Yogurt dates back thousands of years, but in the past five years it has taken off, becoming increasingly popular in sauces, salad dressings and frozen novelties.
Whether yogurt's benefit as part of a healthier lifestyle is related to the consumption of fewer cakes and potato chips or the "good bacteria" it provides is subject to further research.
In 1908, Nobel prize winner Dr. Elie Metchnikoff declared that death begins in the colon but healthy bacteria that produce lactic acid can improve digestion and immune function. It has taken Americans 100 years to embrace the concept that adding microorganisms to a highly processed diet may be beneficial. Some gastroenterologists are still undecided, but the one I worked with in Chicago had every one of his patients on probiotics or yogurt.
While the sale of Greek yogurt is driving the overall sales of yogurt, it is almost impossible to figure out which brand is best. As the milk fat has been removed from almost all yogurt brands, thickeners and gels have been added for texture and stability. Because there is no standard of identity for yogurt, food technologists can create whatever the market demands, and so was born Greek-style yogurt as a higher protein alternative.
Today, many fruit-flavored yogurts have the same sugar content as a candy bar. The label on a popular pineapple-flavored Greek yogurt lists 18 grams of sugar. That equals 4 1/2 teaspoons of sugar — the same amount found in five Reese's mini peanut butter cups or a half cup of ice cream.
Fruit-flavored yogurts are not a healthy choice. If you're looking for nutrition, mix fruit pieces into plain yogurt, or make a tasty salad dressing/dip, such as this Creamy Cucumber Yogurt Dressing. Be sure to select grass-fed whole cow's milk yogurt without added sugar and hormones.
Betty Wedman-St Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.