Is yogurt really that good for you?
Yogurt is a favourite snack for many people especially those trying to eat healthier or lose weight. It is most often marketed as a food that promotes health but is yogurt really that good for you? Although it has a reputation for being healthy many yogurts are often high in fat, calories and additives that may be negatively impacting your healthy eating efforts. Even if we ignore the obvious ones that come with extras like chocolate puff balls or sweets on the side there are many others less obvious ones that are just as bad for you.
Food companies like to use ‘buzz words’ such as ‘Natural’, ‘Low fat’ and ‘Fat free’ to lure you into buying their product. Yogurt companies are especially guilty of this and often what appears to be healthy in fact has many undesirable added ingredients. A yogurt that is labelled “Fat Free” for example whilst lower in calories, sugar and fat is highly processed and usually contains controversial artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. A yogurt with fruit added whilst might make you think it is full of healthy nutrients is usually high in added sugar.
How to choose a healthy yogurt.
When looking for a healthy yogurt you will first need to start ensuring you read your labels. Many yogurts on the market today contain a long list of ingredients. The more ingredients it has the more processed it is.’Real’ yogurt should contain only a few ingredients which are milk and ‘live cultures’ One of the reasons yogurt has a reputation for being so good for you is that ‘real’, ‘natural’ yogurt has ‘live cultures’ also known as ‘Probiotics’. These ‘live cultures’ are often killed off during the processing of many of the ones found on supermarket shelves due to high heat used to extend its shelf life. Look for ingredients that say “contains live cultures” or “contains live, probiotic cultures”. Some yogurts will say “made with live cultures” but this does not mean they are active.
What exactly are Probiotics?
Probiotics are ‘friendly’ bacteria that are found naturally in our gut and in many fermented foods. Research has shown them to positively
contribute to a healthy body in many ways. Many people are lacking in these important bacteria due to poor diets, high stress lifestyles and an overuse of antibiotics. These factors particularly the use of antibiotics can destroy the good bacteria that live in the gut and allow other harmful bacteria to take over which can often result in various health problems.
Although research is ongoing there has been a substantial amount into probiotics and their potential to treat or aid those with aliments such as diarrhea, gastroenteritis, irritable bowel syndrome, a weakened immune system and infant allergies to name a few. Most of the research suggests that these friendly bacteria help to improve digestion and strengthen the immune system which in turn helps to prevent and treat disease.
Plain, natural, live yogurt can be used in a variety of ways such as with fruit and granola for breakfast. mixed with cucumber and garlic for a healthy dip or even put in smoothies.
Tips for choosing a healthy yogurt
- Look for plain, natural, live yogurt
- Avoid yogurt with added fruits and flavorings and instead add some of your own fresh mixed berries, nuts and seeds if you wish.
- Avoid yogurt with a long list of ingredients.
- Check the ingredients for ‘live or active cultures’.
- Look for no added sugar or sweeteners. Yogurt naturally contains sugar but some manufacturers will add even more to add to the sweetness. Some yogurts with no added sugar might contain artificial sweeteners instead and it is best to avoid these also.