Yoghurt: Healthy Snack or Dairy Dessert?
Marketers tend to present yoghurt as a health food, but is it? It does contain lots of protein, calcium, and probiotics, but there are so many choices that finding the best one can be a bit confusing. Most yoghurt is made from cow’s milk and live cultures that cause the milk to thicken and become tangy in flavour. But not all yoghurts are the same.
Plain or natural
Plain or natural yoghurt typically has the most calcium. The fat content varies depending on whether whole or skim milk was used to make the yoghurt, so choose low-fat or fat-free varieties for the fewest kilojoules and the smallest amount of saturated fat. The debate about the link between saturated fat and heart disease is ongoing, but it’s probably wise to continue limiting saturated fat in your diet, especially since there are so many other sources of the stuff in a typical Australian diet.
Flavoured yoghurt can contain significantly more kilojoules than plain or natural varieties because manufacturers often add sweeteners to improve taste. Although the packages may depict fresh fruit, you won’t necessarily find any fruit inside. The sweeteners used range from fruit puree and fruit juice to sugar and artificial sweeteners. Check labels to be sure. Keep in mind that even a sweetened low-fat yoghurt will generally be a healthier choice than candy.
Greek yoghurt is made by straining out the lactose (naturally occurring sugar) and whey (the remaining liquid once the milk is curdled). This process gives it a creamier, thicker texture than other yoghurts. Greek yoghurt contains less calcium but more protein than plain or natural yoghurt. It also tends to be higher in fat. It holds up better to heat, meaning you can use it as a healthier substitute for cream in many recipes.
These are just a few of the many types of yoghurt available in most supermarkets. Always check the label of the yoghurt you’re considering for ingredients such as artificial sweeteners and nutritional info like calcium content. Also look for the words, “live and active cultures” to be sure you’re buying yoghurt that can help maintain your intestinal health. As with any food, serving sizes matter, too. Choose wisely, and yoghurt can be part of your healthy, balanced diet.