Just because it's called yogurt doesn't mean it is a health food.

Lunch Hour Lesson #2

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Most of us know that yogurt is really good for our health. It is seen as a health food, and is given to children in school lunches.

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But there is probably more of a range from healthy to unhealthy in terms of yogurt than any other food.

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And there are three factors that I’ll discuss today that can make yogurt not very healthy: added sugar, thickeners, and lactose.

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Added sugar: we talked about the health concerns associated with added sugars last week.

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Not to pick on any particular brand, just as an example, Yoplait Original Strawberry Yogurt has 19 grams of added sugar per serving / 6oz container. That’s already significantly more added sugar than a child should consume in a whole day.

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Some yogurts are great – with few ingredients and not a lot of added sugar. Others are more like candy – some even have actual candy packs attached on top as add-ins!

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Last week we also talked about reading labels for sugar. If you don’t see a name for sugar listed as one of the ingredients, but you see 10g of sugar in the nutrition facts, those are naturally present sugars, not added sugars.

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Besides added sugar, there are also often many thickeners in yogurt. Some range from relatively harmless, like guar gum, gelatin, and pectin, to those known to cause inflammation, especially of the digestive tract, like carrageenan. Others fall in the middle like xantham gum and milk protein concentrate.

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plastic container of sweetened yogurt
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The point is that yogurt can have a creamy texture without any of these added thickeners, and every time we can reduce a food to its most simple components, the better.

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Finally, some yogurts might not be a health food for certain individuals because they don’t digest lactose well.

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Yogurt, milk, ice cream, and soft cheeses all contain the milk sugar called lactose.

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Words that end in -ose are usually sugars: lactose, mannose, glucose, amylose, fructose, sucrose.

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If a sugar is not a simple sugar like glucose, it needs an enzyme to break it apart in order to be digested well. Some people do not produce enough of an enzyme called lactase to break down the milk sugar lactose.

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It is possible to make yogurt at home that has a good texture, and also is free of lactose and has no added sugar. Plus it tastes delicious. This will be the subject of Lunch Hour Lesson #4.

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But meanwhile, next week I want to talk more about enzymes.

Weekend Tip

Find two different kinds of plain yogurt at the store and read their ingredient labels. See if you can find one that has only two main ingredients: milk or cream and live active cultures. If so, thank the store person in charge of dairy! 🙂

Lunch Hour Lesson #2: When Yogurt Isn't a Health Food

Posted by Allison Mädl Nutritional Therapy and Education on Wednesday, November 14, 2018