Why Does Every Kind of Yogurt Have Sugar?

Here's why it's impossible to find a yogurt without it.


Photo by: gilaxia


Do you notice that every single container of yogurt you pick up contains sugar? It's not your imagination. In fact, every type of yogurt contains natural sugar. Sometimes you’ll even find a boatload of added sugar in there too. When it comes to yogurt, the sugary facts can seem confusing so here’s a simple breakdown.

Natural Sugar

To understand the sugary basics, you’ll have to bring your brains back to science class. Lactose is the sugar naturally found in all dairy products, including yogurt. The body breaks it down to glucose and galactose in order to allow your body to absorb it. This means that any dairy product you pick up— from milk to yogurt to cheese- will list sugar on its nutrition facts panel. It’s naturally there and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Added Sugar

Plain, unflavored yogurt contains only lactose, the natural milk sugar. Some folks, however, don’t love the flavor of plain yogurt. In response, yogurt manufacturers have added honey, jam, and other sugary ingredients to sweeten it up. These are all added sugars, and the type of sugar you need to be wary about.

The 2015 dietary guidelines recently came out with new guidelines that recommend no more than 10% of total calories should come from added sugar. If you are eating 2,000 calories per day, that’s 200 calories (or 13 teaspoons) from added sugar. But don’t get all hyped up on sugar yet. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories (or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for women, and 150 calories (or 9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day for men.

Based on data, Americans eat 130 pounds of sugar per person each year—that’s one-third of a pound a day. Obviously, many folks are taking in way more sugar than is recommended!

Balancing Natural and Added Sugar

Yogurt provides a ton of good-for-you nutrients including protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin B-12, and riboflavin. Adding a touch of sugar for flavor is okay, but be careful not to go overboard.

If those yogurt food labels seem confusing, the new food label is mandatory to be posted on foods within the next 2 years. This new label will differentiate between total and added sugar. You will find that many brands have already started to switch to this new food label. You can then compare two yogurts and choose the one with the least amount of added sugar. Until then when shopping for yogurt, aim for no more than 20 grams of sugar per serving.

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