Yogurt has gone from a natural foods niche to a staple in the refrigerators of most Americans. A few years ago we were introduced to Greek yogurt, in which the watery whey is removed by straining, leaving a creamier, thicker yogurt with higher protein and lower sugar content. After that, Icelandic and Australian yogurts became the new kids on the block. Icelandic yogurts are created similarly to Greek, resulting in a thicker, creamier, and more protein-rich product. Australian yogurts aren’t strained, but are also thick and creamy. Most recently newer styles of yogurts are made from alternative milks, such as sheep, goat, soy, almond and coconut milks.
Deciding which yogurt to choose is getting more complicated. There are key factors to consider. Yogurt is a good source of protein, and milk-based yogurts can be a good source of calcium. Another factor — sugar — is more complex. Milk-based yogurts naturally contain sugar as lactose. So, even the healthiest of yogurts contain some naturally-occurring sugar. The issue is with added sugars, which is what you should limit in your diet. Plain yogurts naturally contain about 7 to 11 grams of sugar per serving; anything more in flavored yogurts is likely added sugars.
Keep the following in mind when scanning the yogurt case.
1. Fat check. Those made with whole milk or with added cream contain significant amounts of saturated fat. However, there is almost no end to the availability of low-or non-fat yogurts available, containing little to no saturated fat.
2. Keep it simple. Typically, the fewer added extra ingredients, like fruit purees and other flavorings, the better. These items add naturally-occurring sugar, however refined sugars are often added to further enhance the sweetness.
3. Flavor it up. Plain yogurt is often recommended for health reasons, but it doesn’t have to be ho-hum. Add flavor and variety with extracts such as vanilla or coconut, spices like cinnamon or nutmeg; or fresh fruit, nuts or seeds.
(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)