Why consider probiotic supplements over yoghurts?

Kerry Beeson BSc (Nut. Med.) Nutritional Therapist

People have been taking live cultures for centuries, mostly in the form of fermented foods such as probiotic yoghurt. Yoghurt has long been used around the world as a health food and is a natural source of live cultures as well as providing protein, calcium and some B vitamins. Nowadays, we've come to understand that the friendly bacteria used to make yoghurt is good for our health, and this first led scientists to investigate the fascinating world of live cultures.

The huge variety of yoghurts on offer, and often a lack of information about the specific species and strains of live cultures they contain, can make it difficult to compare to probiotics supplements in terms of their natural bacteria value. How we consume live cultures these days is much more varied, and we have many choices available to us in the form of supplements, yoghurts, and yoghurt drinks - but which is the best for our health?

Live Culture Yoghurt & Yoghurt Drinks - All You Need To Know

Natural Bio-Yoghurt
Natural bio-yoghurt has long been used around the world, and is a natural source of live cultures as well as providing protein, calcium and some B vitamins. Natural bio-yoghurts are a fantastic way to get live cultures into your diet, so we're big fans of these. On the other hand, where supplements may have the edge, is in providing some specifically researched strains of bacteria.

Yoghurts with added live cultures
Yoghurts which add specific strains of friendly bacteria to their products are becoming ever more popular. You can find these on most supermarket shelves these days, and the choice is vast. These yoghurts can be a great way to take a specific live culture strain, but it's worth paying attention to other ingredients such as sugar or sweeteners, which may also be added to these foods.

Yoghurt Drinks
Yoghurt drinks are probably the most popular way of consuming live cultures, and the choice available to shoppers is diverse. Many of the market leading brands contain some very well-researched strains of bacteria, but below we take a look at the whole picture and evaluate some points you should consider when choosing between the well-known yoghurt drink brands, and a quality live culture supplement.

probiotics infographic


Many of the market leading yoghurt drinks contain high levels of sugar to give them that distinctive sweet flavour. Some of the best-sellers have sugar levels so high that they have proportionally more sugar than soft drinks.

Specific probiotics:

What sets quality live culture supplements apart from yoghurt drinks, is that they contain specific strains of bacteria which have been very well-researched. This means that shoppers can often find a live culture supplement to suit their own particular needs.


Currently, yoghurt drinks are sold as individual plastic bottles, that are designed to be consumed once-a-day and then discarded. Not all of these plastics are recyclable, and there are no plastics that are 100% recyclable, so there is always an element of pollution from consuming these yoghurt drinks. Many supplements however, come in monthly courses, so the use of plastic is greatly reduced.

Yoghurt drinks often require refrigeration, and this obviously uses a lot of energy to produce, transport, and store. Supplements are often lighter than liquid products too, so the carbon footprint for transporting the products is a lot less due to the reduced weight. All in all, supplements have much less of an impact on the environment than yoghurt drinks.

Value for money:

If you want to take live cultures every day on an ongoing basis, which can be the best way of keeping your friendly bacteria populations well-supported, it can be expensive to take yoghurt drinks daily. By comparison, it is a lot more cost effective to consume live culture supplements.

So all in all, you may want to consider taking a well-researched live cultures supplement, over sugary yoghurt drinks.

Read more, over in the Learning Lab:
What are probiotics?
Gut Health Checklist

Author: Kerry Beeson, BSc (Nut.Med) Nutritional Therapist.