Skyr is an Icelandic cultured dairy food which is high in protein and very low in calories.
Thick, creamy, and with a mild flavor, skyr has been announcing itself on store shelves around the world.
Interestingly, this traditional dairy product has been popular in its homeland since medieval times, and its popularity is now surging globally.
In this article, we examine what skyr is, the benefits it offers, and how we can use it.
What Is Skyr?
Despite popular belief, skyr technically belongs to the category of ‘soft cheese’ rather than yogurt.
It is somewhat similar to quark in this regard.
However, ‘Icelandic yogurt’ is a standard description. This name is likely because skyr does resemble a thick yogurt, and people tend to eat it in the same way.
Pronounced as “skeer,” skyr has a mild tart flavor similar to other fresh fermented dairy foods. Additionally, it has slight hints of sweetness and a thick and creamy texture.
The texture of skyr is much thicker than even Greek yogurt, and it is a rich source of protein, calcium, and probiotic bacteria.
How Is It Made?
Modern skyr is available in numerous different varieties using either skim milk or whole milk.
However, the traditional production process of skyr exclusively uses skim milk (1).
After removing the cream during the production of skim milk, the next step is to warm the liquid to a temperature just short of boiling point.
Following this, once the milk cools to a temperature of 37°C (99°F), a small amount of rennet and skyr (from the previous production) is added to the milk.
The addition of ready-made skyr ensures that the right bacteria are present for the skyr to develop correctly, and this relies on bacterial strains such as;
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii
After adding the rennet and skyr, the skyr is left to curdle and ferment for approximately 5 hours.
Finally, the producers strain the skyr through a cloth to remove any leftover liquid whey, which also makes the product thicker.
Here we can see the main nutritional values for skyr per 150 g serving (2).
|Calories/Nutrient||Amount (kcal/g/% RDI)|
As we can see, skyr is high in protein, and it provides a moderate amount of carbohydrate.
The fat content and total calories are very low.
Benefits of Skyr
Skyr has several benefits owing to its unique nutritional composition and the probiotic bacteria it contains.
Here is a summary.
1) Skyr is High In Protein, Low In Calories
Firstly, skyr is exceptionally protein-dense.
One serving provides 17 grams of protein for only 100 calories (2).
In other words, skyr provides a significant amount of protein on a per-calorie basis.
|Food (per 100 g raw)||Calories||Protein|
|Eggs||143 kcal||12.6 g|
|90% lean beef||176 kcal||20.0 g|
|Skyr||67 kcal||10 g|
As the table shows, skyr has a surprisingly impressive protein density, and it offers more protein per calorie than even eggs and lean beef.
Proteins are important for so many biological functions, and they play a key role in the growth, repair, and proper function of the body’s cells, tissues, and organs (5).
2) Contains Probiotic Bacteria
Typical skyr contains numerous strains of probiotic bacteria, and these include the following (6);
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
Although there is little research specific to skyr on digestive health, a range of studies suggests that probiotics in fermented dairy foods may have health benefits.
For instance, research has shown that;
- In a randomized and controlled clinical trial, eight weeks of daily probiotic yogurt consumption “caused a significant decrease in HbA1c and TNF-a levels” and lowered markers of inflammation (7).
- Another randomized clinical trial showed that daily consumption of 100ml fermented milk might benefit health since it reduced the population of “bad” bacteria and increased the prevalence of good bacteria (8).
- A systematic review of 17 randomized controlled trials demonstrated that probiotic consumption may modestly improve glycemic (blood sugar) control (9).
3) Excellent Source of Calcium
As you may expect from a dairy product, skyr provides a good amount of calcium.
Per serving, it contains 150 mg of the mineral, which is equal to 15% of the reference daily intake (RDI) (2).
Calcium has a wide variety of functions in the human body, and it is particularly essential for developing and maintaining strong bones (10).
Further to this, calcium also plays a role in cellular signaling and muscle and nerve functions (11).
4) May Promote Satiety and Weight Control
Satiety is important for the success of any diet.
Put simply; satiety refers to the feeling of being satisfied with what we have eaten. If we don’t feel satiated, then we will crave more food.
Since skyr is one of the very best sources of protein per calorie, it could be an excellent addition to most diets.
On this note, a recent randomized trial showed that replacing fruit drinks with yogurt leads to lower hunger and higher feelings of fullness (15).
Additionally, a systematic review of 19 studies demonstrated that yogurt consumption is associated with lower body fat and decreased levels of weight/weight gain (16).
However, this may depend on the context of the overall diet.
For instance, replacing an unhealthy snack with protein-rich skyr should have a beneficial effect. On the other hand, it may have no advantages over healthier options like a small plate of cheese and nuts.
5) Fermented Dairy Is Associated With Improved Cardiovascular Health
While correlation does not infer causation, there is a large and consistent range of research showing that fermented dairy foods like skyr are associated with benefits for cardiovascular health.
For instance, here are the findings from several systematic reviews of the existing research;
- In a systematic review on dairy and cardiovascular clinical outcomes, fermented dairy foods had either a favorable or neutral association with cardiovascular outcomes (17).
- A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of 29 studies concluded that fermented dairy had an inverse association with mortality and cardiovascular risk (18).
- Another systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of 18 studies found that fermented dairy intake was “borderline significantly associated with a (9%) lower risk of stroke” (19).
Again, we can’t claim that epidemiology and associations are proof that fermented dairy has benefits for cardiovascular health. However, there are strong associations with it having a positive impact.
6) Skyr Is Delicious
Taste can be a benefit too.
While not all healthy foods taste great, skyr has a thick, creamy, slightly sweet and sour taste.
In other words; it tastes delicious, which makes it easy to include in our diet.
There are no real concerns about skyr, but there are certain things to be aware of.
While this is a lower amount of lactose than milk (5%) provides, it may still cause problems for anyone with lactose intolerance.
Additionally, there are many different varieties of skyr on the market, and not all of them are nutritionally equal.
Plain skyr is the healthy option, but there are also several flavored versions with added sugar.
Read the labels carefully to make sure you get what you want.
How To Use Skyr
If you have a tub of skyr but don’t know what to do with it, here are some recipe ideas.
1) Eat It Plain
The easiest way to eat skyr is to grab a spoon and eat it straight.
It tastes great by itself, so it isn’t necessary to make a skyr recipe.
That said, there are several delicious ways to eat this Icelandic “yogurt.”
2) Skyr, Cream, Berries, and Nuts
This combination is one of the best ways to eat skyr.
First, mix the skyr with some berries and nuts of your choice, and then top with a little cream.
The skyr and cream offer contrasting flavors that work well with each other. To make it even tastier, you could try adding some dark chocolate chips.
This recipe is full of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
3) Make a Dip
The sour and creamy texture of skyr makes it a perfect base for a dip.
For a good recipe, try combining skyr, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and finely chopped chives.
Since these foods are all seasoning/flavoring aids, add each ingredient to taste.
These ingredients turn skyr into a delicious creamy garlic dip.
4) Make a Healthy Smoothie
Most smoothies you can find in stores are full of sugar and additives.
However, with skyr, it is easy to make a healthy and great-tasting smoothie at home.
For a thick, tasty smoothie combine one cup of skyr and one cup of mixed berries and blend.
5) Use Skyr As a Sour Cream Replacement
If you have a recipe that calls for sour cream, but you don’t have any at home, you can use skyr for that.
While their texture and flavor are not identical, they are close enough for skyr to do a good job as a sour cream alternative.
Skyr is incredibly protein-dense, a great source of calcium, and it may offer additional benefits through its probiotic bacteria content.
This Icelandic dairy food is also versatile, and it tastes delicious, which makes it a great addition to any diet.
For more on fermented dairy foods, see this in-depth look at kefir.