Are yogurt smoothies good for you?

Smoothies made with yogurt can be a nutritious addition to a healthy diet. Yogurt provides protein, calcium, probiotics and other nutrients. However, the ingredients you add to your yogurt smoothies will impact their nutritional value. While yogurt smoothies can be healthy, they can also turn into high-calorie treats if you add too much sugar, fruit or other sweeteners.

Nutrients in yogurt

Plain, unsweetened yogurt contains a number of nutrients that make it a healthy food choice:

  • Protein: Yogurt provides high-quality protein, which helps build muscle, bones and skin.
  • Calcium: Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which is essential for bone health.
  • Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 helps form DNA and red blood cells and is naturally found in yogurt.
  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus works with calcium to build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
  • Vitamin D: Some yogurts are fortified with vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption.
  • Potassium: Potassium supports heart health, fluid balance and muscle function.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in over 300 processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function.
  • Zinc: Zinc boosts the immune system and wound healing.
  • Riboflavin (B2): Riboflavin helps convert food into energy and acts as an antioxidant.
  • Probiotics: Many yogurts contain live cultures of bacteria that benefit digestive health.

The exact amounts of these nutrients in yogurt vary by brand and flavor. Nonfat and low-fat yogurts provide just as much protein, calcium, vitamins and probiotics as full-fat yogurts — with fewer calories and less saturated fat.

Benefits of yogurt

Research has linked yogurt consumption to the following health benefits:

  • Increased bone density: The calcium, protein, magnesium and other nutrients in yogurt promote the buildup of bone mass. This may reduce osteoporosis risk.
  • Improved digestive health: The probiotics in yogurt help regulate gut bacteria levels. They may ease constipation, diarrhea and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Enhanced immune function: Probiotics may stimulate your immune system to produce more antibodies and fight infections.
  • Lower cholesterol: Some studies indicate yogurt may moderately lower cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.
  • Decreased blood pressure: The calcium, potassium and magnesium in yogurt may help lower high blood pressure.
  • Reduced Type 2 diabetes risk: Eating yogurt regularly may lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 28%, per one review.
  • Decreased colorectal cancer risk: Compounds in yogurt may inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells.

Keep in mind that most of these studies focused on plain, unsweetened yogurt — not yogurt smoothies or parfaits. The fruit, juices, sweeteners and other ingredients you add to yogurt alter its nutritional benefits.

Potential downsides of yogurt smoothies

While yogurt smoothies can boost your nutrient intake, they may also pack in extra calories, sugars and fat withoutyou realizing it. Potential downsides of yogurt smoothies include:

  • High calorie count: Premade yogurt smoothies can contain 300–600 calories per bottle. Blending yogurt, fruit, juice and sweeteners adds calories quickly.
  • Excess sugar: Sugar-sweetened yogurt, fruit, juice and syrups ramp up the sugar content of smoothies.
  • Lack of fullness: Liquid calories from smoothies don’t keep you as full as solid food does. This may lead to unintended overeating.
  • Tooth decay risk: Sipping sweet smoothies exposes your teeth to sugars for a prolonged time, increasing your risk of cavities.
  • Reduced protein: Blending yogurt into smoothies can make its protein less accessible for digestion and absorption.
  • Hidden additives: Premade yogurt smoothies sometimes contain artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

To maximize the nutrition of yogurt smoothies while limiting their drawbacks, pay attention to portion sizes and ingredients.

Choosing healthy ingredients

When making yogurt smoothies at home, opt for wholesome ingredients that add nutritional value. Some healthy additions include:

  • Fresh or frozen fruit: Berries, peaches, bananas and mangos give smoothies fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Nut butters: A spoonful of almond, peanut or cashew butter provides protein and healthy fats.
  • Seeds: Chia, flax and hemp seeds increase fiber, protein, calcium, omega-3s and other nutrients.
  • Leafy greens: Spinach, kale and swiss chard boost vitamins, minerals and antioxidants with minimal calories.
  • Cocoa powder: Unsweetened cocoa adds antioxidants and a chocolate flavor.
  • Rolled oats: Oats add fiber, manganese and other minerals for a nutrient boost.
  • Green tea: Brewed green tea contains antioxidants called catechins that may decrease disease risk.
  • Spices: Cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and nutmeg add flavor and anti-inflammatory compounds.

On the other hand, limit high-sugar additions like fruit juice, frozen yogurt, honey, agave, maple syrup and coconut sugar to keep calories and blood sugar in check.

Choosing lower calorie yogurt

Opting for low-fat or nonfat yogurt allows you to gain benefits from yogurt without excess saturated fat and calories. Here are some of the best yogurt choices for smoothies:

  • Nonfat (0%) Greek yogurt
  • Nonfat plain yogurt
  • Low-fat (2%) Greek yogurt
  • Low-fat vanilla yogurt

Avoid pre-flavored yogurts with excessive added sugars. Sweeten plain yogurt yourself with a little fruit, honey or maple syrup.

Portion control is key

Smoothies made with yogurt, fruit juice and sweeteners can quickly meet or exceed your calorie needs for an entire meal. Here are some tips for keeping portions in check:

  • Use yogurt to replace higher-calorie foods. For example, have a yogurt smoothie instead of dessert.
  • Measure ingredient amounts until you learn proper serving sizes.
  • Read nutrition labels and stick to single-serve smoothie packets or bottles.
  • Split smoothies into two portions when dining out.
  • Avoid “mega” or “monstrous” sized smoothies at restaurants.
  • Share your smoothie with a friend or save half for later.
  • Limit yourself to smoothies at just one meal per day.

Potential health benefits

Despite potential downsides, yogurt smoothies made with nutritious ingredients can boost your intake of protein, probiotics, vitamins and minerals. Here are some of the top health benefits yogurt smoothies offer:

  • Increased calcium intake: Yogurt smoothies can provide 30–40% of the calcium you need daily for strong bones.
  • Enhanced protein intake: The protein in yogurt aids muscle growth and satisfies hunger.
  • Gut health promotion: Live cultures in yogurt benefit digestive health.
  • Fruit and vegetable intake: Smoothies help increase intake of fruits and veggies.
  • Weight control: Protein- and fiber-rich smoothies promote fullness.
  • Disease prevention: Antioxidants from yogurt and fruit may decrease your risk of chronic illnesses.

Overall, yogurt smoothies can fit into a healthy lifestyle when you focus on controlling portions and ingredients.

Sample yogurt smoothie recipes

Here are a few healthy yogurt smoothie recipes to give you ideas:

Basic banana and spinach smoothie

  • 1 cup (240 ml) unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 small frozen banana
  • 1 cup (30 grams) spinach
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp (15 grams) almond butter
  • 1 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)

Piña colada smoothie

  • 1 cup (240 ml) light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) cashew butter
  • 1 tbsp (7 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut

Chocolate peanut butter smoothie

  • 1 cup (240 ml) unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 small frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp (16 grams) peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp (5 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)

The bottom line

Yogurt smoothies can pack lots of nutrition into one drink. However, they can also turn into high-calorie sugar bombs if you overdo it on ingredients.

By picking healthy ingredients, controlling portions and sticking to just one smoothie per day, yogurt smoothies can be a nutritious addition to a healthy diet.

Ingredient Calories Protein (grams) Carbs (grams)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt 130 20 6
1 cup fruit juice 120 1 29
1 medium banana 105 1 27
2 tablespoons peanut butter 190 8 6
1 cup spinach 7 1 1
Totals 552 31 69

This table shows the calories, protein and carbs in a sample yogurt smoothie containing 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 cup fruit juice, 1 banana, 2 tablespoons peanut butter and 1 cup spinach. The totals are 552 calories, 31 grams of protein and 69 grams of carbs.

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