How Healthy is Your Yogurt?

Yogurt is delicious and often nutritious, but all yogurts weren't created equal. Make sure you know the difference between your Greek, non-fat and blended varieties

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It’s marketed as a healthy food, but that depends on what’s actually in it. Here’s an eye-opening comparison of the different types of yogurts from good to bad

Yogurt is good for you, right? Research indicates it can prevent colon cancer, lower high blood pressure, decrease yeast infections, and boost your immune system.

And it’s filled with healthy things, including the live, active bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, not to mention calcium, protein, potassium, iodine and B vitamins.

And while yogurt can be a nutritious and tasty snack, it’s not all created equal. Read on so you can navigate the dairy case with confidence.

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Layered vs. Blended Yogurt

Flavoured yogurt comes in two styles: flavour on the bottom and blended. Because natural yogurt is silky and soft, many blended yogurts have been thickened, stabilized and preserved with extra ingredients (ranging from natural gelatin to the highly processed Milk Protein Concentrate) to give it that jiggly, pudding-like firmness.

Vegetarians may want to keep in mind that gelatin comes from animals (unless otherwise stated on the label).

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Greek Yogurt vs. Greek-style Yogurt

Yes there is a difference. Traditional Greek yogurt is made by straining the liquid whey to concentrate, which thickens yogurt naturally, making it less sweet, higher in protein and lower in calories.

But because more milk is need to produce Greek yogurt, it can be expensive. Some brands cut costs by adding thickeners and calling it “Greek style,” so make sure you read the label.

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Low-fat or Fat-free Yogurt

Low-fat, no-fat or full fat? Yogurt has the same amount of fat as the milk it was made from (whole milk, 2%, skim milk). While high-fat yogurts tend to be creamier, most of us are better off with low-fat or fat-free yogurts.

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Kids’ Yogurt

Yogurt seems like a natural fit for your child’s lunch box, but many of the children’s varieties (you know, the ones you can squeeze from a tube or that have cartoon characters on the container) are loaded with artificial colours, flavours, thickeners and stabilizers, and can pack as much as 35 grams of sugar per teeny-weeny serving. These types of yogurts are like dessert with a few token nutritional benefits.

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Dessert Yogurt

Sweetened yogurts often contain a combination of caloric and non-caloric sweeteners. And many flavoured low-fat or fat-free yogurts have more sugar than full-fat yogurts (to enhance the flavour).

Some brands of low-fat fruit-flavoured yogurt can contain up to 47 grams of sugar – almost 12 teaspoons of sugar per serving (before additional sugar is even added, 250 grams of skim milk yogurt contains about 18 grams of sugar).

Most of us should be eating less sugar, and chances are if you add your own sweetener (berries plus a bit of honey), you’ll use less sugar than what’s found in sweetened yogurt.

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Organic Yogurt

What does real organic yogurt mean? Organic means that not only was the cow raised in an organic way (so the milk the yogurt came from won’t contain pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or preservatives), but the fruit or sweetener added to the yogurt is organic as well.

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The Final Word on Yogurt

Still not sure what’s what? While comparing yogurts can be a tricky affair – with so many brands producing so many types of yogurt, it’s nearly impossible – here’s just a look at the fat and sugar content for some popular yogurt brands.

Brand Sugar Fat
Donone Oikos (175 grams p/serving) 4 grams 3.5 grams
Astro’s Original Fat Free Plain Yogurt (125 grams p/serving) 5 grams 0 grams
Yoplait Creamy Yogurt with Fruit 23 grams 2.5 grams
Stonyfield Organic Vanilla (227 grams p/serving) 30 grams 4.5 grams