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Published on July 25, 2018

plain yogurt with fresh berries

Not All Yogurt Is Created Equal

When it comes to yogurt – the options seem endless. There’s Greek, whipped, low-fat, high protein, dessert flavored, fruit filled and so much more.  With such a wide variety, it can be overwhelming to know which one is best for you.

That’s why we talked with Annie Ailts, MS, RDN, LN, IFNCP, a registered dietitian at Avera Medical Group Functional Medicine, about what to look for in yogurt. Follow her tips to find one that doesn’t just taste great, but is also packed with nutritional benefits.

Why is it important to be discerning when it comes to choosing yogurt?

Many yogurts have a lot of added sugar; so much so that they should be treated as a dessert rather than a healthy snack. If they don’t have a lot of sugar but still taste really sweet, they may be sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose.

Opting for a plain Greek yogurt will give you the least amount of sugar and the most protein. Sweeten it yourself by adding fruit or a small amount of honey.

What’s a key ingredient to look for in yogurt and why?

“Live and active cultures.”

Yogurt is produced when milk is fermented using strains of probiotics such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.

The “live and active cultures” seal is placed on yogurts that contain at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture. These probiotics are the beneficial bacteria in our bodies. They help balance gut flora, which is essential for immunity, digestion and overall health. When probiotics are abundant in the body, it’s harder for disease-causing bacteria to get a foothold.

Is there any amount or type of sugar that’s OK to have in yogurt?

Aim for yogurts with no more than 20 grams of sugar total.

Plain Greek yogurt contains about 6 grams of sugar that is naturally derived from milk sugars; whereas, plain non-Greek yogurt contains about 12 grams of sugar from the natural milk sugar. 

When it comes to dairy vs. non-dairy alternatives, does one have more health benefits than the other?

Non-dairy alternatives are a great option for people who can’t tolerate dairy products; however, they usually don’t have the protein content that dairy products have. Therefore, incorporating other sources of protein throughout your day is important for those who don’t consume dairy products.

What are some things to consider when choosing yogurt toppings?

Oftentimes, we think of granola as a yogurt topping, but many granolas are high in sugar. Consider using nuts or sunflower seeds instead. 

Dried fruit is another popular yogurt topping. Many dried fruits contain added sugar, and even if they don’t have added sugar, they are naturally high in sugar because they are a concentrated form of whole fruit. Instead of using dried fruit, opt for whole fruit such as apples, bananas, pears, berries or others you enjoy.

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