Q: Is yogurt the perfect food that the media would have you believe? I’m really tired of all those commercials claiming all sorts of benefits. Is there any special benefit to the newer Greek yogurt fad? ………………………….. Sam,S
So you’ve been listening to the media and you’re a little confused. I can certainly see why. The claims can range from solving irregularity to being the perfect diet food.
Just because yogurt has taken over prime space in the grocery store doesn’t necessarily mean it’s automatically the best or healthiest product out there. Let’s take a closer look at yogurt: what is it and what are the health benefits associated with it?
Almost all yogurt in the US starts with pasteurized milk….that’s not such a problem because once the live cultures are added and the milk is fermented you once again have a live and active food that is easier to digest and has a reduced lactose content due to the consumption of lactose by the microbes. Be on the lookout for those brands that pasteurize after adding the cultures, thereby killing off the live probiotics and negating the benefits. Most good brands do not pasteurize after fermenting but be sure to read the label. The type of probiotic chosen determines its benefits, some are for immunity purposes and some for aiding digestion in the gut. Again, reading the label will help determine which would be best for your purposes. The amount used in the yogurt also varies depending on the brand. The average is from 1 billion to 5 billion CFU’s per cup, a decent amount but low in comparison to other sources such as Kefir or Lassi.
Most yogurt in the US has also been adulterated with way too many sweeteners: sugar, corn syrup, or even worse, artificial sweeteners. Sucralose kills probiotics, so any yogurt with sucralose (aka, Splenda) will most likely have a greatly reduced probiotic content or possibly even be fully dead. Most American consumers have a very aggressive sweet tooth and prefer the sweeter products, which results in a much less healthy version of a potentially very healthy food item.
An alternative way of enjoying yogurt would be to buy the plain unsweetened version and add your own whole fruit to it and if more sweetening is necessary, choose a healthier sweetener like stevia, monk fruit or other natural sweetener.
When making a healthier yogurt choice I would also opt for the full fat version, not the skim versions since they defeat the entire purpose of eating a healthy snack. The satiety factor is important in making your choices. The skinny versions of yogurt do fill the gap but then you are hungry again in an hour or two. If you can find yogurt made with milk from grass fed cows, the resulting yogurt will have a much higher concentration of vitamins, including K2 for reducing heart disease and CLA for reducing cancer risk and body fat.
Greek yogurt is the current ‘hot’ health food being touted by the media, and according to industry experts it has single handedly boosted the hurting American dairy industry. Old fashioned Greek yogurt is made with goat’s milk while the American version is made with cow’s milk. The ‘Greek Style” of yogurt adapted in the US includes an active bacteria that creates a more tangy taste. The straining process also removes some of the lactose sugars, salt and water. What is left is a thicker, creamier product that is higher in protein, but lower in sugar and carbohydrates than American-style yogurt. Thick, creamy and a little bit tangy, Greek yogurt appeals to the health-conscious consumer craving a sweet snack that also packs a nutritional punch without an excess of calories.
Lastly and perhaps most important is the vitamin content of the yogurt you choose. Since calcium is considered to be one of the healthy aspects of eating yogurt you should be aware of two things. First the calcium of ordinary milk products is not particularly high, it is definitely not the richest source in our diet, and the calcium that is in there can’t be absorbed unless you are also taking high enough doses of vitamin D at the same time to help the body absorb and actually use the calcium. Again read the label.
So in summary, read the label and check for ‘live cultures’, sugar content, vitamin D content, and fat content. The ‘Greek style’ yogurt may actually have the edge on being better for you.