In a recently published work, researchers checked the nutrient content of yogurts readily available in UK supermarkets. During their work, a few interesting points popped up. There are two aspects which are noteworthy. One was that a (perceived) healthy food doesn’t have to be healthy, like
After analysing the market, the researchers covered around 75% of the grocery market share of the 5 major UK supermarkets. I believe it’s fair to say, they covered places and products (total of 921) that people in the UK would actually buy and consume.
One of the next steps was the question of how to classify the different products. The researchers created a neat looking flowchart for this:
Health benefits of dairy products
Before we draw our
That’s mainly because of the different lactic cultures in these products, most commonly Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Bifidobacterium bifidus. These positive effects of yogurt are why they are a recommended food by different official health organisations.
There is also evidence that a regular
Interesting meta-analyses showed that there’s an inverse relationship between yogurt consumption and type 2 diabetes, meaning that consumption of one serving a day reduced the incidents of type 2 diabetes (this, this, this, this).
In other words, it seems that yogurt is a sign of a healthy diet.
The currently available dietary guidelines
Instead, calories are the problem and these are often hidden in products. Especially low-sugar products contain more fat than they need to. Adding fat to a product is cheap (if you use poor quality fat sources) and it enhances the flavour profile greatly.
Fat is essential to the human metabolism and over the last couple of years, I read enough to realize that the source of fat is of utmost importance.
All that said, people buy what they think is right. Public claims from governments to eat low-fat are what people have been conditioned to believe is healthy. There’s evidence to eat high-fat products though, as they seem to be protective against belly fat (the worst place to store fat on your body).
This research gave even more reason to question the current dietary guidelines of low-fat, low-sugar but refined carbohydrate intake in regards of cardiovascular risk.
Ugly marketing practices
Now we have established that yogurt
Not necessarily because of the sugar itself, but as they tend to add many calories to peoples lifestyles. That said, there seems to be a positive effect on dental health (less caries) when restricting sugar intake.
Sugar content of different yogurt groups
The researchers found in their analysis that dessert yogurts had the most amount of sugar, with an average of 16,4% of
The fat content averaged on around 5% and was usually hitting the low-fat dietary guidelines.
Now, the important question is “compared to what?”. You want to compare these yogurts to natural yogurt, which is nothing different than fermented milk.
The yogurts in the research material averaged around 5% of sugar. This is the amount you would expect from natural yogurt, as milk contains 5% sugar.
Next time you buy yogurt you know that anything that goes beyond 5g of carbohydrates on the food label means that the company added sugar to it.
Sugar overconsumption and obesity
All this leads to an easy overconsumption of sugar. Easy, as in people don’t even realize how much added sugar they are ultimately consuming. This and other factors, like the consumption of processed foods, soft drinks and lack of movement, lead to a positive caloric balance. Or in more
As a side note:
If taxing certain foods is the right way to go is something the future will tell. My personal opinion is that we need to make sure people understand nutrition and food better.
In this case, no taxes would be needed. Besides that, many of the now taxed foods, are also subsidized by the government. By means of subsidies
In this case
What this means for you
While this study focused on the UK market, I believe it is safe to assume similar results would be available in other Western markets. This makes it all the more relevant.
Learn to read your food labels and get familiar with the
How to spot that something is off?
Before you buy your yogurt, make sure to avoid
If you can afford it, try to go for organically sourced products. It seems to have an overall better nutrient profile and tends to be better for our planet.
That said, if you buy yogurt with fruit, chocolate or any flavour (like vanilla), read the label. The content list ought to have these things in them. Unfortunately often it isn’t or barely is. You might find 1% of strawberries in the yogurt, but plenty of added sugar, flavour and colouring.
These are simply cheaper and more convenient out of the view of the producer.
Let’s say you found one that looks good. The sugar content of
The suffix -ose
Producers know that more and more people try to cut sugar. That’s why they cut refined sugars where they can and substitute it with
If you feel like it, check out this website. They list 56 common names for “sugar”.
There’s another easy way to find sugars in your nutrient labels. Just go on a hunt for any word ending in the suffix “
- saccharose or
to name a few common ones.
Make your own yogurt
A very easy to get around all these problems is to make your own yogurt at home. This might sound daunting at first but it is easy and you don’t need much to make it.
I want to end this article with a strong yes to the consumption of yogurt. That is, if you know that you can digest it properly. Chances are, if you are a white caucasian, that you can.
Ideally, you make it yourself, using organic milk and high-quality
If you buy your
I would be interested in your thoughts