Yogurt can be a part of your diet if you’re watching your cholesterol, but it depends on the types that you eat. If cholesterol management particularly lowering your cholesterol is your main concern, you need to make sure you select the right kind of yogurt before adding it to your shopping cart.
Although your body needs cholesterol to build healthy cells, if it’s too high, you may run an increased risk of heart disease and other health issues. Having high cholesterol means you’re more susceptible to the growth of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, which could lead to difficulty for blood flow through your arteries, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re at risk, you need to be careful about the types and quality of food you put into your body. Some might be more harmful, while others can actually benefit your health.
But what are the right kinds of yogurt to help you maintain and possibly lower your cholesterol? According to the Nutrition Twins Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, the best yogurt to help lower or regulate cholesterol levels are nonfat, probiotic-rich yogurts that are low in sugar and have higher protein.
Why is this yogurt better for cholesterol management?
“Although saturated fat has been a bit more controversial in recent years, and genetics may play a part, slashing saturated fat [in yogurt] is important when it comes to heart health. This is because when you get too much, it tends to raise ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol,” says the Nutrition Twins. “Also, it’s important that the yogurt is low in sugar because when you eat too much sugar, your liver makes more LDL cholesterol while lowering the amount of HD ‘good’ cholesterol in your body.”
The Nutrition Twins also claim that sugar increases inflammation, making cholesterol more dangerous. This is because it plays an essential role in atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries that occurs as LDL cholesterol builds up.
When it comes to choosing the correct yogurt, the Nutrition Twins advise selecting those with low or very little saturated fat, as these are best for managing cholesterol in much of the population. However, they also note that it’s just as important to find yogurts with little to no added sugars. Greek yogurt and the Icelandic yogurt fits this bill well because many of them contain probiotics, don’t have saturated fats, are low in sugar, and are high in protein.
“For an individual who has a diet that is very low in saturated fat and that includes no added sugar, a yogurt that contains these components likely would not affect them negatively,” says the Nutrition Twins. “However, in our modern-day world, the majority of people don’t have diets like that.”
Paying attention to the probiotics as well as additives should also factor into selecting the best yogurt for your cholesterol.
“Good gut health plays a major role in overall cholesterol management,” explains the Nutrition Twins. “Gut bacteria, which are impacted and improved by probiotics, have a large impact on overall health. It also seems to regulate immune health and metabolic pathways, and a healthy balance of gut bacteria has been shown to reduce cholesterol in the blood in animals.”
They also claim that eating more fermented foods like yogurt can increase microbial diversity, which plays a critical role in overall gut health and healthy cholesterol levels.
What should you look out for on yogurt labels?
When deciding on what yogurt to pick with respect to the possible effects on your cholesterol, it’s important to look at the label. For instance, many yogurt brands contain helpful probiotics. And according to the Nutrition Twins, “Research has shown that certain probiotics can reduce both total cholesterol and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.”
While most yogurt ingredient lists may not break down the amount of each specific probiotic strain, they do typically note the types of probiotics within them.
“Lactobacillus tends to be best in general,” says the Nutrition Twins say. “Both Lactobacillus probiotics L. plantarum and L. reuteri have been found to be effective in reducing cholesterol levels.”
Also, any yogurt that is fat-free will not contain saturated fats capable of raising LDL levels, and has no or low amounts of sugar is ideal for managing cholesterol levels.
To also play it safe when choosing the best yogurt with consideration to your cholesterol levels, the Nutrition Twins suggest selecting nondairy options. “These are a safe bet if they don’t contain a lot of sugar.”