Some reasons why yoghurt can make a good basis for breakfast

I’m a big believer in eating natural and unprocessed foods, which means basing the diets on foodstuffs such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, vegetables and some fruit. However, I am not averse to having some dairy products in the diet, in particular full-fat plain yoghurt. With a few nuts and berries chucked in, I reckon this represents a decent breakfast or dessert for those who eat such things. I often don’t eat breakfast, but when I do, it’s almost always something cooked (eggs with smoked salmon, omelette) or the yoghurt mix described here.

There’s a general concern that dairy products are to be avoided on account of their offering of saturated fat. I have no personal fear here on the basis that there are practically no links between saturated fat and heart disease, and eating less saturated fat has not been shown to have broad benefits for health.

Another common concern about fat in dairy is that this will rapidly add to the fat held in the body (i.e. fatty foods are fattening). A recent study reviewed the studies in which dairy products were emphasised in the diet and measures of body composition assessed [1]. Overall, the results found that, if anything, inclusion dairy products led to:

1. reduction in fat mass
2. increase in lean body mass (muscle)
3. reduced waist circumference

All these things are, generally speaking, to be desired.

It has been suggested that the apparent beneficial effects dairy products on body weight relates to their calcium content. Consumption of calcium has been shown to paradoxically lower calcium level within fat cells, and this accelerates the process of lipolysis (breakdown of fat) [2]. There is considerable evidence linking higher intakes of calcium and dairy products with reduced body fatness [3].

It has been suggested that not just calcium, but other chemical constituents in dairy products somehow assist fat loss. There is evidence that supplementing the diet with dairy products (yoghurt) can enhance fat loss, including abdominal fat [4,5]. In one of these studies [4], the group supplementing with yoghurt saw their waist circumferences shrink by an average of about 4.0 cm, compared to a reduction of only about 0.5 cm in individuals supplementing with calcium alone.

While dairy products have theoretically fattening potential due to their influence on insulin, the evidence suggests their incorporation in the diet is unlikely to be a barrier to weight loss, and may in fact help here.

There’s also concern, justified I think, that dairy products are a common cause of ‘food intolerance’ issues. Raw dairy products appear to be better tolerated than pasteurised, and I also find in practice that yoghurt is better tolerated than milk. This might have something to do with the fact that the bacteria deployed in the fermentation process that forms yoghurt partially digest milk proteins [6,7], making them easier to digest and therefore less problematic. An added benefit from yoghurt is that it contains less lactose than milk, and is generally better tolerated by individuals who are lactose intolerant.


1. Abargouei AS, et al. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. International Journal of Obesity 2012;36,1485–1493

2. Zemel MB, et al. Regulation of adiposity by dietary calcium. FASEB Journal 2000;14:1132-1138

3. Teegarden D. Calcium intake and reduction of fat mass. J Nutr 2003;133:249S–251S

4. Zemel MB, et al. Dairy augmentation of total and central fat loss in obese subjects. Int J Obes (Lond). 2005;29(4):391-7

5. Zemel MB, et al. Effects of calcium and dairy on body composition and weight loss in African-American adults. Obesity Research 2005;13(7):1218-25

6. Loones A. Transformation of milk components during yogurt fermentation. In: Chandan RC (ed). Yoghurt: nutritional and health properties. Mc Clean VA: National Yoghurt Association 1989:95-114

7. Beshkova DM, et al. Production of amino acids by yoghurt bacteria. Biotechnol Prog 1998;14:963-965

19 Responses to Some reasons why yoghurt can make a good basis for breakfast

  1. david manovitch 11 January 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    Dairy products contain, Insulin like Growth Factors I and II and Prolactin. All have been demonstrated in vivo to promote cancer cell division. Milk has been linked to Cancers of Breast, Ovary and Prostate. Cows milk is a food for infant cattle not adult humans. It is a food for a time of rapid growth and not for the absence of it.

  2. Chloe 11 January 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Yes! Since swapping my breakfast from ‘supposidly’ filling porridge to Greek yoghurt its never felt better, or been slimmer. I never found porridge filling, but can easily go without a snack after a breakfast of yoghurt, nuts and a few blueberries…Yum!

  3. Scott 12 January 2013 at 1:04 am #

    See also:

    Willett, W. C., & Leibel, R. L. (2002). Dietary fat is not a major determinant of body fat. The American Journal of Medicine, 113(9, Supplement 2), 47-59. (

  4. tess 12 January 2013 at 1:27 am #

    there can be a big difference between commercial yogurt and home-made, too — i let mine “work” overnight, and i’m sure more of the lactose is converted to lactic acid, than in the store-bought stuff. also, of course, i add no sugar to mine. 🙂 i see the commercials touting flavored “greek yogurt” and i wonder why people even bother….

  5. frances 12 January 2013 at 1:41 am #

    I had to come up with a breakfast for a friend who is type I diabetic, didn’t like to eat much in the morning, but had to do a fair bit of physical work before lunch. So, I made a smoothie based on full fat yoghurt, half a ripe avocado, large spoonful of coconut oil and a handful of berries…this was a reall winner, and we have both been eating it ever since. It keeps you going right through the morning…and is so thick it usually has to be eaten with a spoon. Even better with a splash of Kefir to load up with probiotics.

  6. audrey 12 January 2013 at 2:35 am #

    Sounds like full fat yogurt’s on the menu then. I make whole milk, raw kefir and have that most days as i like the kick it has! Is this as beneficial as the yogurt and what about the effects on blood glucose….?

  7. Ralph, Cleethorpes, UK 12 January 2013 at 2:55 am #

    I think the drawback with dairy is that it tends to stimulate twice as much insulin than the GI/GL would suggest.
    Also excessive calcium may be a concern for some; having alkali producing foods like fruit and veg enables your body to make use of minerals such as calcium, which is more important than having high amounts of calcium that your body may struggle to make use of.

  8. bill 12 January 2013 at 9:28 am #

    I have never had this answered:

    Is the problem with “dairy” across the board?

    Is heavy cream insulinogenic?

    Is cheese insulinogenic?

    Is yoghurt insulinogenic?

    is butter insulinogenic?

    Why is it always said that “dairy” is insulinogenic? I can understand that milk would be insulinogenic because of the lactose, but what about the other items made from milk?

  9. Lorraine 12 January 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    I agree that full fat natural yoghurt with live cultures is great for breakfast or a dessert. I wouldn’t go near fat free / fruit options. It’s surprising how many people like fruit/sugar yoghurt when it’s so much tastier and healthier to just add or blend your own fruit with natural yoghurt.

  10. Lorraine 12 January 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    Dr Briffa, just a small typo in 1st paragraph, 4th line – “Dairy” not Diary:)

  11. Dr John Briffa 12 January 2013 at 4:05 pm #

    Thanks Lorraine


  12. Modesty 12 January 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    Just curious why some food is considered breakfast food, while other considered lunch or dinner food. Myself a low carber, and not a breakfast person have bullet coffee – coconut oil and butter well mixed in a good coffee.

  13. deirdra 13 January 2013 at 12:42 am #

    Full fat natural yogurt with live cultures doesn’t fill me up, it just makes me hungrier & craving more, the same as milk & cheese. I can tolerate up to 2T heavy cream or butter, but not dairy with more than trace amounts of casein & lactose.

  14. Les P 13 January 2013 at 1:20 am #

    Fulll fat greek yogurt, nuts, strawberries and blueberries for this kid. A small tub of flavoured yogurt contains the same amount of carbs as a small bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

  15. David Wilson 13 January 2013 at 1:26 am #

    I like to put a couple of raw egg yolks, sometimes frozen blueberries, and often sugar-free whey protein powder in my greek yogurt. A massive blast of nutrition with very little sugar.

  16. Dave P 16 January 2013 at 12:16 am #

    The natural fats never were the villains, the trans on the other hand are. This is one of my staples as I follow lo Carb due to T2 Diabetes, successfuly i might add. And contrary to reports it isnt boring or difficult. I have no plans to change back anytime soon

  17. Reijo Laatikainen 17 January 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    According to a recent systematic review, high fat dairy is protective against long term weight gain (as well as nuts, fruit and whole grains).

    Fogelholm et al. Dietary macronutrients and food consumption as determinants of long-term weight change in adult populations: a systematic literature review. Food Nutr Res. 2012; 56

  18. John M 17 January 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    I’ve been making my own LCHF yogurt for the last year. I use 10 cups of whole milk and two cups of cream as the base. I have a cup every morning for breakfast mixed with some chia seeds, freshly ground flax seeds, walnuts and a small handful of blueberries. This keeps me satisfied throughout the day, and I skip lunch quite often.

  19. Steve 19 January 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    I eat Greek style yoghurt containing cows’ milk. Is this the same as Greek yoghurt?

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