These days, grocery stores seem to carry a large selection and wide variety of yogurt. The options can be a bit overwhelming, and it’s time-consuming to decipher labels and make comparisons. Yogurt often ends up in the “health food” category by default, but is it always healthy? Some popular brands are high in sugar or sugar substitutes, and may also include additives like food coloring, thickeners and artificial flavors.
If you are going to enjoy yogurt, often your best bet will be to buy it “plain” and then add fruit and sweeteners yourself. Plain yogurt can also serve as a replacement for sour cream or a base for dressings and dips, and it can be used in a number of baked goods.
Yogurt has nutritional benefits similar to other dairy products – it’s a good source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamins B2 and B12. It also delivers protein in varying quantities, depending on the specific type of yogurt.
Yogurt is also promoted as a probiotic product, good for the gut. The fermentation process that turns milk into yogurt does require live bacterial cultures, however, the amount present usually isn’t enough to help suppress the growth of yeast or other problematic fauna in the gut.
There are varieties of yogurt with added probiotics, and these can aid digestion if taken for the recommended amount of time (typically around two weeks). For deeper digestion issues, eating yogurt may not hurt, but it’s important to understand any underlying causes (consult a physician if you have questions about probiotic supplements).
As noted, there are many kinds of yogurt available, including quite a few non-dairy alternatives. Here’s an overview of the popular types you’re likely to encounter:
- Traditional: Unstrained, less fat than Greek yogurt, thinner consistency
- Greek: Thicker consistency, with higher protein content and lower carbohydrates than traditional yogurt
- Icelandic: Strained four times, it has the highest protein content of all varieties
- Almond: A non-dairy alternative, its texture is similar to traditional yogurt; not especially high in protein, may contain thickeners
- Coconut: Non-dairy with a unique flavor, its texture is similar to traditional yogurt; not especially high in protein, may contain thickeners
Again, look for additive-free yogurt, as it can be one of the most versatile foods in your fridge, useful for breakfast, snacks, desserts and more. Also, if you buy large tubs of yogurt, the containers can be reused in a number of ways, including:
- As storage for leftover food (no more than one or two times for this purpose)
- As a mini-bucket for small DIY painting projects
- As a mixing bowl for face mask ingredients