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Is Skyr Bad For You?

Also Known As: Icelandic yogurt



Short answer

Skyr is a nutritious dairy product that's high in protein, low in fat, and rich in essential nutrients such as calcium and probiotics, which support digestive health and can be beneficial for weight management and bone health. While it's a healthy choice for many, flavored varieties may contain additives and added sugars, which should be consumed in moderation. For those with lactose intolerance, lactose-free options are recommended. When chosen wisely, skyr can be a valuable part of a balanced diet.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Skyr and Its Health Benefits

When assessing the health impact of a food product, understanding its nutritional content is paramount. Skyr, the traditional Icelandic cultured dairy product, has garnered attention for its rich nutrient profile. Often compared to yogurt, skyr is made by fermenting skim milk with specific bacterial cultures, resulting in a thick, creamy texture. Let's look at the specifics of skyr's nutritional content and explore the associated health benefits.

Macronutrient Composition:

  • Protein: One of skyr's most celebrated attributes is its high protein content. A typical 150-gram serving contains approximately 15-20 grams of protein, depending on the brand. Protein is essential for muscle repair, immune function, and satiety, which can aid in weight management.
  • Carbohydrates: Skyr is relatively low in carbohydrates, with a serving containing around 6-8 grams, primarily from naturally occurring milk sugars (lactose).
  • Fat: Traditional skyr is made from skim milk and is thus virtually fat-free. However, some modern versions may include cream or whole milk for a richer taste, increasing the fat content.

Micro-Nutrient Density:

  • Calcium: Essential for bone health, a serving of skyr provides a substantial portion of your daily calcium needs.
  • Phosphorus: Works in tandem with calcium to support bone and teeth strength.
  • Vitamin B12: Vital for red blood cell formation and neurological functions, skyr can be a valuable source of this vitamin, especially for vegetarians who abstain from meat.
  • Riboflavin (B2): Skyr contains riboflavin, which plays a significant role in energy production and metabolism.
  • Iodine: Dairy products like skyr provide iodine, which is critical for thyroid health and metabolism regulation.

Potential Health Benefits:

  • Digestive Health: The live cultures used in making skyr can contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, potentially improving digestion and reducing the risk of gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Weight Management: The high protein and low calorie profile of skyr can promote satiety, reducing overall caloric intake for those looking to manage their weight.
  • Bone Health: The abundant calcium and phosphorus in skyr support bone density and may prevent osteoporosis, particularly important for aging populations and women post-menopause.
  • Muscle Maintenance: The rich protein content aids in the maintenance and growth of muscle tissue, which is crucial for overall health, metabolic function, and recovery from exercise.
  • Heart Health: Being low in fat, especially saturated fats, skyr can form a part of a heart-healthy diet, potentially reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

It's important to note that the nutritional benefits of skyr can vary between brands and formulations. Some may add sugar, fruit, or flavorings that increase the caloric content and potentially diminish the health benefits. For the purest form, opt for plain skyr and add your own fresh fruits or a drizzle of honey if needed for taste. As always, it's essential to read nutrition labels carefully and integrate skyr into a balanced diet for optimal health outcomes.

When considering the nutritional content and health benefits of skyr, it's clear that it can be a nutritious addition to most diets. Its composition aligns with various health goals, from muscle building and weight loss to bone health and digestion. Nonetheless, personal dietary needs and restrictions should always be considered, and incorporating a variety of nutrient sources is key to a well-rounded diet.

Lactose Content in Skyr: Concerns for the Lactose Intolerant

Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem where the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products. It’s caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactase in the small intestine, which is needed to break down lactose into glucose and galactose for easy absorption.

When it comes to skyr, the traditional Icelandic dairy product similar to thick yogurt, there are both concerns and potential silver linings for those with lactose intolerance. Skyr is made by fermenting skim milk with particular strains of live active cultures; and then straining away the whey, resulting in a creamy, concentrated product. The process of fermentation can reduce the lactose content as the live bacteria consume lactose for energy and growth.

  • Skyr’s Straining Process: The straining process commonly used to produce skyr could potentially remove some lactose as the whey is separated from the solid parts of the milk.
  • Fermentation: During the fermentation, bacteria such as Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, which are also used in yogurt making, convert lactose into lactic acid. This process can make skyr more tolerable for those with mild lactose sensitivity.
  • Probiotics and Digestion: The live cultures in skyr also can have probiotic effects which might aid in the digestion of lactose. However, for individuals with lactose intolerance, this may not be enough to prevent symptoms.

Nevertheless, despite these factors, there is still some lactose present in skyr. The actual amount can vary, but on average, it tends to be less than that found in regular yogurt or milk due to the thicker concentration and removal of whey. If you're lactose intolerant, it's important to note that reactions can vary. Some people may be able to tolerate the smaller amounts of lactose in skyr, while others may still experience symptoms such as bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea.

It's advisable for those with lactose intolerance to look for skyr varieties that are labeled lactose-free. These are available in the market and are specifically treated with additional lactase enzyme to break down any remaining lactose, making them more digestible for individuals affected by lactose intolerance.

In summary, while skyr's manufacturing process may reduce the lactose content, individuals with lactose intolerance should approach consumption cautiously and consider seeking out lactose-free options or complete alternatives if they typically experience discomfort after ingesting lactose-containing products.

Expert Opinion: Registered dietitians recommend trying a small amount of skyr first to gauge personal tolerance and to ensure that the chosen product aligns with your dietary needs. Starting with low quantities and gradually increasing may also help the body adapt, but this approach should be followed under professional guidance.

For those interested in exact figures, the lactose content in skyr can vary between brands and preparations, so one should always check the nutritional information provided by the manufacturer. Where this is not available, reaching out to the producer or consulting with a nutrition professional can help determine the suitability of skyr in a lactose-intolerant diet.

Ultimately, while skyr may be a nutritious option for many, individual tolerance levels to lactose will dictate whether this cultured dairy product is a friend or foe to the lactose intolerant.

Skyr vs. Yogurt: Which is the Healthier Choice?

When deciding between skyr and traditional yogurt, it's essential to examine their nutritional profiles and health benefits side by side. Although both are dairy products with a similar creamy texture and tangy flavor, each has unique characteristics that cater to different dietary needs and preferences.

Nutritional Content Comparison:

  • Protein: Skyr boasts a high protein content, offering about 17 grams per 6-ounce serving, compared to the 9 grams found in regular yogurt. This makes skyr a better option for individuals looking to boost their protein intake without consuming excess calories.
  • Calories: Plain skyr generally has fewer calories compared to regular flavored yogurt, making it an attractive choice for weight management. However, comparing plain varieties of both, they usually have a similar calorie count.
  • Carbohydrates: Skyr typically contains fewer carbohydrates, which can be preferable for those on low-carb diets or managing diabetes.
  • Fat: The fat content varies greatly depending on whether you are comparing whole-milk or non-fat versions of both products. Non-fat skyr is virtually fat-free, which may appeal to those watching their fat intake.

Beneficial Cultures:

Both skyr and yogurt are fermented with live bacterial cultures, which assist with digestion and contribute to gut health. However, skyr is often made with more strains of these cultures. The presence of specific bacterial strains such as Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus can enhance gut flora diversity, potentially giving skyr an edge in promoting a healthy gut microbiome.

Calcium and Other Minerals:

Calcium content is key for bone health. Skyr and yogurt both contain high levels of calcium, but the concentration can vary. Typically, yogurt provides around 30% of the daily recommended intake per serving, while skyr can offer slightly more. Moreover, both contain other essential minerals like phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, supporting overall nutritional balance.

Texture and Versatility:

Texture may influence personal preference as skyr is thicker and creamier due to the straining process it undergoes, which also makes it more concentrated in protein. This attribute allows skyr to be a versatile ingredient in recipes, such as smoothies, dips, or as a higher-protein substitute for sour cream.

In conclusion, determining whether skyr or yogurt is the healthier choice boils down to individual health goals and nutritional needs. While skyr generally offers a higher protein content and a thicker texture that may be more satiating, yogurt can still be a nutritious part of a well-rounded diet, especially in its plain, unsweetened varieties. It's also vital to consider potential additives and sugar content in flavored versions, which can negate some of the health benefits of these dairy products.

Additives in Commercial Skyr and How to Choose Wisely

One of the attractions of skyr, the traditional Icelandic dairy product, is its rich nutrient profile. However, commercial skyr can differ significantly from its homemade counterpart, particularly when it comes to additives. While skyr is naturally high in protein and has a creamy texture, some brands add thickeners, stabilizers, sweeteners, and artificial flavors to enhance taste, texture, and shelf-life.

Common Additives in Commercial Skyr:

  • Thickeners – Such as pectin or cornstarch, are often added to achieve a desirable consistency, especially in low-fat versions.
  • Stabilizers – Guar gum or carrageenan may be used to maintain texture and mix well with the added flavors.
  • Sweeteners – Skyr, particularly flavored varieties, can contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners like sucralose, which can impact blood sugar levels.
  • Artificial Flavors – These are used to mimic the taste of fruits or other natural ingredients without actually adding them.

When these additives are introduced, it can potentially raise concerns for those with sensitivities or who are trying to limit their intake of processed ingredients. Here's what to look for when choosing a healthier skyr option:

  • Read the Ingredient List: Search for skyr with short and recognizable ingredients. The fewer the additives, often the closer it is to traditional skyr.
  • Avoid Excess Sugars: Look for skyr with low or no added sugars. Be mindful of terms like corn syrup, fructose, and sucrose, which are sugars.
  • Opt for Organic and Grass-Fed: These versions are not only free of synthetic additives but also come from cows with potentially healthier diets.
  • Check for Live Cultures: Authentic skyr should contain live and active cultures, so verify their presence to ensure gut health benefits.

Manufacturers are required by law to disclose all ingredients on the packaging. Therefore, paying close attention to the ingredient list can help you choose skyr that benefits your health without unnecessary additives. Some additives may have negligible effects on health, yet others can contribute to dietary discomfort or have a negative impact on metabolic health. For instance, studies suggest that carrageenan may contribute to digestive issues, although the evidence is not conclusive (National Institutes of Health).

It's also important to be aware of the potential cumulative effect of consuming multiple products with added sugars and artificial ingredients throughout the day. Over time, these can contribute to more significant health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (AHA Journal).

In conclusion, while commercial skyr can still be a healthy option, being vigilant about additives and choosing wisely can help you enjoy the benefits of skyr without unnecessary additives.

Skyr's Role in a Balanced Diet and Weight Management

When considering the role of skyr in a balanced diet and its potential benefits for weight management, it is crucial to dissect its nutritional profile and how it integrates with the principles of healthy eating. Skyr, a traditional Icelandic dairy product, is often compared to yogurt but stands out due to its higher protein content and lower sugar levels, characteristics that play a significant role in diet and weight control.

One of the hallmark features of skyr is its high protein concentration. Protein is a macronutrient essential for building and repairing tissues, producing enzymes and hormones, and contributing to overall health. The satiating effect of protein can also aid in weight management by providing a sense of fullness, reducing the likelihood of overeating. A serving of skyr can contain up to 17 grams of protein, making it a substantial source for this nutrient.

Another factor to consider is that skyr is typically low in fat, especially if you choose the non-fat variety. This can be advantageous for those monitoring their fat intake for personal health reasons or weight loss objectives. Additionally, while some dairy products can be high in calories, skyr is relatively low in calories, making it a diet-friendly option.

The role of calcium in weight management is another point of focus. Skyr is rich in calcium, a mineral that has been studied for its potential to assist with fat burning and weight loss. According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, higher dietary calcium intake has been associated with lower body weight and reduced weight gain over time.

Furthermore, the carbohydrate content in skyr is generally lower than that found in regular yogurts, especially when comparing plain varieties. The lower sugar content naturally present in skyr makes it a smarter choice for those looking to reduce their added sugar consumption, which is a common goal for many aiming for a balanced diet and better weight management.

However, not all skyrs are created equal, and it is important to be mindful of added sugars in flavored varieties. The American Heart Association recommends keeping added sugar intake low to avoid excess calorie consumption and potential weight gain, among other health issues. Therefore, when selecting skyr, opting for plain versions and adding your own fresh fruit or a sprinkle of nuts can provide flavor without the unnecessary added sugars.

It's worth noting the inclusion of skyr in a balanced diet is also subject to individual dietary needs and constraints. For example, those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies should avoid skyr or seek lactose-free options. Meanwhile, those following vegetarian diets can incorporate skyr as a protein source, while it is not suitable for vegan diets due to its dairy origin.

In summary, skyr can play a beneficial role in a balanced diet and weight management due to its high protein content, low-calorie count, and rich nutrient profile. However, personal preferences, dietary restrictions, and selection of the type of skyr (plain or flavored) are key determinants of its appropriateness in any individual's diet. As with all foods, moderation and variation are essential pillars of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

Frequently asked questions

Eating skyr may benefit athletic performance because of its high protein content, which aids in muscle repair and growth. Additionally, the presence of essential nutrients like B vitamins and minerals can assist with energy metabolism and recovery after exercise.

Skyr generally provides a high level of calcium, comparable to other dairy products such as milk and cheese. A typical serving can offer around 20% or more of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium, supporting bone health and other physiological functions.

Skyr's sustainability can vary based on production practices. Traditionally, it uses more milk to produce than yogurt due to its straining process, which could have a larger environmental footprint. However, choosing organic and grass-fed options might mitigate some environmental concerns, as these practices can promote more sustainable farming.

Skyr can be included in a ketogenic diet due to its low carbohydrate content. However, it's important to choose plain skyr without added sugars and to account for its carb content within your daily macronutrient goals, as keto diets typically restrict carbs to about 20-50 grams per day.

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

Ingredients to be aware of


  • rich in protein
  • low in fat
  • contains probiotics
  • high in calcium
  • support bone health
  • satiety and weight management
  • muscle maintenance
  • heart health
  • digestive health

Healthier alternatives

  • plain skyr
  • organic and grass-fed skyr
  • lactose-free skyr

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Icelandic Skyr Yogurt

  • 15g Protein/Serving
  • Creamy texture
  • Rich in culture
  • Less sugar content
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-22-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-22-2024

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