Thursday, July 16, 2015
Eating a Healthy Yogurt, or Is It Really a Sugar-Filled Dessert?
I am a big advocate for yogurt, and actually “mandate” that my clients consume 1 full cup (8 fl oz) of cultured dairy (i.e: dairy with probiotics like yogurt or kefir) each day. My rationale for this is that cultured dairy is an excellent source of probiotics, as well as protein, calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, vitamin D, and other important nutrients. Yogurt is incredibly healthy and extremely versatile so there are many ways you can fit it into your diet even if you dislike the texture.
However, not all yogurts are healthy. Don’t be fooled by the fact that a yogurt advertises that it has probiotics. ALL yogurts have probiotics! I don’t recommend all yogurts, and actually, I recommend only a few specific types. The main danger with yogurt is the added sugar. For example, the new and improved Yoplait lowfat flavored yogurts have 25% less sugar than they did previously… that’s a whopping 2 grams fewer than Coca Cola cup for cup! Chobani 0% flavored has 22.6 g sugar per 8 oz, whereas Coca Cola has 26 g sugar. For some reason, many people believe vanilla yogurt to be low in sugar, though Dannon Vanilla Low fatyogurt has 33 g sugar per 8 oz, which is higher than Coca Cola! Granted, some of that sugar is naturally occurring through lactose, though that is only about 12 g out of the 33 g… I am by no means advocating you drink soda instead, but eating vanilla yogurt in the morning with fruit is definitely a high sugar way to start the day.
The yogurts I recommend are pretty much any brand of non fat or low fat plain yogurt- whether it’s Greek, regular, Icelandic, Indian, whatever- they are all made similarly with bacteria and have no added sugar. If you must go for a flavored yogurt, the brand I recommend the most is Siggi’s. On average, a 5.3 oz container of Siggi’s yogurt has just a few grams of added sugar for a total of 11 g/container (compared to almost double the added sugars with the other main stream Greek yogurts- keeping in mind some of the sugar is naturally occurring lactose… I’m talking about ADDED sugars). Many brands now have lighter versions of yogurts that have fairly basic ingredients and are sweetened with stevia instead of artificial sweeteners. I am okay with these, as long as you aren’t eating much stevia or artificial sweeteners elsewhere in your diet. There is research showing that the artificial sweeteners (4 different ones in the study) change the gut bacteria in mice and increase their risk of diabetes. Since the human GI tract is similar, the researchers suspect a comparable effect in humans. Stevia is a naturally occurring plant, though, since it is not metabolized much in the body, my guess is it goes to the gut just like artificial sweeteners and is metabolized similarly by gut bacteria as sucralose or aspartame.
My recommendations: Stick with plain non-fat or low-fat yogurt and kefir, then add your own fruit. If it isn’t sweet enough, add some cinnamon and maybe a teaspoon or two of pure honey, maple syrup, or agave. Try incorporating yogurt as a snack, in a smoothie, mix with salsa as a salad dressing, or make your own tzatziki sauce with cucumber and dill. Eat it with meals like many Indian populations by dunking your chicken, beans, and vegetables in it. Use in place of mayo or sour cream. There are so many options there is no reason not to eat yogurt unless you are allergic! Be sure to stick with organic yogurt if possible and made with real milk- yogurts made with soy, coconut, almond milk, etc. have too many additives, thickeners, and often added sugars that make it unhealthy. Plus, they have to fortify many of the nutrients that exist in natural milk yogurt.
Disclaimer: No, I am not given any source of compensation for recommending Siggi’s yogurt. They do send me coupons from time to time to hand out to clients which I do an greatly appreciate b/c this is a brand I have always recommended! However, other yogurt companies send me coupons too…
Pictures Sources: http://www.dannon.com/wp-content/themes/ultrasimpleRes/images/productos/brand-products/classic/flavors/2_1.png