Yogurt 101: Become a Label-Reader

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When I talk to my patients about nutrition, yogurt comes up as a popular food choice, and overall an excellent one…if you know what’s in your yogurt.

The main ingredients in yogurt are:
• Milk of various fat percentages (skimmed, low-fat, whole, cream)
• Live active cultures

Some brands, like Fage Greek yogurt, a strained variety with excellent flavor, include only those ingredients. Other good brands add the dietary fibers pectin or inulin.

The fewer ingredients the better, where yogurt is concerned. Yet many yogurts sold in the US add loads of the big culprit–sugar–which I urge my patients to cut out of their diets as much as possible. If you’re eating yogurt with added sugar, you’ll want to start viewing it as dessert, fine as an occasional treat but not necessarily a healthful daily choice.

A quick trip to your grocery’s yogurt section can be eye-opening. For example, Dannon yogurt with fruit on the bottom contains four (four!) types of sugar: fructose syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, and sugar. Happily, Dannon also makes healthful low-fat and no-fat plain yogurts with no added sugar.

Yogurt contains milk sugars naturally–it’s the fermentation of these that gives yogurt its tang. Fermentation creates live active cultures, the friendly organisms (often called probiotics) that help balance your digestive system and strengthen your immune system.

Other unnecessary additions include artificial colors, gelatin, modified food starch, and whey protein.

I recommend that my patients purchase plain low-fat or no-fat yogurt and add cinnamon and their own sweetener if they choose, in the form of honey or actual fruit, like a sliced banana, a few prunes, or some raisins. Some people like to add nuts, another good choice.

If you purchase the large containers, you’ll save money too.

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