Greek Yogurt on Keto: Is It Keto-Friendly At All?

This article is based on scientific evidence

Yogurt | Keto | Can I Have Greek Yogurt | Best Yogurt | Keto Substitutes | Conclusion | FAQ | Studies

Yogurt enjoys a healthy image in many places as a probiotic food. Greek yogurt, in particular, enjoys numerous cheers online.

But are yogurt and its Greek brother keto-friendly? As is often the case, it all comes down to details.

With an average tolerance level of 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, yogurt can quickly spell doom on a keto diet.

In this article, you’ll learn which yogurt can and can’t fit into a balanced, low-carb, high-fat diet.

What Is Greek Yogurt?

Yogurt is a traditional dairy product made by bacterial fermentation (culturing) of milk.

Although cow’s milk is the most common choice today, yogurt can also be made from goat’s or sheep’s milk.

In addition, vegan options exist made from almond milk, coconut milk, or cashew milk. 

The bacteria used to make yogurt are known as yogurt cultures. They convert the lactose in milk into lactic acid.

In the process, it is the lactic acid that gives yogurt its characteristic tart taste and soft, creamy texture.

Unlike regular yogurt, Greek yogurt must go through more processing steps before it is ready.

After the yogurt has finished fermenting, it is placed in a fine mesh cloth and strained for several hours.

The liquid that results is called whey. The longer you let it strain, the thicker the resulting Greek yogurt will be.

In the end, Greek yogurt still has the flavor you would expect from regular yogurt. Nonetheless, the texture is much thicker.

Plain Greek yogurt has fewer carbohydrates

Greek Yogurt on Keto

When it comes to yogurt, the ketogenic diet always raises questions. While some yogurts may be keto-friendly, others are not.

High-quality yogurt can be a source of protein and healthy fats with a relatively low number of carbohydrates.

What needs to be clear with keto is that only full-fat options, or yogurt made from whole milk, can ever be the first choice.

For example, an average 245-gram cup of whole milk yogurt has the following nutritional values (*):

  • Fat: 8.0 grams
  • Protein: 8.5 grams
  • Net carbs: 11.4 grams

A fat-to-net carbohydrate ratio of less than 1 quickly tells us to stay away from plain yogurt on a ketogenic diet.

Since plain yogurt is already a problem, what about yogurt with flavors?

If we look at an average cup of vanilla yogurt, we get the following macronutrients (*):

  • Fat: 3.1 grams
  • Protein: 12.1 grams
  • Net carbs: 33.8 grams

The excessive amounts of sugar in fruit yogurt will undoubtedly throw you out of ketosis. But what are the results when Greek yogurt is the base?

Is Greek Yogurt Keto-Friendly?

Unlike other types of yogurt, Greek yogurt usually has a higher protein content. The reason for this is that the milk is filtered before it is cultured.

The protein content can be significantly lower in other varieties because yogurt is often diluted with cheap, less healthy fillers.

Both protein and fat content in Greek yogurt come entirely from milk, which is why we can also refer to it as milk fat or butterfat.

Especially when made from grass-fed milk, butter is a healthy fat that fits ideally into a ketogenic diet.

Nonetheless, just because it’s called Greek yogurt doesn’t mean it has to be keto-friendly.

For example, here’s what the nutritional values of one cup of full-fat Greek fruit yogurt look like (*):

  • Fat: 7.4 grams
  • Protein: 17.9 grams
  • Net carbs: 30.1 grams

Consequently, fruit yogurt is a no-go on a ketogenic diet due to its carbohydrate content, even in the Greek variety.

For this reason, we must put our hopes in plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt.

Berries and nuts go well with yogurt on keto

Is Plain Greek Yogurt Keto?

As you’ll notice from the label, any unsweetened plain yogurt still contains a significant amount of carbohydrates.

Although some lactose is converted to lactic acid through fermentation, even plain Greek yogurt still contains lactose.

The higher quality, purer and lower carbohydrate yogurt is, the more acidic it tastes due to the lower lactose content.

As the nutritional values indicate, it is full-fat plain Greek yogurt that comes closest to this quality description (*):

  • Fat: 12.3 grams
  • Protein: 22.1 grams
  • Net carbohydrates: 9.8 grams

This full-fat yogurt is the only one in our comparison to having a fat-to-net carbohydrate ratio greater than 1.

Unlike all other yogurt variants, proteins dominate here instead of carbohydrates, which can be advantageous for weight lifting.

Thus, plain Greek yogurt with less than 10 grams of net carbohydrates per cup is a reasonable option on the keto diet. Therefore, you could consume up to 5 cups a day, as long as you otherwise avoid carbohydrates.

Finally, fat and carbohydrate content is moderate, while protein content is high. Due to the 75-80% fat, 20-25% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrate macronutrient distribution, even plain Greek yogurt isn’t that great on keto.

Hence, plain full-fat Greek yogurt is allowed on the ketogenic diet, but only in moderation. However, if you’re not careful, you can quickly exceed your daily carbohydrate limit with it.

Best Greek Yogurt on Keto

If you want to incorporate this dairy product into your keto diet, look for Greek yogurts that:

  • Are unsweetened and not flavored
  • Are full-fat or made from whole milk
  • Contain active cultures

In short, as with all foods that come in a package, it comes down to reading the label and ingredient list carefully.

Besides milk, it’s at most two other ingredients and live cultures that you want to find in your Greek yogurt.

The higher the fat content and the lower the carbohydrate content, the better the yogurt. If the fat content also exceeds the protein content, Greek yogurt is a proper fit for keto.

However, you definitely don’t need a “keto” branded yogurt, since some of those varieties are not keto-friendly at all. Thus, always check the label and ingredient list before buying Greek yogurt.

With this in mind, here are some keto-friendly options of Greek yogurt brands you might easily find at the next grocery store:

Peak Triple Cream Plain Yogurt

Peak Triple Cream Plain Yogurt

The best keto yogurt option isn’t even labeled “Greek” yogurt. However, this Oregon-based brand is dedicated to producing very high-fat and low-carb yogurts.

Therefore, one container (142 grams) of Peak Triple Cream is the ideal fit for keto (*): 

  • Fat: 24 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Net carbohydrates: 4 grams

Moreover, it’s as creamy and fatty as it can get.

Fage Greek Yogurt

Next up is Fage Total Plain Greek Yogurt 5%. This variety is high-protein but still having a fat-to-net carbohydrate ratio of 1.7 in its standard 200 grams container (*):

  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Protein: 18 grams
  • Net carbohydrates: 6 grams

While the plain 5% Fage Greek Yogurt fits into a keto diet, the 0% version does not. Please keep that in mind since a lot of sites recommend it as keto-friendly. However, it’s going to spike insulin such as low-fat milk does.

Chobani Greek Yogurt

Chobani is a brand you will most likely find all over the U.S. One serving size of 184 grams offers the following macronutrient distribution (*):

  • Fat: 9 grams
  • Protein: 16 grams
  • Net carbohydrates: 7 grams

Basically, Chobani Whole Milk Plain Greek Yogurt is a little bit less keto-friendly than the Fage Total Plain Greek Yogurt 5% – slightly more carbs, less fat, and protein.

Yoplait Greek Yogurt

The last widely available and popular yogurt brand for keto is Yoplait. The YQ yogurt is very high in protein and low in carbohydrates since it’s highly filtered (*):

  • Fat: 3 grams
  • Protein: 17 grams
  • Net carbohydrates: 2 grams

As you see all the keto-friendly yogurt brands have one thing in common and that’s a fat-to-net carbohydrate ratio greater than 1. And I would not go below that with a yogurt.

However, yogurt should better be the exception than the rule on ketogenic diets. To be honest, I am not eating yogurt at all since there are excellent low-carb high-fat substitutes to replace it.

Keto Substitutes for Greek Yogurt

Since dairy products are a staple in most Western diets, many people have trouble cooking without it. Moreover, keto recipes often include dairy as an essential ingredient.

Although many food authorities and programs try to convince us that dairy products are essential for health and well-being, this is not necessarily true.

Nonetheless, lactose intolerance is a surprisingly hot topic. 

The ability to digest lactose generally decreases after the first few months of a person’s life. 

The exception to this rule is people whose ancestors had domesticated cows for a long time and are therefore more likely to retain the ability to digest milk and other dairy products into adulthood (Deng et al. 20151).

Consequently, people have a different risk of developing lactose intolerance based on their ancestry (Swallow 20032):

  • High: Asia and Africa
  • Moderate: Middle East, Central, and Southern Europe
  • Low: Northern Europe

Other people are sensitive to whey, casein, or other milk proteins and often don’t even know it.

When they give up dairy products, they are often surprised to find that specific physical and psychological problems disappear entirely.

Therefore, in any case, there are better alternatives to yogurt in ketogenic diets. In most recipes, such as dressings or dips, you can replace yogurt with the following more keto-friendly options:

Furthermore, fish, meat, eggs, and offal are better sources of fat and protein anyway.

Full-fat cheese is also beneficial, as it no longer contains lactose and therefore carbohydrates due to the long ripening process.

You May Have Some Greek Yogurt on Keto

Yogurt is a dairy product that is very close to milk. Since lactose dominates in it, it does what milk does best, helping mammals gain weight.

Due to fermentation, in yogurt, the macronutrient distribution is slightly better, but still not suitable for the keto diet. Moreover, flavored yogurt variations are true sugar bombs. 

Plain unsweetened Greek yogurt is the only one that barely passes the keto test. As long as you can limit Greek yogurt to a moderate amount, it may bring more variety to a ketogenic diet.

Greek Yogurt on Keto FAQ

Is Greek yogurt keto?

While some full-fat plain Greek yogurts are keto, flavored Greek yogurts are certainly not. Hence, you should always check the label before buying a Greek yogurt on keto.

Which Greek yogurt is best for Keto?

Plain Greek yogurts which are high in fats and low in carbs are best for keto. For example, Peak Triple Cream Plain Yogurt is a great choice.

Will Greek yogurt kick me out of ketosis?

Any flavored fruit Greek yogurt will most likely kick you out of ketosis while plain Greek yogurts with higher fat than carb content may not.

What is the lowest carb Greek yogurt?

The lowest carb Greek yogurt is Yoplait YQ yogurt since it’s highly filtered. But the best one for keto is Peak Triple Cream Plain Yogurt since it’s almost that low in carbs while offering lots of natural fat.

Studies

1Deng Y, Misselwitz B, Dai N, Fox M. Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 18;7(9):8020-35. doi: 10.3390/nu7095380. Review. PubMed PMID: 26393648; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4586575.

2Swallow DM. Genetics of lactase persistence and lactose intolerance. Annu Rev Genet. 2003;37:197-219. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genet.37.110801.143820. Review. PubMed PMID: 14616060. 

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