We all know yoghurt is a healthy food. Or is it?
One of the questions I'm asked on a regular basis is which yoghurt is best to choose. And with so many varieties on the market, each touting their own benefits, I thought it high time I wrote an article to help you make an informed choice, without the gimmicks. But there are some 'ups' and 'downs' to some products that are available on the supermarket shelves.
Yoghurt is definitely a food that I encourage my patients to eat regularly. Not only is it a simple and versatile food to include in your day-to-day intake (it's great in smoothies, with muesli, as a snack, a side dish or a dessert), it is quite filling. It provides your body with protein, essential minerals such as calcium, as well as wonderful probiotics ('good bacteria') that help to promote a healthy gut flora. Interestingly, research has found that are naturally found in dairy-based yoghurt are more likely to survive the transit through your digestive system into the colon, where they ideally need to end up in order to perform their vital work.
Here's where things can get a bit confusing - some varieties of yoghurt aren't all they are cracked up to be, health-wise. The main problem with commercial brands is the sugar content - in some cases yoghurt contains almost as much sugar as ice-cream! I compared Gippsland brand Blueberry flavour - for a 160g suggested serving size, this product contains 27g sugar, which would be around 5 teaspoons. An equivalent quantity of Streets Blue Ribbon ice-cream would provide around 30g of sugar (roughly 6 teaspoons). In addition, some commercially produced yoghurts contain extras that really aren't needed - such as thickeners and preservatives. It pays to check the labels before you buy.
Which Yoghurt Should You Choose?
I suggest that you ensure you stick to a plain, full-fat Greek yoghurt, with as few ingredients as possible. Not only do full-fat versions contain lovely fat-soluble vitamins that are great for your health, but full-fat versions are digested more slowly. This means that they are going to help keep your blood sugar levels stable (which is important for keeping energy levels on an even keel, and avoiding weight gain). Interestingly, studies have shown that eating full-fat dairy products assists with weight-loss. It is usually fairly easy to find a yoghurt in the supermarket that doesn’t contain a whole pile of extra ingredients. Take the time to look for a brand that contains simply milk and/or cream, and the cultures, and no added sugar. Of course, you can get special brands from an organic store if you like (and are prepared to pay the extra money), but I have been able to find several brands in my local supermarket that are economical and yummy to boot.
A natural Greek yoghurt is my choice, as it has a lovely mild flavour that is not too tangy. The best brands I've found are Tamar Valley Greek-style all-natural (which only contains milk, cream, milk solids/powdered milk, and the cultures), Farmers Union, or Jalna.
So feel free to get stuck into a bit of yoghurt on a regular basis - but pay attention to those labels!