Yogurt has been a staple of healthy diets since as far as we can remember- and for good reason! The protein, probiotic (good gut bacteria) and low-calorie content makes it the haven of healthy breakfasts and suppers. However, navigating the yogurt aisle of your grocery store can be confusing due to the huge variety we find on the stands.
Here’s our guide to find out what to look for and what to avoid when shopping for healthy yogurt!
Let’s start with the basics:
- Read the label and keep it simple
Although all yogurts start out as plain yogurt, they often contain lots of added ingredients like sugar, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Aim to choose a yogurt with only a few ingredients listed- milk, the bacterial culture used and that’s all you need! Our shortcut: Avoid any product that lists sugar as the first or second ingredient or any ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Don’t fear the fat
We agree, opting for nonfat yogurt can help you keep calories and saturated fat in check. But watch out that “nonfat” doesn’t always mean low in calories. Many nonfat yogurts have a lot of added sugar to make up for the taste. Also, new research indicates that saturated fat in dairy might not be the bad guy we once thought possibly because there are other protective nutrients in dairy that balance out the effects of saturated fat.
- Greek yogurt or regular yogurt?
Greek yogurt has is currently the biggest trend in yogurt and the health world. It differs from traditional yogurt because it is strained more times, removing some of the whey and lactose (milk sugars). This gives Greek yogurt about twice as much protein as traditional yogurt and around half the carbs. It’s a great option for those who are lactose intolerant! However, this means that Greek yogurt is also typically higher in calories and fat and contains less calcium than regular yogurt. Greek yogurt can be a healthy option too if you prefer its taste- but it’s not necessarily healthier traditional yogurt!
- Look for live cultures.
The live cultures in yogurt provide the many beneficial gut health and overall health benefits we attribute to yogurt. So be sure to look for a yogurt that says “live cultures” on the package. It could be in the ingredients list or somewhere else on the package but it needs to be there!
- Skip the “heat treated”
Avoid any yogurts that say “heat treated” on the packaging. The beneficial probiotics found in yogurt that we need are heat-sensitive. If the yogurt is heat treated during packaging, we won’t get any of the main gut benefits of eating it.
- Check the sugar content
Some yogurts contain crazy amounts of sugar for an individual serving that could be more than many soft drinks! Most of the sugars that are naturally found in milk should already be eliminated during the culturing process because the sugars act as food for the healthy bacteria cultures. If the yogurt contains lots of sugar, that means either the manufacturer added sugar to the yogurt after the culturing process or the culturing process didn’t even take place and they’ve went and added flavors and thickening agents to the milk instead.
Of course, there are no stable ground rules since there are many manufacturing and processing steps that determine the quality of the yogurt you’ll get to choose but the above guidelines will help you pick out the best one for your health!!