietary restrictions or preferences, you can still benefit from low-fat or non-fat yogurts with live cultures.

  1. Fermentation Time

The duration of fermentation can impact the probiotic content of yogurt. Longer fermentation periods generally result in higher probiotic counts. Some yogurts are fermented for an extended time, so you may want to explore these options for maximum benefits.

Fermentation Time

Top Picks for Probiotic Yogurt

Now that you know what to look for, here are some top picks for probiotic yogurt:

  • Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt is strained to remove excess whey, resulting in a thicker and creamier texture. It often contains high levels of probiotics and protein. It has twice the protein of the average yogurt and is thus favored by athletes looking for additional protein. Other benefits include low sugar content, high calcium for bone health, and high potassium levels to help with blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Look for brands that specify live and active cultures.


  • Kefir: Kefir is a fermented dairy product that is thinner than yogurt but contains a rich variety of probiotic strains. It may actually have a broader range of bacteria than regular yogurt. It's known for its digestive benefits. Other benefits include essential B vitamins B12, B2 and B9 for energy production, fatty acids such as omega 3 for brain function, and is a great choice for those who may be lactose intolerant. In general fermented products with higher bacterial counts will have enough of the enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose and is released from some of the digested bacteria.


  • Skyr: Skyr is an Icelandic-style yogurt that is high in protein and packed with probiotics. Skyr is made by fermenting skim milk with live active cultures and straining away the whey, resulting in a creamy and thick product. It's known for its smooth texture and tangy flavor. In addition to its probiotic benefits it has more protein than the average yogurt. It also is low fat for those seeking a leaner source of protein, low sugar to avoid promoting more harmful strains of bacteria, and a good source of calcium for bones and teeth.


  • Bulgarian Yogurt: Bulgarian yogurt is famous for its thick consistency and probiotic content. It's made by fermenting milk with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, two specific strains of bacteria that thrive in the unique Bulgarian climate. The result is a yogurt with a velvety texture and a distinctive sour taste. In addition to the bacterial mentioned, it has low sugar content, high in B vitamins like B12 and riboflavin, and calcium.


  • Probiotic Yogurt Drinks: Some brands offer convenient probiotic yogurt drinks that are rich in beneficial bacteria. These are easy to consume on the go.

Incorporating Probiotic Yogurt into Your Diet

Now that you've selected the best probiotic yogurt for your gut health, it's important to incorporate it into your daily diet. Here are some delicious and nutritious ways to enjoy probiotic yogurt:

  • Yogurt Parfaits: Layer yogurt with fresh berries, nuts, and a drizzle of honey for a satisfying and gut-friendly breakfast or snack.
  • Smoothies: Blend yogurt with your favorite fruits, vegetables, and a splash of milk for a creamy and probiotic-rich smoothie.
  • Dips and Sauces: Use yogurt as a base for homemade dips and sauces. It can enhance the flavor and nutritional value of your dishes.
  • Marinades: Yogurt-based marinades are not only delicious but can also help tenderize meat and infuse it with probiotic goodness.
  • Frozen Yogurt: Make your own frozen yogurt at home by freezing yogurt with your choice of fruits and sweeteners. It's a healthier alternative to commercial ice cream.

 If you have a kid, you should read probiotic foods for kids where you'll find a lot of interesting things you may have not heard before.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What kind of yogurt has the most probiotics?

Kefir can have a broader range of bacteria than regular yogurt. It is a fermented dairy product that a has a thinner texture but is rich in fatty acids such as omega 3.

Which brands of yogurt have live and active cultures?

Popular brands of yogurt that have live cultures found in grocery stores include Chobani, Noosa, Skyr, and Yoplait.

Which is better for you probiotic yogurt or Greek yogurt?

This depends on what nutrient you are seeking to maximize. For example, Greek Yogurt has a higher protein content without as much carbohydrates including sugar. Other yogurts such as the Bulgarian may be a richer source of calcium and potassium. Both can have live beneficial bacteria.

Can Greek yogurt help with digestion?

Greek yogurt has a good variety of beneficial bacteria. Many of these bacteria help keep the gastrointestinal wall intact as an effective barrier, decrease inflammation, and allow for an appropriate immune response. All these benefits allows the gut to have better digestion.

How much yogurt should I eat a day for gut health?

The general recommendation can range from 180ml to 250ml of yogurt daily.  This will allow an adequate dose of beneficial healthy bacteria. The amount can vary as most plain yogurts have more active live cultures than yogurt premixed with fruit, the “fruit is on the bottom” type yogurt which because of the pH and fruit may have less live bacteria.

What is the best yogurt for IBS sufferers?

Plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt has the best combination of a good amount of liver bacteria /probiotics, higher protein, and lower sugar.  This is the best choice for those with irritable bowel syndrome.

Does yogurt actually help gut bacteria?

A study in February 2017 showed that after 4 weeks of consuming Probiotics in healthy adults, there was an increase in beneficial Lactobaccili and bifidobacteria  strains.

Conclusion: A Healthier Gut, A Healthier You

Probiotic yogurt is a delicious and accessible way to support your gut health. By choosing yogurt with live and active cultures, low sugar content, and diverse probiotic strains, you can enjoy a range of health benefits while savoring the creamy goodness of yogurt.

Whether you prefer Greek yogurt, kefir, skyr, or another probiotic-rich option, incorporating these into your daily diet can help you maintain a healthy gut microbiome, improve digestion, and bolster your overall well-being. Your digestive system is intricately linked to your immune function, nutrient absorption, and even your mental health, making gut health a cornerstone of your overall health.

As you explore the world of probiotic yogurt, remember to focus on making informed choices, opt for whole milk or low-fat varieties, and minimize sugar content. These considerations will help you maximize the benefits of your probiotic yogurt consumption.

Incorporating probiotic yogurt into your diet can be a pleasant and rewarding experience. From yogurt parfaits to homemade smoothies and savory dishes, there are endless possibilities for enjoying the health benefits of probiotics while savoring delicious flavors.



Jeffrey Mark, 5x board certified MD

Jeffrey Mark, M.D.

Helping clients with compassionate and comprehensive medical care for over 25 years with 5 board certifications in functional medicine, gastroenterology, internal medicine, anti-aging/ regenerative medicine, and obesity medicine. IFMCP, ABIM Gastroenterology, NPAS Internal Medicine, ABAARM, ABOM.

Dr. Jeffrey Mark
With over thirty years of experience, Dr. Mark is a leading expert in holistic gut health. His integrative approach combines conventional medicine, functional and regenerative medicine, and advanced therapies to heal the gut and transform patient health. Holding 5 board certifications, Dr. Mark offers the comprehensive expertise of five medical specialists during each patient visit. He is dedicated to optimizing wellbeing by addressing the gut-related root causes of chronic health issues.
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