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U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Data Central: “Frozen Yogurt Vanilla,” “Nonfat Frozen Yogurt,” “Frozen Greek Yogurt.”
Frozen Yogurt: A Healthy Dessert That’s Low in Calories?
Frozen yogurt is a dessert that’s often promoted as a healthy alternative to ice cream. However, it isn’t just regular yogurt that’s been in the freezer.
In fact, it can have a vastly different nutrient profile than regular yogurt.
This article is a detailed review of frozen yogurt, exploring its nutritional content and health effects, particularly as a substitute for ice cream.
Frozen yogurt is a popular dessert made with yogurt. It has a creamy texture and sweet, tangy taste.
Frozen yogurt is quite similar to ice cream, but the main difference is that it’s made with milk instead of cream.
Additionally, like ice cream, it is often sold in cups or cones with a wide range of topping options, such as fruit, cookies and chocolate chips.
You can buy frozen yogurt in stores or make it at home. It’s also sometimes used as an ingredient in drinks like smoothies, or in desserts as a substitute for ice cream.
Ingredients can vary slightly between brands, but the main ones are:
- Milk: This can be liquid milk or powdered milk. Powdered milk is referred to as “milk solids” on the ingredients list.
- Yogurt cultures: These are “good” bacteria like Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
- Sugar: Most companies use regular table sugar, but some brands use alternative sweeteners like agave nectar.
Many frozen yogurts also contain ingredients like flavorings and stabilizers to improve their taste and texture.
To make frozen yogurt, manufacturers mix together milk and sugar. They pasteurize the mixture, heating it to a high temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.
The yogurt cultures are then added and the mixture is allowed to rest for up to four hours before it’s frozen.
Frozen yogurt is a frozen dessert made with milk, yogurt cultures and sugar. It has a creamy texture and a tangy taste.
The nutrition content of frozen yogurt can vary depending on the type of milk, sweeteners and flavorings used in the yogurt mixture.
For example, frozen yogurt made with nonfat milk will have a lower fat content than varieties made with whole milk (1).
Additionally, the toppings you choose can add extra calories, fat and sugar to the final product.
Below are the nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of regular, whole-milk frozen yogurt and 3.5 ounces of nonfat frozen yogurt, with no toppings or flavorings (2, 3):
|Regular Frozen Yogurt||Nonfat Frozen Yogurt|
|Fat||4 grams||0 grams|
|Protein||3 grams||4 grams|
|Carbs||22 grams||23 grams|
|Fiber||0 grams||0 grams|
|Calcium||10% of the RDI||10% of the RDI|
|Vitamin A||6% of the RDI||0% of the RDI|
|Iron||3% of the RDI||0% of the RDI|
|Vitamin C||1% of the RDI||0% of the RDI|
Because of the variations in recipes, always check the label to make sure what’s in your frozen yogurt.
Frozen yogurt is low in fat and protein, but can be very high in sugar. The fat and sugar content depend on the amount of fat in the milk.
Frozen yogurt may have some health benefits, compared to other frozen desserts.
It can contain beneficial nutrients and bacteria, lower levels of lactose and fewer calories than desserts like ice cream.
It Can Contain Good Bacteria
Like regular yogurt, some frozen yogurt contains probiotics.
Probiotics are live bacteria that are also known as “good bacteria.” When eaten, they can have beneficial effects on your health ( 4 , 5 ).
However, the benefits of bacteria in frozen yogurt depend on them surviving the manufacturing process.
If your frozen yogurt was pasteurized after the good bacteria were added, then they will have been killed off.
It has also been suggested that the freezing process could reduce the number of good bacteria. However, some studies have suggested this isn’t the case, so freezing may not be an issue ( 6 , 7 , 8 ).
To see if your frozen yogurt contains probiotics, check for the claim “live cultures” on the label.
It May Contain Lower Levels of Lactose
If you have lactose intolerance, eating dairy products can cause digestive issues like bloating, gas and pain ( 9 ).
However, most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of dairy, especially if it contains probiotics ( 10 ).
This is because probiotic bacteria break down some of the lactose, reducing the amount per portion.
Because some frozen yogurts contain probiotics, people with lactose intolerance may be able to eat them without any digestive problems.
However, it’s important to note that not all varieties contain live bacteria, so they may not have the same benefits ( 11 ).
It May Provide Nutrients That Benefit Bone Health
Frozen yogurt also contains reasonable amounts of some of the nutrients linked with good bone health, like calcium and protein ( 12 ).
However, despite this potential benefit, it’s worth noting that you can also get these nutrients from regular yogurt.
It Can Be Lower in Calories Than Regular Ice Cream
If you’re trying to cut back on calories, frozen yogurt is lower in calories than regular ice cream (2, 13).
However, make sure to watch your portion sizes and topping choices. If you’re not careful, these can easily bump up the calories.
Frozen yogurt may contain beneficial probiotics, lower levels of lactose, nutrients for good bone health and fewer calories than ice cream.
Health Benefits of Frozen Yogurt
From the ice cream aisle to the food court, frozen yogurt comes in tons of varieties and flavors. Like regular yogurt, the tangy frozen treat is made from milk fermented with live cultures. These are living organisms that aid in the fermentation process. The frozen stuff also typically includes sugar, flavorings, stabilizers, and cream.
Frozen yogurt makers often claim it is a healthier alternative to ice cream, but that depends on the ingredients. It’s usually lower in fat and calories than ice cream, but it can be just as high in sugar.
A half-cup of regular frozen yogurt has about:
- 120 calories
- 4 grams of protein
- 2 grams of fat
- 17 grams of sugar
- 22 grams of carbohydrates
- 150 milligrams of calcium (15% of the “Daily Value” — how much you need each day)
A half-cup of nonfat frozen yogurt has about:
- 110 calories
- 3 grams of protein
- 0 grams of fat
- 24 grams of sugar
- 24 grams of carbohydrates
- 100 milligrams of calcium
A half-cup of low-fat frozen Greek yogurt has about:
- 100 calories
- 6 grams of protein
- 1 gram of fat
- 14 grams of total sugar
- 18 grams of carbohydrates
- 100 milligrams of calcium
But the exact nutrition details differ depending on the brand and ingredients. Check the nutritional information on the package before you buy, or ask at the frozen yogurt shop.
Frozen yogurt also comes in dairy-free versions made with soy, coconut, or nut milk, but they’re not necessarily healthier. Greek yogurt, frozen or not, can have more protein and less fat than other options.
Most frozen yogurt, just like the regular stuff, contains live probiotic cultures. These are good bacteria that can help build a healthy gut, lower blood pressure, and improve your immune system — your body’s defense against germs.
The amount of probiotics in a scoop varies. Frozen yogurt often has fewer cultures than the refrigerated version. And some products have no live probiotics at all. If these good bacteria are what you’re after, look for a seal that says “Live and Active Cultures.”
Some frozen yogurts can also be a good source of bone-building calcium.
Things to Watch Out For
Remember, frozen yogurt is a dessert, not a health food. Don’t overdo it. It’s easy to turn a little treat into a super-sized sundae.
Check serving sizes for guidance. And limit yourself when using self-serve machines. Choose a small dish, and avoid the temptation to fill up the whole cup. At the toppings bar, skip candy and sprinkles and choose unsweetened fruit and nuts, which will help fill you up.
Aim for the frozen yogurt with the fewest ingredients. Fewer ingredients means fewer additives.
Keep in mind that if a dessert is fat-free, it likely has more sugar, thickeners, or emulsifiers. You want to get the best of all worlds: the lowest sugar, fat, calories, and sodium. To avoid the extra sugar often added to frozen yogurt, freeze regular yogurt into pops.
To make your own frozen yogurt, check out these recipes:
- Fast Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
- Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
- Instant Mango Frozen Yogurt
American Institute for Cancer Research: “AICR HealthTalk.”
Tufts University: Tufts Journal: “Ask the Professor.”
Cleveland Clinic: “Ice Cream, Gelato, Sorbet? Your Best Frozen Treat Fix.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Data Central: “Frozen Yogurt Vanilla,” “Nonfat Frozen Yogurt,” “Frozen Greek Yogurt.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “What’s in Your Frozen Treat?” “Your Complete Guide to Choosing a Yogurt to Meet Your Needs.”
Cleveland Clinic: “Which Yogurt is Right for You?”
Michigan State University: “What’s the Healthiest Ice-cream?”
KidsHealth/Nemours: “Frozen Yogurt Pops.”
Mayo Clinic: “What do the Daily Value numbers mean on food labels?”
Frozen Yogurt Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
Verywell Fit articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and nutrition and exercise healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Melissa Rifkin is a Connecticut-based registered dietitian with over 15 years of experience working in the clinical setting.
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A staple on date nights, family outings, and after-dinner treats, you can find frozen yogurt in specialty shops across the country and in almost every grocery store. It’s available in standard flavors (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla) and more creative ones, offering something for everyone.
The nutrition in frozen yogurt is widely variable from one brand or product to the next. Though this sweet treat is often touted as being healthier than ice cream, this isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, it’s more about choosing the one you enjoy most as, in moderation, both can fit into a healthy diet.
Frozen Yogurt Nutrition Facts
This nutrition information is for one cup (174 grams) of frozen yogurt in flavors other than chocolate, which is higher in calories, and is provided by the USDA.
Frozen yogurt contains a high amount of carbs, the majority of which come from sugar. You can find low or no-sugar frozen yogurt brands on the market, but most contain higher amounts of fat to help overcome the lower level of sweetness created by the lack of sugar. Some also contain sugar-free substitutes, which can cause gastrointestinal issues.
Frozen yogurt is considered a low glycemic food on the glycemic index, though it is still recommended as a “sometimes food,” or a food that should only be eaten occasionally.
Most of the fat in frozen yogurt comes from the milk it is made with, which could be either liquid milk or powdered milk, depending on the brand. To reduce the fat content of frozen yogurt, look for “non-fat milk” on the ingredients list.
Because frozen yogurt contains dairy, it does provide a small amount of protein. The milk supplies whey and casein, both of which are considered high-quality proteins containing essential amino acids.
Vitamins and Minerals
Micronutrients found in frozen yogurt include calcium (174 mg), potassium (271 mg), vitamin C (1.2 mg), and magnesium (17.4 mg). It also contains trace amounts of iron, zinc, copper, fluoride, selenium, and a variety of B vitamins.
The amount of calories in frozen yogurt varies by brand but is typically around 200 to 250 calories per cup. This includes brands labeled as low fat and no-sugar-added.
Keep in mind that just because a food has more or less of a certain macro or micronutrient, that doesn’t need to determine whether we eat it or even how much of it we eat. It is our overall dietary choices that make the most impact.
The nutritious ingredients found in frozen yogurt contribute to its health profile. Here is a closer look at some of the health benefits you may get from eating frozen yogurt.
May Include Probiotics
When it comes to probiotics, yogurt is often a staple that people look to provide what they need. Case in point: it accounts for the largest share of probiotic sales.
According to a review published in the journal ISRN Nutrition, probiotics can provide the following health benefits:
- Enhancing intestinal health
- Strengthening immune response
- Reducing cholesterol
- Helping prevent cancer
- Preventing diarrhea and diarrheal diseases
- Improving lactose metabolism
May Be Easier to Digest
If you experience gastrointestinal issues when consuming ice cream, frozen yogurt might serve as a less painful substitute. According to the Journal of Dairy Science, frozen yogurt contains no more than 10% milkfat and a minimum acidity of 0.3% lactic acid.
Comparatively, in ice cream, the milk fat content is at least 10% to 16%, while the lactic acid percentage can hit as high as 1%.
May Improve Bone Health
The calcium found in yogurt can help muscles and cells work properly. As the body ages, hormonal signals take calcium out of the bones daily in an effort to regulate blood calcium levels. Consuming calcium products helps keep your bones strong, especially as you grow older.
May Protect Against Depression
In a study of 105 females between the ages of 41 and 57, researchers found that those consuming the least amount of calcium had higher self-rated depression scores. One cup of frozen yogurt provides 174 mg of calcium or almost 20% of the recommended daily intake.
May Help Prevent Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones weaken, making them more prone to fractures and breaks. This health condition is a serious issue in the country, affecting more than 10 million adults over the age of 50—most of whom are women.
Following a diet that includes calcium may help prevent or stave off an osteoporosis diagnosis for as long as possible. Frozen yogurt also contains a small amount of vitamin D, a nutrient that aids in calcium absorption.
Because frozen yogurt is made with milk, it is not suitable for someone with a milk allergy. There are non-dairy frozen yogurts available but be sure to read the label, especially if you have other food allergies (like soy, peanuts, or tree nuts) because these ingredients could be present as well.
If you suspect that you may have an allergy to milk, talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms. Signs of an allergic reaction include rash, hives, swollen lips or tongue, difficulty breathing, and more. A healthcare provider can help determine if you have a true food allergy or food intolerance.
Those who are lactose intolerant (unable to fully digest sugar or lactose in dairy products) might be able to eat frozen yogurt in small quantities without experiencing bloating, pain in the stomach, and diarrhea. Try a small amount at first to see how your body responds.
Although most frozen yogurt brands contain less dairy than ice cream, you may still experience serious gastrointestinal issues after consumption. If your reaction is severe, speak with a healthcare professional to learn more and to create a diet that reduces your gastrointestinal distress.
When shopping for frozen yogurt—whether in a grocery store or at a specialty market—you can choose from dozens of varieties. This includes no-sugar, fat-free, low-sugar, and non-dairy options. Flavors range from one fruit (such as strawberry) to a variety of inventive, colorful options.
Selecting a fruit flavor will at least get you some extra vitamins and minerals, making your dessert a little more nutritious than candy-based choices. And if you visit a frozen yogurt shop in which you add your own toppings, piling on fresh fruit and nuts is a great way to add nutrients.
Storage and Food Safety
You can store frozen yogurt in the freezer in a number of ways. You can place it in an air-tight container, for instance, or scoop the product into a plastic bag that is tightly shut. You can also put frozen yogurt in an ice-cube tray for smaller serving sizes.
The yogurt can stay in the freezer for up to 2 months. Do not leave it out of the freezer for more than 2 hours or you risk bacteria growth and potential food poisoning. Bacteria grow best at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F and make you extremely sick.