Nutrition Articles

How to Buy the Best Yogurt

Navigate the Dairy Case with Confidence

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Fillers and Extras Other ingredients that you may find on the ingredients label include:
  • Additional dairy products, such as nonfat dry milk solids, casein, and whey protein are added to boost the nutrition profile (especially calcium or protein), and to improve the flavor and texture or reduced fat yogurts.
     
  • Colorings are added for aesthetic reasons only.
     
  • Gelatin and/or pectin act as stabilizers. Vegetarians should keep in mind that gelatin comes from animals (unless otherwise stated on the label), but pectin comes from plants.
     
  • Caloric sweeteners, such as sugar, honey, maple syrup, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Some yogurts contain multiple types of sweeteners. Most low-fat and fat free yogurts contain more sweeteners than full fat yogurts, in order to improve taste and flavor.
     
  • Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium, or neotame. These are common in "diet" yogurts and "sugar free" or "no sugar added" varieties.
     
  • Inulin (chicory root) is a fiber extracted from chicory roots. Humans don't have the enzyme necessary to break it down, so it's poorly absorbed and acts as fiber (indigestible plant matter). Research has shown that inulin may boost the growth of friendly bacteria in the colon, and is therefore considered a prebiotic. However, research is limited regarding inulin and health and some people can experience adverse digestive reactions when they consume too much of it. Do not rely on yogurt fortified with inulin to have the same health benefits as a high fiber diet.
     
  • Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that help promote a healthy digestive system. Two such bacteria cultures, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are used to make all yogurts. The National Yogurt Association (NYA) developed a “Live and Active Cultures” seal to identify a yogurt that contains 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacturing. Yogurt companies must pay several thousand dollars each year to use this seal on their products. Smaller yogurt companies may not participate due to the high cost of using the seal, even though they may contain live and active cultures. These days, several yogurt companies are now putting additional probiotics and cultures (such as Bifidobacterium BB-12) into their yogurts and making claims regarding immunity and digestive health. These cultures are safe for consumption and some research shows that they may improve the health of the immune and digestive systems. Keep in mind that eating a yogurt with added probiotics could be one of many ways to enhance your immune system or improve digestive function. Research has shown that regular yogurt (without additional probiotics) can enhance the immune and digestive systems, too.
     
  • Omega-3's, such as DHA, are added to some yogurts, but there is very little evidence that DHA prevents memory loss or boosts your intelligence as the yogurt label and advertising may indicate. Furthermore, the amount of DHA added to these yogurts is minimal (about 32 milligrams). Don’t be taken in by this slick marketing. Continued ›
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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