Your Bones and Yogurt: low fat, no fat. Is it all Greek to you?

Your Bones and Yogurt: low fat, no fat.  Is it all Greek to you?

You might have noticed by now that I’m not a big fan of dairy as your main source of bone healthy nutrients.  I like a wider variety of foods for healthy bones, including dark leafy greens, seaweeds and bone broths.

But then there’s yogurt…and here’s where I have to make an exception to my dairy prejudice.

Yogurt is fermented by adding bacterial cultures to milk, transforming the milk sugar, lactose, into lactic acid.

Here’s why yogurt is better than milk when it comes to your bones:  acidity.

Milk acidifies the body’s pH level and when that happens, your body releases calcium from your bones to neutralize the acid.  So even though many people are guzzling milk for the calcium, they’re actually leaching calcium from their bones at the same time. 

Not a good plan.

But yogurt is a different story.  Fermented or cultured dairy products like yogurt are acid neutral so they don’t have that calcium leaching effect.

So it’s OK to eat yogurt.  In fact, it’s a pretty good idea to eat yogurt for your bones.  Why?  Alright, the calcium, yes, but there’s more to it than calcium.

The real reason is lactoferrin.  Raw cow’s milk and fermented milk products such as yogurt and kefir contain lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein that has several roles when it comes to building strong bones.  Lactoferrin:

  • boosts the growth of osteoblasts (cells that build bone);
  • reduces the death rate of osteoblasts by up to 70%;
  • decreases the formation of osteoclasts (cells that breakdown bone); and
  • increases the formation of cells that build cartilage.

Be picky about your yogurt

These are all great reasons to enjoy some real yogurt.  But I do mean REAL yogurt. Not some gloop that’s just a delivery system for sugar.

Sugar is another of those acid-forming foods that will leach calcium from your bones.  There should only be about 10 to 12 grams of sugar in a serving of yogurt because that’s the amount that is naturally contained in a serving of plain dairy.

Unfortunately, yogurt has been hijacked by big food companies and what was a naturally cultured health food has become in many cases a highly processed junk food.  Thanks to the hype of advertising, millions of people have been led to believe that they need to eat a plastic container full of sugar, preservatives and fillers.

You have to read yogurt nutrition fact panels to be sure that you are getting a product that is a whole food and will actually nourish your body.

Don’t rely on what the pretty label or the commercial says – that’s all advertising and the marketing department clearly has an agenda to make you buy.  Millions of people believe in the magical properties of Activia thanks to their advertising campaign with Jamie Lee Curtis.

But guess what – Activia couldn’t prove the claims they were making and two years ago they had to pay a $45 Million class action settlement to consumers for false advertising.  The yogurt was selling at a 30% premium because they had convinced consumers that Activia had special bacteria that improved digestion and immunity.

Instead of relying on glitzy commercials take a good hard look at the ingredients list.  That tells the whole story.    Yogurt has been around for over 4,000 years but just recently manufacturers have decided that they can improve on it by adding sugar, fillers, thickeners, “natural flavorings,” and different bacteria.

Just compare the two labels below. 

The one from Seven Stars Farm in Phoenixville, Pa is for their plain, organic, biodynamic yogurt.  Its ingredients are milk and cultures. That’s it!  It’s a whole food which means the food is in it’s whole form.  Now look at Activia Vanilla.  Not only does it have almost twice the sugar, it has no less than 16 ingredients and many of them are not even comprehensible.  How do you know what you’re eating?


Activia Ingredients: Cultured Grade reduced fat milk, sugar, water, fructose, modified food starch, contains less than 1% of milk protein concentrate, modified corn starch, natural vanilla flavoring, Kosher gelatin, agar agar, guar gum, lactic acid, calcium lactic, Vitamin D3, sodium citrate, sodium citrate.

Contains the active L.Bulgarius, S. Thermophilus, and Bifidobacterium Lactis DN 173-010 (bifidus regularis)

Seven Stars Ingredients: Organic and biodynamic milk and cultures.

I DON’T want modified food starches and modified corn starch in my yogurt.


Remember corn and soy beans are the two largest genetically modified crops (GMOs) in our country.  As of this writing, our food system is not labeling GMO’s.

Let’s compare the labels:

When reading labels one has to have a discerning eye. Let me help you here.

  • First, ALWAYS look at the serving size then compare.  This is where it gets tricky (consider a calculator or your math wiz child)
  • In this example Seven Stars serving size = 1 cup (245 grams) but Activia’s, serving size = one container (113 grams).
  • For comparison sake, I’ll double Activia’s nutrition numbers(quite possibly Activia eaters consume 2 containers a day; lunch and snack).



Sugar 36 grams?  Now we know sugar is not good for our bones and modified food and corn starches?

That doesn’t work for me.  Go for the gold! Go for the pure, whole, unprocessed food!

Is Greek yogurt better for your bones? 

The big new marketing rage in the dairy aisle and hence the big consumer hot topic is Greek yogurt.

Both Greek and American style yogurt are fermented with traditional lactic acid bacteria —Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus—that give yogurt many of its digestive health benefits.

The big difference between the two is thickness – Greek yogurt is thicker because more of the whey has been drained out.

And because the liquid’s been drained out, Greek yogurt has almost twice the protein of regular yogurt.  On the other hand, regular yogurt has about 10% more calcium than the Greek because straining out the whey removes some calcium.

Then there’s the cost. 

Greek yogurt will cost you more because of good marketing but also because it takes about four times more milk to make it than regular yogurt.

Whether you buy Greek or American, just make sure it’s plain (no added sugars) and organic, and that the label says “live active cultures” or “living yogurt cultures.”  Two organic brands I enjoy with my fresh berries:  Seven Stars and Hawthorne Valley Yogurt.

Your bones will truly thank you.

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Here’s to your bones!