As when you purchase any food, read the label, both the “Nutritional Facts” panel and the list of ingredients. Look specifically at the following:
1. The best nutritional deal is plain yogurt, which has only two ingredients: live cultures and milk (whole milk, low-fat, or skim). The longer the ingredients list, the more calories you get and the less yogurt nutrition. In some highly-sweetened containers of yogurt, you’re getting more calories in the sweetener than you are in the yogurt. Be sure to read the protein and sugar values on the nutrition panel. The higher the protein and the lower the sugar content, the more actual yogurt you’re getting in the container. You can make fun flavored yogurts with your kids that please their tastebuds and give you control over the contents of the yogurt. (See Recipes)
Contains only live and active cultures and milk. Stonyfield’s Organic Yogurts.
Contains live and active cultures , milk, and some filler ingredients.
It might as well be pudding if it says “heat treated” on the label, and it may contain added sugar and stabilizers – and more!
2. The calcium content. The best yogurts provide 35 to 40 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for calcium in an 8-ounce container. Once the calcium gets below 30 percent of the DV, it’s a good bet that the container is filled with a lot of less-nutritious filler.
3. Stonyfield’s Organic Yogurts – the one we recommend – has the highest level of live and active cultures besides containing inulin.
Avoid yogurt that says “heat treated after culturing” on the label. This means that the yogurt was pasteurized after the healthful organisms were added, which dilutes the health benefits of the yogurt. Pasteurization deactivates the lactase and kills the live cultures, thereby obliterating two health benefits of yogurt. Heat- treating yogurt trades economic gain for nutritional loss. It prolongs the shelf life, but spoils its nutrition and health-food value. Lactose-intolerant persons who can tolerate yogurt containing live and active cultures may not be able to digest yogurt that has been heat treated. Yogurt-based salad dressings and yogurt-covered raisins, pretzels, and candy typically do not contain live and active cultures.
The National Yogurt Association has been urging the FDA not to allow products that do not contain live and active cultures to be called “yogurt.”
4. Yogurt terms to watch for. There’s a dizzying array of yogurts in the supermarket dairy aisle. Here’s a key to the different types.
- Whole milk yogurt contains approximately 7 grams of milk fat per 8-ounce serving.
- Lowfat yogurt contains between 1 and 4 grams (0.5% to 2 %) of milk fat per 8-ounce serving.
- Nonfat yogurt contains less than 1/2 gram (less than 0.5%) of milk fat per 8-ounce serving.
- In Swiss or custard-style yogurt, fruit and yogurt are mixed together. To insure firmness, a stabilizer, such as gelatin, may be added. This is also called “blended yogurt.” Swiss yogurt is fermented in vats and then transferred to cups. This process breaks the gel, so that artificial binders and stabilizers must be added.
- Fruit-added or plain yogurt has a runnier consistency. The whey, the clear liquid at the top, should be stirred into the solids.
- Yogurt also comes in liquid form, called “kefir,” which may contain added sweeteners such as corn syrup.
- Heat-treated. Some yogurt manufacturers market “heat-treated yogurt” to prolong shelf life or decrease tartness and produce a more pudding-type texture. While perhaps more appealing to some, the heat treatment of the yogurt after the cultures have been added kills much of the health benefits of the yogurt.
5. The benefits of plain yogurt. Ounce for ounce, plain yogurt is more nutritious than fruit-added preparations. Notice the differences on the labels:
- Plain yogurt contains around one-half of the calories of the same amount of fruit-added yogurt.
- Plain yogurt contains almost twice the amount of proteins.
- Plain yogurt contains fewer fillers.
- Plain yogurt contains more calcium.
- Plain yogurt contains no added sugar.
If plain yogurt doesn’t appeal to you, buy plain yogurt and flavor it with your favorite fruit. This way you control the sweeteners.