How Much Probiotics are in Yogurt?

Written by: Kari Raman, PharmD, RPh
Published August 28, 2023

At the pharmacy, I often get asked: “How many probiotics are in yogurt?” and “Is eating yogurt the same as taking a probiotic supplement?” 

As a pharmacist interested in gut health, probiotics, and, well… eating, this is a question I love to get.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of research around the probiotic content of yogurt and its benefits.

How Many Probiotics are in Yogurt?

The number of probiotics in yogurt can vary widely based on factors like the brand, processing methods, and storage conditions. According to the International Dairy Foods Association, to be labeled as containing “live and active cultures,” a yogurt typically should have at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture. Some yogurts even boast having up to billions of live cultures in a single serving. 

But – a few things to remember.

  1. I usually recommend people who ask about taking a probiotic supplement take 1 to 10 billion Colony Forming Units – CFUs. That’s how most supplements measure the number of beneficial bacteria in their product – in the billions. So the 100 million number required to be able to say that it contains live and active cultures really isn’t that big of a number.
  2. And, with any probiotic supplement, the effectiveness isn’t just about quantity. The specific strains of bacteria present, their viability, and how they interact with your unique gut flora all play crucial roles. Basically, while some strains show some good science on being able to help some people with certain conditions, they aren’t going to work for everyone all the time. 

Why Yogurt is an Excellent Source of Probiotics

Eating yogurt is one of the most delicious and convenient ways to introduce beneficial bacteria into the diet. Also, did I mention that it’s delicious? It’s actually one of the healthier things you can eat at any retail pharmacy, as long as you don’t get one with a ton of sugar. You probably don’t eat as much pharmacy food as I do, but when you work in a store with a ton of cereal and candy, a healthy dairy product is a pretty good choice.

Here are some of the most common probiotic strains found in yogurt:

  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus: Often used in yogurt production and works in tandem with Streptococcus thermophilus.
  • Streptococcus thermophilus: One of the other most common cultures used to produce your favorite fermented dairy product.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus: I’ve written an entire article on Lactobacillus acidophilus – it’s one of the most studied strains of probiotics, and it also lives in many health people’s guts. Like I said, there are a number of clinical trials on this bacteria that show that it may be helpful including improving gut health, enhancing immune function, reducing IBS symptoms, improving diarrhea and more
  • Bifidobacterium lactis: Known to support healthy digestion and boost the immune system. For example, here is a clinical trial where they used a “fermented milk product” on people who had IBS, and it showed some serious improvement in bloating. 

Does Yogurt Offer the Same Benefits as Probiotic Supplements?

This is a question I often hear. While yogurt is a fantastic source of probiotics, it might not replace specialized probiotic supplements, especially for those with specific health concerns. Here’s why:

  • Strain Diversity: Probiotic supplements often contain a wider variety of strains compared to yogurt – for example, Biotics Research’s Lactozyme has two well known strains that may help treat people with milk and lactose issues.
  • Concentration: Some high-potency probiotic supplements provide more CFUs (colony forming units) than in any particular food. Again, as I already mentioned, I recommend at least a billion CFUs. You need a lot so that they can survive your harsh stomach acid and make it into your intestines.
  • Specific Needs: Certain health issues might benefit from targeted strains that aren’t typically found in yogurt. Like that Biotics Research one I mentioned, or like ones you might take if you are taking antibiotics like Florastor and Culturelle.

However, for general digestive health and wellness, incorporating yogurt into your diet is a great choice!

How Often Should You Eat Yogurt for Probiotic Benefits?

The beauty of yogurt is that you can pretty much eat it every day, maybe even multiple times a day. When choosing yogurt for its probiotic content, look for labels that mention “live and active cultures.” Organic and plain yogurts without added sugars are often best. Remember, sugar can feed some of the undesirable bacteria in the gut. And it’s not good for gut health in general, at least in excessive amounts.

Yogurt vs. Other Probiotic Foods

While yogurt is a popular source of probiotics, many other fermented foods can introduce beneficial bacteria into your diet. Think of kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Each of these has its unique set of bacterial strains and potential health benefits. 

Answering some other related questions:

How Much Probiotics in Greek Yogurt?

Greek yogurt is often denser in protein than regular yogurt, but what about its probiotic content? Due to its straining process, which removes the whey, Greek yogurt typically has a concentration of beneficial bacteria. Like regular yogurt, Greek yogurt that boasts “live and active cultures” on the label should contain a substantial amount of probiotics, often ranging from 100 million to a few billion CFUs per serving. It’s a nutritious and creamy way to introduce beneficial bacteria to your diet. I have an entire article on the probiotics in Chobani if that’s your brand!

How Much Probiotics in One Cup of Yogurt?

If you are looking at one 5 oz container of yogurt, and it says “live and active cultures” it should have had at least 100 million active bacteria when it was manufactured, so there are 8 oz in a cup, which means a cup would have at least 160 million active cultures. However, many many have more.The probiotic content in a cup of yogurt largely depends on the brand and its processing. So it’s possible that one cup of yogurt labeled with “live and active cultures” can contain billions of live bacteria. 

How Much Probiotics in Activia Yogurt?

Activia is a brand of yogurt that’s been specifically marketed for its probiotic content. According to the company, each serving of Activia contains at least 1 billion of its exclusive probiotic culture Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010, also known by its scientific name, Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis. This strain has research that has shown to aid in reducing minor digestive discomfort when consumed regularly as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. When looking for probiotics through yogurt, Activia is a widely recognized choice due to its targeted bacterial strain and its scientifically-backed digestive health claims. 

What are Probiotics and How are They Beneficial?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer may health benefits to the host, especially the digestive system, when consumed in adequate amounts. They are often referred to as “good” or “beneficial” bacteria because they help keep the gut healthy. Although they can also be yeast, but I don’t think you’ll see any of those in a fermented dairy product.

Always remember, regardless of the brand or type of yogurt, consistency in consumption will likely yield the best results in terms of probiotic benefits. You need to take them for an extended period of time to really get any benefits. Read my article on how long you have to take them to see results.

Wrapping it up

So, how many probiotics are in yogurt? The answer varies, but what’s clear is that yogurt is a beneficial and tasty way to add beneficial bacteria to your diet. However, if you have specific health concerns or are looking for a concentrated source of diverse probiotics, supplements might be worth considering. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet or supplement routine. And, if you have any digestive or health issues, make sure to speak with your primary care physician before making any decisions.

Pharmacist Kari Raman

I’m Kari Raman PharmD, RPh, and I am a licensed, practicing pharmacist. I hold a Doctorate in Pharmacy from The University of the Pacific, and I’ve served patients in retail, compounding and hospital pharmacies.

Probiotics are confusing!

One of the most common questions I get asked by patients is about probiotics. And the truth is, probiotics are not as well understood by the healthcare community as they should be.

So I’ve been reading a lot of probiotic clinical trials, and sharing what I’m learning here.

I hope Pharmacist Probiotics helps you find out if there is a type of probiotic that works for you!