The Truth About Yogurt

Believe it or not, yogurt is one of the oldest produced foods in history. Its popularity in the United States did not take hold until the mid-1950s as people became more health-conscious and open to trying new foods. Of course, yogurt is virtually a kitchen staple today, offered in varieties such as Greek style, frozen, organic and even with added fiber.

By all measures a nutritional superstar, yogurt is loaded with calcium (a 6-ounce serving has about 20-30 percent of your daily recommended intake), protein, vitamins and good-for-you-bacteria known as probiotics. It can help decrease the risk of osteoporosis and contains 20 percent more protein than milk per serving. Intestinal-friendly bacteria, along with the calcium in yogurt, help keep the colon healthy, and this can reduce the risk of colon cancer. Yogurt can also boost immunity, and the lactic acid found in yogurt aids in digestion and the absorption of nutrients.

Yogurt is incredibly versatile, too. It’s great added to smoothies, in cereal, with fruit and berries as a parfait, and it makes a tasty, healthy alternative to mayonnaise in dips and sauces. Of course, yogurt is also great served all by itself. And it helps that yogurt is so portable — making it a simple on-the-go snack any time of the day.

With so many choices on the shelves, it can be hard to determine which kind of yogurt is right for you. Read further for help deciding:

Greek vs. Regular

Go ahead and believe the hype. It’s true that Greek style yogurt is nutritionally superior to regular yogurt, and it’s an especially wise choice for anyone watching their weight.  With double the satiating protein than regular yogurt and fewer grams of sugar and carbohydrates, going “Greek” is waist-friendly, to be sure. And Greek yogurt is naturally creamier because it undergoes a straining process that removes much of the sugar, lactose and whey.  Six ounces of Greek-style yogurt contains 16-20 grams of protein compared with 9 grams found in the same serving of regular yogurt. Keep your daily fat intake down by choosing low fat or non-fat varieties.

Tanya’s Tip: Opt for non-fat plain Greek yogurt and sweeten it with berries, cinnamon or a touch of honey to keep the sugar low.

Organic Yogurt: Is it healthier?

Organic yogurt may not be more nutritious, and in terms of taste, it’s virtually the same as regular yogurt. According to the USDA, what you do get from organic dairy products is the benefit of knowing that no growth hormones or antibiotics were used on the animals that produced the dairy. Keep in mind that hormones and antibiotics given to dairy animals or humans have not been found to have negative long-term effects.

Are added probiotics worth it?

For yogurt to bear the name “yogurt,” the product must have live active cultures. Many yogurt products claim to have additional benefits from specific probiotics, but you can most likely reap the same benefits eating regular yogurt.

Frozen Yogurt & Greek Frozen Yogurt: A Healthy Treat?

While frozen yogurt is a healthier treat than ice cream, it is still not as nutritious as regular yogurt. Substituting milk for cream in frozen yogurt significantly reduces its fat content, though. A 1/2-cup serving of ice cream can have 12-18 grams of fat, compared to 0 grams in non-fat frozen yogurt. Frozen yogurt contains probiotics that helps promote a healthy digestive system, which ice cream does not. Unlike regular Greek yogurt, frozen Greek yogurt is not nutritionally superior to regular frozen yogurt.

Tanya’s Tip: Watch out for calorie-bomb additions to yogurt like cookie bits and brownie bites. Keep it light with toppings such as sugar free whipped cream or chocolate sauce, or fresh fruit.

Lesser known yogurts

  • Kefir: This drinkable fermented milk product contains additional strains of probiotics and beneficial yeast that others yogurts don’t have. Your best bet is to opt for low and non-fat varieties.
  • Skyr: This traditional Icelandic-style yogurt is similar to Greek yogurt in that the whey is strained away. It’s non-fat, higher in protein, and lower in sugar and carbohydrates than regular yogurt.
  • Swiss Yogurt: This type of yogurt is thinner and creamier than Greek yogurt. It's made from cultured milk that is incubated and cooled in a large container. Watch out, though: Swiss yogurt has almost double the sugar and carbohydrates than Greek yogurt!

For more tips on healthy eating, drinking and weight loss, check out my new book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!