The yoghurt section in the supermarket has become increasingly complex. The products range from the plain and the traditional, to Greek, coconut, and the Icelandic skyr.
These all come in a variety of shapes and pouches for adults and children, and many are accompanied by health claims of sorts. So how do you choose?
History of yoghurt
‘Yoghurt’ is thought to originate from the Turkish word ‘yogurmak,’ which means to thicken, curdle and coagulate . It’s usually fermented milk that has been cultured with viable and well-established bacteria. Between 10,000 and 5000 BC, milk products were introduced to the human diet and it was discovered that curdling milk with intestinal juices to make it thick and sour extended its shelf-life.
The yoghurt we enjoy today is generally still milk-based and is characterised by the bacteria strains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles. Flavours, fruits, sweeteners, vitamins, minerals and probiotics are often added to increase its market appeal.
Protein: Yoghurt is naturally high in protein. It can be used to boost the protein content of a meal or can be enjoyed on its own as a snack. It can be a good source of protein if you are recovering from sickness, want to build muscle, or are trying to prevent weight loss .
Calcium: One small tub (200ml) of yoghurt provides around 380mg of calcium, which is over a third of the daily calcium recommendations for adults .
Gut health: Due to its natural bacteria content and the common addition of other beneficial bacterial strains, yoghurt is associated with improvement of gut issues such as constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion and bloating.
Label reading of yoghurt
As the yoghurt market expands, the number of ingredients and flavours added to yoghurt can often turn this healthy snack into a high-sugar or high-fat treat.
The healthiest choice is the good old low-fat plain yoghurt that has probiotics added. You can add your own fruit or a little sugar or honey if needed. Nevertheless, there are some nutritious versions on the shelf that make a good snack. If they are not ‘healthy’ think of them more as a desert or treat.
Sugar: Try to go for varieties that have less than 10g of sugar per 100g – especially where there is no fruit added
Fat: Aim for under 5g per 100g
A number of dairy-free alternatives exist, with the most popular being coconut and soy variations.
Soy yoghurt: This has a similar protein and fat content to plain dairy yoghurt, with lower levels of saturated fat. Sugar is often higher than plain yoghurt because it is needed for flavouring and its nutritional composition is quite similar to flavoured dairy-based yoghurt.
Coconut yoghurt: This has a slightly lower protein content, and natural variations have around ¼ of the carbohydrate content of dairy yoghurt. Coconut yoghurt has a far higher fat content than plain, with its saturated fat content being around 17g per 100g . This naturally makes it higher in energy so if you are watching your waistline you may want to choose dairy or soy instead.
1. Fisberg, M. & Machado, R. History of yogurt and current patterns of consumption. Nutrition Reviews. 2015. Vol.73(8), p.S4(4).
2. Dietitians of Canada. Eating guidelines for increasing your protein and energy intake. 2014. PEN Database.
3. Dietitians Association of Australia. Calcium and Vegetarian Diets. 2014. PEN Database.
4. King, B. Which is the best coconut yoghurt? Stuff, January 15, 2017. https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/teach-me/88291803/which-is-the-best-coconut-yoghurt