How to shop for: Yoghurt

How to shop for: Yoghurt

A quick look at the dairy fridge in your local supermarket will reveal an endless array of yoghurt choices. Between flavoured or unflavoured, Greek or natural, no added sugar or whole milk, it’s hard to know what the healthiest yoghurt to buy is.  

Despite the claims on their labels, the nutritional benefits of all the different yoghurts are not equal. So, let’s break it down and see what the best yoghurt choice really is.

Why is yoghurt healthy addition to your grocery list?   

First of all, let’s look at why a dairy-based yoghurt can be a good addition to your diet.  

Dairy is an excellent source of calcium, an essential mineral for bone health. It is also a great source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids your body needs to build, repair, grow and function well. Plus, protein helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer.   

Dairy is also a great source of other important micronutrients like vitamin B12, potassium, iodine and phosphorus. And don’t forget about probiotics, which help to keep your gut healthy.

What to look for on the nutrition label 

When shopping for yoghurt there are certain clues that will help you determine which version is best for you.   

  • A short ingredients list. A short ingredients list means less added stuff that detracts from the health benefits of the yoghurt. Look for labels that only have two to three ingredients listed – ideally just skim milk and live cultures (probiotics). 
  • No added sugar. Many yoghurts on the market contain sugar to sweeten them up and enhance the flavour. But when you’re eating healthily, you want to limit added sugars. So look for plain, no added sugar, low-sugar or diet varieties. Keep in mind that a lot of these varieties may contain artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and stevia, which help to provide sweetness without the kilojoules.
  • Beware fruit purees. Under the guise of health and convenience, many yoghurts are flavoured with fruit purees. These aren’t always the healthiest choice, as they can deliver a lot of fruit sugar and extra kilojoules, but still be labelled as no added sugar. Some of the fibre content of the fruit is also lost when it’s pureed and added to yoghurt. 
  • Go for reduced fat. Dairy products contain saturated fat, so if you’re looking for the best yoghurt for weight loss, go for a low-fat (1 to 2 percent) or non-fat (0 percent) variety. Avoid anything that features cream in the ingredients list too, as that will increase the fat and saturated fat content.  
  • Go Greek. The difference between Greek yoghurt and natural yoghurt is that Greek yoghurt has been strained more. This extra straining gives the yoghurt a thicker consistency, and increases the protein content. Because a higher protein content will fill you up more, opting for Greek yoghurt is a great option when you’re trying to manage your weight.    

What about plant-based yoghurts? 

Not all yoghurts you'll find in the supermarket are dairy-based. These days there are a range of plant-based yoghurts available, usually made from soy or coconut. If you do opt for a plant-based option, keep in mind that it won't have the same nutritional profile as a dairy yoghurt. 

Your best bet for the healthiest plant-based yoghurt is a calcium-fortified soy yoghurt with no added sugars or flavours.

Coconut yoghurt is likely to be high in fat and saturated fat, and have a low protein content.     

The bottom line 

When you’re looking for the healthiest yoghurt to buy, non-fat, plain Greek yoghurt is hard to beat nutritionally. Without the additions of added sugars, fruit purees, artificial flavours or artificial sweeteners, not only will you be getting the real deal but you’ll be able to control the level of sweetness yourself. Top with your own fresh fruit and a few nuts and reap the full benefits of a whole food-based diet. If you prefer a bit of flavour in your yoghurt, choose a high protein, no added sugar variety as the next best choice. 

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