Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Are Yogurt Drinks Bad For You?

Also Known As: Drinkable yogurt, Kefir



Short answer

Yogurt drinks can offer health benefits like probiotics, protein, calcium, and Vitamin D, but often have downsides such as high added sugar content, artificial additives, and saturated fats. For some, they can be convenient nutrient-rich options; for others with lactose intolerance or issues with additives, they may not be ideal. Read labels carefully to choose healthier versions with live cultures and minimal added sugars or artificial ingredients.



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Long answer

Evaluating Nutritional Content of Yogurt Drinks

When considering the nutritional value of yogurt drinks, it's vital to look at several key components that contribute to their overall health impact. The nutritional content can vary widely depending on the type of yogurt drink, the brand, and any additional ingredients that are included. Here, we break down the essential nutritional aspects to consider:

  • Probiotics: Many yogurt drinks are rich in probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are common strains found in these beverages that have been linked to improved digestion and immune function. Studies suggest that regular consumption of probiotics may also have positive effects on mental health and metabolic disorders.
  • Protein: Yogurt drinks usually have a decent protein content, which is important for muscle repair, immune function, and satiety. Protein levels can vary, but they generally provide a good supplemental source, with dairy-based yogurt drinks containing higher amounts compared to plant-based alternatives.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D: These drinks are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D, key nutrients vital for bone health. Adequate intake of these nutrients can prevent osteoporosis and may reduce the risk of fractures. Some brands provide up to 30% of the daily recommended value of calcium and vitamin D per serving.
  • Sugar Content: One of the major concerns with yogurt drinks is the potential high sugar content. Sugars may be added for flavor, but they add extra calories and can contribute to weight gain and other health issues if consumed in excess. Some yogurt drinks can contain as much sugar as a can of soda. It's crucial to read labels and choose options with lower added sugars.
  • Saturated Fat: Depending on whether the yogurt drink is made from whole milk or lower-fat options, the saturated fat content can differ. High intakes of saturated fat have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, so opting for low-fat or fat-free versions can be a healthier choice.
  • Additives: Some yogurt drinks may include thickeners, artificial flavors, and colors. These additives can sometimes cause digestive issues, especially in those with sensitivities. Maintaining a diet that is as free from artificial additives as possible is generally recommended for optimal health.

The table below provides a general overview of the nutritional content found in an average 8-ounce serving of a commercially available yogurt drink:

Nutrient Approximate Amount
Calories 150
Protein 6 g
Total Fat 3 g
Saturated Fat 1.5 g
Carbohydrates 20 g
Sugars 18 g
Calcium 300 mg
Vitamin D 2.5 μg

It should be noted that nutritional values can vary significantly from one brand to another, and these figures serve as rough estimates. It's important for consumers to check the nutrition facts label of the specific yogurt drink they are considering. In addition to the listed components, many yogurt drinks can also contain a range of B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium, contributing further to their potential nutritional benefits.

In conclusion, while evaluating the nutritional content of yogurt drinks, it's crucial to consider the balance of beneficial nutrients such as probiotics and protein against less desirable ones like added sugars and saturated fat. Choosing a yogurt drink that aligns with your dietary goals and health needs can make it a nutritious addition to your diet.

Added Sugars in Yogurt Drinks and Their Health Implications

Yogurt drinks, often marketed as healthy snacks or meal replacements, can sometimes hide a less wholesome truth within their smooth, creamy folds. Many commercial yogurt drinks are sweetened with added sugars, which can have significant health implications. It's important to understand the impact of these sugars on your body, as they can affect everything from your waistline to your heart health.

Understanding Added Sugars

Added sugars are those that are not naturally occurring in foods but are introduced during processing for flavor, texture, or preservative purposes. The main concern with added sugars is their potential to contribute to excess calorie intake, which can lead to weight gain and related health issues. In yogurt drinks, common sources of added sugars include:

  • Sucrose (table sugar)
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Flavored syrups
  • Honey

Studies, such as those published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, have linked high intake of added sugars to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Thus, it is critical for consumers to scrutinize labels for hidden sugars.

Recommended Intake of Added Sugars

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (38 grams). Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, has reported that an overconsumption of added sugars may lead to an increase in cardiovascular risk factors. However, a single yogurt drink can sometimes contain close to or even exceed these daily recommended limits.

Impact on Metabolic Health

Excessive sugar intake can disrupt normal metabolic processes. According to the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, this disruption can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Insulin resistance
  • Fatty liver disease

When added sugars are consumed in liquid form, like in yogurt drinks, they can be especially problematic. The British Medical Journal suggests that liquid sugars can lead to a rapid spike in blood glucose and insulin levels, leading to a potential risk for diabetes.

Identifying Hidden Sugars

As consumers, it's important to recognize that added sugars can be disguised under many different names on ingredient labels, which may include:

  • Cane sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Glucose
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sugar molecules ending in "-ose" (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
  • Syrups

It's crucial for individuals who are managing their sugar intake to read nutrition labels carefully. The total sugar content and the list of ingredients can provide valuable insight into whether a yogurt drink contains added sugars and how much.

Risks for Children

Children are a particular concern when it comes to sugary drinks. The Journal of Pediatrics alerts to the risks of early development of a preference for sweets, increasing the likelihood of sugar overconsumption later in life. The current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that added sugars should not be included in the diet of children under 2 years old and should be limited in older children. Yogurt drinks aimed at children often boast attractive packaging and fruit flavors, which could potentially set up unhealthy eating patterns if not carefully monitored.

Becoming informed about the added sugars in yogurt drinks is a proactive step towards managing and optimizing health outcomes. Modifying dietary selections by choosing yogurt drinks with low or no added sugars, or even opting to make homemade versions with natural ingredients, can be beneficial strategies for consumers looking to avoid the negative health implications of excess sugar intake.

The Role of Probiotics in Digestive Health

Probiotics are living microorganisms, predominantly bacteria, which when ingested in adequate amounts, confer health benefits to the host by improving or restoring gut flora. These benefits are particularly evident in the realm of digestive health, where probiotics play a crucial role. Many yogurt drinks boast a high content of probiotics, which can be beneficial for the digestive system; however, understanding their function and the conditions under which they can be helpful is essential for making informed dietary choices.

Beneficial Effects on Gut Microbiota:

  • Gut Balance: Probiotics in yogurt drinks can help balance the composition of gut microbiota, sometimes referred to as gut flora, by increasing the abundance of beneficial bacteria. This balance is fundamental in maintaining gut health and proper digestive function.
  • Pathogen Inhibition: Certain probiotic strains added to yogurt drinks have the ability to inhibit the growth of harmful pathogens by producing substances that reduce pathogen survival, enhancing the gut's defensive barrier.

Improvement of Gastrointestinal Conditions:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Probiotic consumption through yogurt drinks has been associated with alleviating symptoms of IBS. A meta-analysis published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology (2014) found that probiotics could improve symptoms such as bloating and frequency of bowel movement.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): While research is ongoing, certain probiotic strains found in yogurt drinks show promise in the management of IBD, as indicated by studies that suggest a reduction in the inflammatory response associated with these conditions.
  • Antibiotic-Related Diarrhea: Probiotics have been shown to be effective in the prevention and treatment of diarrhea that is associated with antibiotic use. By consuming yogurt drinks rich in probiotics during and after antibiotic treatment, patients may experience a reduced risk of diarrhea.

Regulation of Bowel Movements:

  • Constipation: Consuming probiotic-rich yogurt drinks may aid in relieving constipation by increasing stool frequency and improving stool consistency, as demonstrated in several clinical trials.
  • Diarrhea: Certain strains of probiotics found in yogurt drinks can help restore the balance of intestinal microbiota disrupted by diarrhea, whether infectious or not, thus shortening the duration and severity of the episodes.

Immune System Support:

Probiotics play a secondary yet vital role in supporting the immune system. A healthy digestive tract, fortified with a balanced microbial environment thanks to yogurt drink-derived probiotics, can better fend off infections and may enhance overall immune response.

Despite these health-promoting aspects, it's worth noting that the effectiveness of probiotics can vary based on multiple factors, including the strain of probiotic present in the yogurt drink, the quantity consumed, individual health status, and existing gut microbiota composition. It is also important to account for the quality and viability of probiotics in yogurt drinks, as real benefits depend on these organisms being alive upon consumption and capable of surviving the journey through the digestive system.

To summarize, probiotics in yogurt drinks can be an ally in digestive health, aiding in maintaining gut flora balance, alleviating various gastrointestinal issues, regulating bowel movements, and potentially supporting the immune system. However, individuals should consider the overall nutritional content of the yogurt drink and consult health professionals when implementing probiotics for specific health concerns.

Lactose Intolerance and Yogurt Drink Consumption

When considering the relationship between lactose intolerance and the consumption of yogurt drinks, it is crucial to understand the underlying intolerance mechanisms. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products, caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase in the digestive system. This deficiency can lead to symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain after consuming lactose-containing foods.

However, not all dairy products affect individuals with lactose intolerance uniformly, and this is where yogurt drinks come into the picture. Interestingly, many people with lactose intolerance may actually tolerate yogurt better than other dairy products. This is because yogurt contains live bacterial cultures or probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which may assist in the digestion of lactose.

  • Study Reference: A study conducted by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition suggests that the probiotic cultures in yogurt can help reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance. This is through the bacterial fermentation process, where probiotics break down the lactose in the yogurt itself. (Reference: "Improvement of Lactose Digestion in Humans by Ingestion of Unfermented Milk Containing Bifidobacteria", Journal of the American College of Nutrition).
  • Quantity Matters: The extent of lactose intolerance symptoms can also depend on the quantity of yogurt drink consumed. Small amounts may be tolerable for many individuals, but larger portions could provoke symptoms.
  • Fat Content Consideration: Fat content plays a role as well. Higher-fat yogurt drinks may slow stomach emptying and give more time for lactose digestion, reducing the potential for intolerance symptoms.

It's also noteworthy that not all yogurt drinks are created equal. Some may have added sugars and others may have been heat-treated after fermentation, which destroys the beneficial live cultures. Therefore, lactose intolerant individuals should:

  • Opt for yogurt drinks with active and live cultures.
  • Choose products labeled as "probiotic" to ensure the presence of beneficial bacteria.
  • Start with small quantities to assess individual tolerance.
  • Consider enzyme supplements, like lactase enzyme pills, before consuming dairy products to help digest lactose.

Moreover, Lactose-Free Yogurt Drinks are also available in the market, which are produced by adding lactase to the product, thus pre-digesting lactose. This could be a suitable alternative for those with lactose intolerance looking to enjoy the benefits of yogurt drinks without the adverse effects.

For those unsure about their precise tolerance levels or those experiencing significant discomfort, consulting with a healthcare provider or dietitian is recommended. An individualized approach to including yogurt drinks in one's diet, mindful of lactose content and personal digestive response, is a prudent strategy for those with lactose intolerance.

Artificial Additives in Commercial Yogurt Drinks

It's no secret that yogurt drinks are marketed as healthy snacks or supplements, boasting benefits associated with probiotics and ease of digestion. However, like many commercially-produced food products, these drinks often contain artificial additives that can potentially impact our health. To better understand what you're consuming, let's delve into the world of preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial flavors commonly found in yogurt drinks.

Preservatives: These are added to extend the shelf life of yogurt drinks and prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Common preservatives include potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. While these are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA when used in recommended amounts, some studies have raised concerns about their potential to cause allergic reactions or other adverse effects when consumed in large quantities over time.

  • Potassium Sorbate: Has been studied for its allergenic potential, with findings suggesting sensitivities in some individuals. [Reference: "Hypoallergenicity of an amino acid-based formula in children with cow milk and multiple food hypersensitivities." Journal of Pediatrics, Vol. 138, No. 5, 2001]
  • Sodium Benzoate: Concerns have been raised about its possible link to hyperactivity in children, and when combined with vitamin C, the formation of benzene, a known carcinogen, although this is rare and usually occurs in trace amounts that are considered negligible. [Reference: "Sodium benzoate-rich beverage consumption is associated with increased reporting of ADHD symptoms in college students: a pilot investigation." Journal of Attention Disorders, 2018]

Sweeteners: To make yogurt drinks more palatable, especially the low-fat varieties, manufacturers often add artificial sweeteners. Substances like aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium can be found in these beverages. Some individuals may experience digestive discomfort, such as bloating or diarrhea, due to these sweeteners, and there's ongoing debate within the scientific community about their long-term health effects.

  • Aspartame: While approved by health authorities, aspartame has been associated with headaches and allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. [Reference: "Aspartame: a safety evaluation based on current use levels, regulations, and toxicological and epidemiological studies." Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 2007]
  • Sucralose: Research has suggested potential effects on gut health and glucose metabolism, though more studies are needed to understand the implications fully. [Reference: "Sucralose affects glycemic and hormonal responses to an oral glucose load." Diabetes Care, 2013]

Artificial Flavors: These are chemicals designed to mimic natural flavors and make products more appetizing. Despite being FDA-approved, some health advocates express concerns about the lack of transparency around the chemical composition of these flavors and the insufficient testing on the long-term effects of consuming them.

  • Reports suggest that some artificial flavors could be endocrine disruptors and can lead to unexpected allergies, but definitive evidence is still to be established. [Reference: "Endocrine disruptors and asthma-associated chemicals in consumer products." Environmental Health Perspectives, 2012]

Understanding the presence of these additives in yogurt drinks is crucial for making informed dietary choices. Always check the ingredient list and consult with a healthcare provider if you have concerns about additives and their potential effects on your health.

Balancing Benefits with Potential Drawbacks: When to Choose Yogurt Drinks

Yogurt drinks, like all foods, offer a balance of benefits and potential drawbacks that depend heavily on their ingredients, the quality of production, and your individual health goals and dietary needs. Understanding this balance is paramount in making an informed decision about when to incorporate yogurt drinks into your diet.

Benefits of Yogurt Drinks:

  • Probiotic Content: Many yogurt drinks contain live cultures or probiotics, which can aid digestion and gut health. Probiotics are associated with several health benefits, including enhancing immune function and potentially reducing the risk of some diseases.
  • High in Nutrients: Yogurt drinks can be a good source of essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein. These are important for bone health, muscle function, and overall wellbeing.
  • Convenience: As a grab-and-go option, yogurt drinks are convenient for busy lifestyles, potentially leading to better dietary choices instead of reaching for less nutritious snacks.
  • Hydration: Being a liquid, they contribute to daily fluid intake which is important for maintaining hydration levels.

Potential Drawbacks of Yogurt Drinks:

  • Added Sugars: Many yogurt drinks come with high levels of added sugars which can offset their health benefits. Excessive sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, tooth decay, and increased risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.
  • Artificial Additives: Some yogurt drinks may contain artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives that might be undesirable to health-conscious individuals or those with sensitivities.
  • Dairy Sensitivities and Intolerance: For those who are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, regular yogurt drinks could cause discomfort or allergic reactions.
  • Caloric Density: Yogurt drinks, especially flavored ones, can be calorie-dense, making them less suitable for individuals on a calorie-restricted diet.

When choosing to incorporate yogurt drinks into your diet, consider the following guidance:

  • Look for low-sugar or sugar-free versions, and be conscious of the serving size to maintain control over sugar and calorie intake.
  • Select drinks with live cultures, often listed on the packaging, to maximize the probiotic benefits.
  • Individuals with dairy sensitivities or lactose intolerance should seek out lactose-free or dairy-free alternatives that still provide probiotic benefits without the discomfort.
  • Ensure you are not substituting meals with yogurt drinks as they might not provide all the necessary nutrients required for a balanced meal.
  • Choose products with minimal artificial additives to avoid potential negative impacts on your health.

By considering these factors, you can make an educated decision on when to choose yogurt drinks and how they fit into your overall dietary plan. Remember, the key is moderation and selecting products that align with your dietary goals and restrictions.

Frequently asked questions

No, not all probiotics in yogurt drinks are the same. Probiotics are a diverse group of live microorganisms, and different strains have distinct roles and health benefits. Common probiotic strains found in yogurt drinks include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, each strain can offer varying benefits such as supporting gut health or enhancing immune function. It's important to check product labels for specific strains that may target your health needs.

Yogurt drinks can sometimes be used as a convenient snack or a supplemental part of a meal, but they generally should not serve as a complete meal replacement. They might not provide all the necessary nutrients and balanced macronutrients that a whole meal would typically include. For a more nutritionally complete meal replacement, a variety of foods or specially formulated meal replacement products should be considered, ideally in consultation with a healthcare provider or dietitian.

To ensure a yogurt drink contains live and active cultures, look for wording on the packaging such as 'contains live and active cultures' or 'contains probiotics.' Often, the specific strains of bacteria will be listed in the ingredients. Also, be wary of yogurt drinks that have been heat-treated after fermentation, as this process can kill the beneficial probiotics.

Yogurt drinks may have similar or slightly higher lactose content compared to regular yogurt due to the addition of milk or other dairy products to achieve a drinkable consistency. However, like traditional yogurt, yogurt drinks often contain live cultures that can help in the digestion of lactose, making them potentially more tolerable for people with lactose intolerance.

Ask a question about Yogurt Drinks and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • bloating
  • gas
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • allergic reactions
  • hyperactivity
  • headaches
  • digestive discomfort

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • increased blood pressure
  • insulin resistance
  • fatty liver disease
  • potential allergenic effects
  • metabolic disruption

Ingredients to be aware of


  • probiotic content
  • nutrient-rich
  • convenient
  • hydrating
  • improved digestion
  • immune function enhancement
  • bone health support

Healthier alternatives

  • low-sugar or sugar-free versions
  • lactose-free or dairy-free alternatives
  • yogurt drinks with live cultures
  • homemade yogurt drinks with natural ingredients

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Siggi's Nonfat Yogurt

  • High protein content
  • Rich, thick texture
  • Luscious vanilla flavor
  • Nonfat nutritious snack
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-06-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-06-2023

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