How to choose yogurt

There are many different types of yogurt on the market today. How can anyone tell the difference between each and which one is the healthier option?

How to choose yogurt

There are many different types of yogurt on the market today. Many bear various health claims and other positive outcomes on the label. How can anyone tell the difference between each and which one is the healthier option?

First, what exactly is yogurt and how is it made? Milk is fermented by bacterial cultures to produce yogurt. These bacterial cultures that ferment the milk are called probiotics. Probiotics benefit the human body in many ways. One is by helping the natural flora of the intestine flourish, which keeps your bowels regular and your immune system healthy. Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium and potassium, also containing many other vitamins and minerals.

There are a few main differences between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is produced by straining the yogurt to remove liquid whey, which produces the thick creamy texture of Greek yogurt. As a result of removing most of the liquid whey, Greek yogurt does not contain as much calcium as regular yogurt. Although, on average Greek yogurt contains about twice as much protein as regular yogurt.

One main thing to look for when choosing a yogurt is the sugar content. All yogurts contain natural sugars called lactose, which is a natural sugar found in milk. If the yogurt is fruit flavored it most likely has added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars and added sugars are both included in the “sugars” on the Nutrition Facts label. Generally, added sugars will at least double the sugar content of the yogurt. If you cannot tell if there are added sugars by the nutrition facts label, look at the ingredient list for any of these words: Brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, syrup and table sugar.

Yogurt can be an excellent source of protein, calcium and potassium for those with lactose intolerance. When producing yogurt, the bacteria break down the lactose into lactic acid, making it easier for some people with lactose intolerance to digest.

When choosing a yogurt try to choose one with the least amount of added sugars. Plain yogurt, Greek or regular, are the best choices to avoid large amounts of added sugars. Michigan State University Extension suggests adding berries or other fruit to plain yogurt to add natural sweetness without all of the added sugars of commercially made fruit on the “bottom” yogurts. Besides consuming yogurt on its own, plain yogurt can also be used in place of sour cream, as the base in dips, or as a marinade to tenderize meats.

For more information there is a great chart comparing nutrition information of different plain and fruit flavored yogurts, which can be found through the Dairy Council of California.

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