A Definition

Yogurt is a cultured milk product that is often flavored with fruit or sweeteners. It is an excellent source of calcium, potassium and riboflavin, and has grown in popularity as a healthy food option.

The Facts

Yogurt is eaten in many countries around the world. It is thought to have evolved from a lucky accident, when bacteria naturally present in the environment got into fresh milk. Today’s yogurt makers don’t leave it to chance: California yogurt is made by the addition of two or more bacterial strains, including Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Yogurt is a popular meal, snack and condiment.

The Process

Yogurt is made by adding cultures of live bacterial strains to pasteurized milk and incubating the mixture at 110˚F until the desired flavor and thickness is reached. The lactic acid produced by the culture coagulates the milk protein, thickening the milk and adding the characteristic tart flavor. Flavoring, nonfat milk solids and stabilizers may also be added.

Storage and Handling

  • Store yogurt in the refrigerator, which is typically set at 38ºF- 40ºF. Keep it tightly sealed in the container in which it is sold.
  • Yogurt containers are stamped with a “sell by” date, which refers to how long the retail store can keep the product for sale on the shelf.
  • If separation occurs, gently stir the liquid back into the yogurt.
  • Discard yogurt that has become moldy.
  • Freezing yogurt is not recommended.


Like other dairy products, yogurt is a good source of highquality protein, calcium, potassium and riboflavin. Scientists have found that yogurt with specific health-benefiting active cultures (probiotics) may contribute to a healthy digestive system. Some yogurts carry a seal on the label indicating that the yogurt contains a significant level of live, active cultures. Many people with symptoms of lactose intolerance experience fewer symptoms after eating yogurt than after drinking milk.

Nutrient Content of Yogurt (per 1-cup serving)*
  Calories Fat
drates (g)
Whole (3.25% fat)
plain, non-fortified
149 8 9 11 296 380 0.3 32
Low-fat (1.5% fat)
plain, fortified
154 4 13 17 447 573 0.5 15
plain, fortified
137 0.4 14 19 488 625 0.6 5
Low-fat, (1.0% fat)
vanilla, fortified
208 3 12 34 419 537 0.5 12
Frozen yogurt,
vanilla, soft-serve
235 8 6 35 206 304 0.32 3

* U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service, 2004. USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp

Cooking with Yogurt

Yogurt is wonderfully versatile. It can be used as a flavorful, calcium-rich addition to dips, dressings, shakes and soups. Yogurt can be substituted for higher fat sour cream, and can be drained through cheesecloth to make yogurt “cheese.” Yogurt is an important part of many regional cuisines, including Mediterranean, Eastern European, Middle Eastern and East Indian. To prevent curdling when using yogurt in hot dishes, add the yogurt as late as possible during preparation, heat gradually and stir gently.

Glossary of Terms

Plain Yogurt is unflavored yogurt made from pasteurized nonfat, low-fat or whole milk. Regular yogurt contains at least 3.25 percent milkfat, low-fat yogurt contains between 0.5 percent and 2 percent milkfat and nonfat yogurt contains no more than 0.5 gram milkfat per serving. Some yogurts contain a significant number of live, active cultures. If yogurt is not heat-treated after it is produced, the bacterial cultures will remain active.

Flavored Yogurt is sweetened and flavored with fruit or other flavors. Flavored yogurt is available either blended or with the flavor mixture at the bottom of the container.

Frozen Yogurt is a frozen dessert with a tart flavor produced from lactic acidproducing bacterial cultures. Regular frozen yogurt contains at least 3.5 percent fat, but frozen yogurts containing higher and lower fat contents are available.

Yogurt Cheese is a silky, creamy cheese made by draining the liquid whey from yogurt. If made from flavored yogurt, yogurt cheese will taste less sweet as much of the sugar drains out in the whey. Yogurt cheese is a low-fat or nonfat ingredient used in baking, as a spread or topping, and can be made easily at home.


California Department of Food and Agriculture

McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking. New York: Scribner, 2005

National Dairy Council