Not too long ago I wrote a post about substitutes for convenience food, if you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can check it out right here. One of my suggestions was to substitute blended or fruit on the bottom varieties of yogurt with plain yogurt and fresh fruit.
All Yogurt Is Not Created Equal
Yogurt by itself is a healthy choice, especially when it’s made with live active cultures (probiotics) which are the “good” bacteria that are necessary to maintain a healthy digestive system. It’s when the manufacturers start adding flavors and their rendition of fruit that the healthy benefits of yogurt become questionable. If you have shopped for yogurt lately, you have no doubt noticed how much real estate it takes up in the dairy section of the supermarket. Here are some photos I took of the yogurt section, I had to take three photos to get it all in! As you make your way through the yogurt jungle, you might see some containers that say things like “deliciously blended with real fruit,” or “tempt your taste buds with delicious peaches and creamy yogurt.” They all sound good, but don’t be fooled, they may not be as healthy as you think. I checked out ingredient lists for several brands of peach yogurt and here are some common ingredients: sugar, fructose, malic acid, modified corn starch, annatto extract, locust bean gum,xantham gum and natural flavorings.
Why Are So Many Ingredients Added For Peach Flavoring?
When the food companies add fruit or flavorings to yogurt, they also add flavor and texture enhancers to make it taste sweet and creamy ~ two crave-able tastes to keep us coming back for more. Here is a brief description of each additive noted above: Flavor Enhancers
- Sugar, Fructose – sweeteners for fruit that is already sweet.
- Annatto Extract – flavoring and coloring agent that is derived from from the tropical achiote tree. It has a sweet peppery flavor and does not appear to have any harmful effects.
- Malic Acid – flavoring and coloring agent found in fruits such as apples,cherries and grapes. it is added to fruit juices and fruit nectar for tartness.
- Natural Flavoring - There is no easy way to describe this one, so I am going to give you the official FDA definition of natural flavoring: “Natural flavor is the essential oil, oleoresin, essense or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or egetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”
That leaves it wide open, doesn’t it? And Now For The Texture Enhancers
- Locust Bean Gum – Derived from the carob bean and has been known to cause digestive issues for some.
- Modified Corn Starch – Starch from corn that has been treated with chemicals.
- Xanthan Gum – bacterial fermentation product of sugars which can come from soy, corn or wheat. This can cause problems for anyone with allergies to corn, soy or wheat.
You might be wondering how bad these ingredients can really be since it’s just a small amount in yogurt. The bigger question is why eat fruit that has been processed when you can just eat the real thing?
Read the Nutrition Facts
It is important to ignore healthy claims on packaged foods and read the labels on the back. The graphic below is a comparison of two popular brands of Greek Yogurt and their counter fruit added counter parts. I noted the items that caught my eye in red. It’s interesting that both brands reduced the serving size when the fruit and sugars were added, could that be to keep the sugar and calorie count low? Here are the facts on the Yoplait container for peaches and cream Greek Yogurt. Yoplait does not even offer a plain Greek yogurt. Look at all of those ingredients! Last, here are the nutritional facts for a peach: Adding a sliced peach to plain yogurt will raise the sugar and calorie content of yogurt just as the processed fruit will, the difference is the peach contains natural sugar. It also adds fiber, vitamins, magnesium and potassium without texture enhancers. What would you rather have added to your yogurt, fresh wholesome fruit or processed fruit? Not a fan of peaches? try fresh or frozen berries on your yogurt.