Because of its nutritional benefits, nutritionists often recommend that people with diabetes eat yogurt as part of a healthful diet.
This article outlines the research on yogurt and diabetes. It also suggests the best types of yogurt for diabetes, as well as those to avoid.
Yogurt and diabetes
The probiotics in yogurt may help reduce inflammation.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend yogurt as part of a healthful diet. Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Research also suggests that the probiotics, or “beneficial bacteria,” in yogurt may help to reduce inflammation.
The following sections outline the effects of yogurt consumption on diabetes.
Effects of probiotic yogurt vs. no yogurt
Some of the participants who took part in the study ate a little less than two-thirds of a cup of probiotic yogurt per day for 8 weeks. Others consumed yogurt with a type of pumpkin or just pumpkin alone. A control group received dietary advice on managing diabetes but did not consume any yogurt.
Researchers tested each participant’s blood pressure and blood glucose levels at the start of the study, and again at the end. They also tested levels of fats and inflammatory markers in the blood. Inflammatory markers are chemicals in the blood that indicate inflammation in the body.
The participants who ate yogurt and yogurt and pumpkin showed a significant reduction in blood pressure. Their blood tests also revealed the following health improvements:
- a significant decrease in blood glucose levels
- significantly lower levels of the inflammatory marker “CRP”
- significantly lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol
The control group did not show significant improvements in any of the above markers of health. The researchers concluded that consumng probiotic yogurt might be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
Effects of probiotic yogurt vs. conventional yogurt
Probiotic yogurts contain active, live cultures. The amount and type of “healthy” bacteria can differ significantly between brands. However, probiotic yogurt usually contains substantially more beneficial bacteria than conventional yogurt.
A 2014 study suggests that probiotic yogurt may have more significant health benefits than conventional yogurt for people with type 2 diabetes.
The study included 44 participants who were overweight or obese. Over 8 weeks, one group of participants ate just over a cup of probiotic yogurt per day. The other group ate the same amount of conventional yogurt per day.
The participants who ate the probiotic yogurt showed significant decreases in one out of three inflammatory markers tested. They also showed a significant reduction in blood glucose levels. The volunteers who ate conventional yogurt did not show these effects.
The researchers concluded that probiotic yogurt consumption might help to control inflammation. This, in turn, may help to reduce the risk of diabetes complications.
Probiotics and glucose control
A 2015 review of 17 randomized controlled trials investigated the relationship between probiotics and glycemic control.
The review found that probiotics significantly reduced fasting blood glucose and fasting plasma insulin (FPI) levels. Lower levels of FPI indicate more effective glycemic control.
Although the changes in blood glucose and FPI were statistically significant, the size of these changes was modest. Nonetheless, the authors state that even a small reduction in blood glucose can be beneficial, especially for people with type 2 diabetes.
Which yogurts are best?
There are a variety of different probiotic yogurts to buy.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommend yogurt as part of a healthful diet for people with diabetes.
There are many different types of yogurt available. The examples below are also available with added probiotics:
- Greek yogurt contains double the protein of conventional yogurt
- organic yogurt made with organic milk and possibly other organic ingredients
- lactose free yogurt
- vegan yogurt (for example, soy, almond, cashew, hemp, oat, flax, and coconut milk yogurts)
Most of these yogurts are available in both flavored and unflavored varieties. The fat content of these yogurts can range from 0% fat to full fat or whole milk versions.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people with diabetes should choose yogurt products that are unflavored and fat free or lower in fat. Although these products contain fewer calories and less fat per cup, they may contain added sugar.
People can add any of the following healthful ingredients to plain yogurt to improve its flavor:
- homemade sugar free or reduced sugar granola
- fresh fruits, especially berries
- dried fruits that do not contain added sugars
Although probiotic yogurt has several health benefits, people should still pay attention to portion sizes. Eating too much healthful yogurt will add more calories and fat to the diet. Most guidelines recommend three daily servings of dairy products.
Yogurts to avoid
Some whole milk yogurts contain particularly high levels of saturated fats and trans fatty acids. These fats can be particularly damaging to health. However, a 2017 meta-analysis showed no association between low or full fat dairy products and cardiovascular disease.
Some manufacturers also add sugar or salt to their yogurts to improve the taste.
People may be tempted to buy yogurts containing healthful sounding ingredients, such as granola and fruit. However, these varieties may contain a significant amount of total carbs and added sugar. It is usually best to avoid yogurt products that contain added ingredients. Be sure to check product labels if in doubt.
Other healthful diabetes snacks
Sweet potatoes are a healthful choice for a person with diabetes.
As a general rule, people with diabetes should avoid the following types of foods:
- processed foods
- foods containing added sugar
- foods that are high on the glycemic index (GI)
The GI is a measure of how quickly certain foods release glucose into the blood. Foods that have a high GI release their glucose rapidly, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. Foods that have a low GI release their glucose more slowly and steadily.
Most fruits and vegetables have a low GI, meaning that people will experience a gradual increase in blood sugar after eating them. Some exceptions include starchy vegetables, such as potatoes. Different cooking methods can also affect the GI of vegetables.
The ADA suggest the following healthful choices for people with diabetes:
- various beans, including kidney, pinto, navy, and black beans
- dark leafy greens
- sweet potatoes
- tomatoes, carrots, squash, green beans, cucumbers, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli
- citrus fruits including grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes
- nuts and seeds
- whole grains
- fish high in omega-3 fatty acids
Yogurt is a healthful food that contains a good amount of protein, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. Research suggests that probiotic yogurt may be particularly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
Probiotics may help to reduce inflammation in the body. This, in turn, may lower the risk of certain diabetes complications.
Consuming probiotic yogurt may also lead to other health benefits, such as improved blood glucose control.
The 2015-2020 dietary guidelines recommend that people consume low-fat or 0% fat yogurt. People should check product labels carefully to compare products before purchasing.