Yogurt has been a mainstay in “healthier” diets in the US since the 70s. But what is this stuff? As most of us know, yogurt comes from milk. – Active, living cultures transform pasteurized milk by way of fermentation to create this now, all American, snack. The two organisms most commonly used for the process are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles. These beneficial organisms also transform other basic foods to fermented products like beer, wine and cheese.
On a clinical note; The liberation of healthful, inactive (milk) proteins to active peptides render them now more readily digestible. This process begins with proteolytic “starter cultures” that breakdown proteins through the process of hydrolysis by Lactic acid bacteria, – Lactobacillus, and become less problematic to dairy intolerant patients. This fermentation gives the yogurt its “curdled”, thick quality. The process also reduces the lactose, milk sugar content by about 50%. For both lactose intolerance and milk protein sensitive patients’ yogurt is better tolerated and digested than cottage cheese or ice cream for example but still not suggested for most symptomatic patients.
Now, because most commercial yogurts are high in sugars, sweeteners and chemicals that transform them to be smooth and tasty the transition to yogurt for many has been easy but we have traded pallid ability for a bit of true quality intended for this natural food. In traditional yogurts, those from cow’s milk, some may find the bitterness of the fermentation distasteful but in the last 15 plus years manufactures have blended a more even, more widely acceptable product which somewhat overrides this feature rendering more of a “pudding” like quality that fits “better” into our taste preferences of our S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). Added corn starch, chemical or processed sugars including high fructose, colorings and dyes are contained in the 3 top selling yogurt brands.
Yoplait yogurt was created in 1999 by General Mills. It contained 100% more sugar per serving then the company’s Lucky Charms, cereal. Their target recently was to lower the sugar content by 25% to a content of 20gms. /serv. – Still not a real healthful amount.
But quality yogurt can be a better way to consume your daily allotment of dairy overall.
It does provide double duty in that there is usually the same or better protein content ounce for ounce as milk. Most all yogurts consistently contain varied amounts of probiotics mostly; Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium both of which have sub-strains that are very beneficial to the gut for function and digestion. And it is a more “easily digested” dairy.
What to look for in a healthy yogurt:
– Live Cultures – may be noted on the label. If container says “heat treated” the cultures/probiotic content is diminished.
– No high fructose corn sugar; HFCs-90, a common additive that is 9 times more concentrated then regular HFC.
– In short: Seek yogurts containing approximately these values for about a 6oz. serving:
- 12 grams of sugar or less
- 12 grams of protein or more
- Ingredients only of: milk, cane or natural sweetener and live cultures are best.
- And optimally, plain yogurt is most nutritious. It contains more of the beneficial nutrients, especially higher protein, and even more important negates the artificial ingredients. You can add fresh fruit, spices, nuts and even vegetables.