I’m sure many of you have heard about the gut healing benefits of yoghurts – the ones that are rich in probiotics, that is. With a reputation as a health food superstar, yoghurt is a fridge staple in most homes. It’s a quick and easy dessert option, perfect for packed lunches, and as well tasting rich and creamy, it’s good for you and your tummy. Or is it? With a dizzying array of flavours and types lining the shelves of the chilled foods aisle, it’s not as easy as you may think when it comes to choosing the right yoghurt. While you may well assume that all yoghurts are a good choice, on closer inspection, some aren’t as healthy as the promises made on the packaging lead us to believe.
Deciphering the details can be confusing and time-consuming, so Nottingham-based nutritional therapist and passionate healthy eater, Sophia Hill, has very kindly put together some ‘insider tips’ to help you choose your yoghurts wisely, and give your gut and overall health a real nutritional boost.
Look for good bugs
Healthy bacteria are found in yoghurt and help to improve the microflora in the gut, responsible for digestion and a healthy digestive tract. The active cultures that are found in yoghurt may help with certain gastro-intestinal conditions, including IBS, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, excess wind etc. These ‘friendly’ bacteria give yogurt its tangy flavour and help with digestion. Look for the National Yoghurt Association’s ‘Live & Active Cultures’ seal on packaging. It means that, when manufactured, the yoghurt contained at least 100 million active starter cultures per gram.
Surprisingly, not all yoghurt sold in supermarkets contains live and active cultures, as some companies heat- treat yoghurt after culturing, killing off the bacteria – both good and bad – in doing so, in a bid to lengthen its shelf life.
Do a sugar check
A basic starting point is to avoid any yoghurt that lists sugar as the first ingredient. Also, make sure you avoid ‘low fat’ yoghurts as they are filled with sugar or sweeteners, both which negatively impact your blood sugar levels. Aim for the yoghurt with the highest protein content and make sure the fat content is not compromised by excess sugars. Greek yoghurts tend to have the lowest sugar content and the highest amount of protein, with a relatively good probiotic count. They are minimally processed compared to many ‘low fat’ yoghurts, however there are certain brands of Greek yoghurt that are rather high in fat.
Need a dairy-free option?
For people who cannot tolerate dairy, there are plenty of dairy-free yoghurts on the market now, made from alternative types of milk such as soya and coconut. My personal favourite is one made by Coconut Collaborative, although it is rather lacking in protein and on the expensive side.
If you do have a dairy intolerance, or simply want to avoid the minefield of yoghurts on the market, another great way to get your dose of good bacteria is to take a daily probiotic supplement. Probiotic supplements contain billions of microorganisms that are often more likely to colonise within the gut and have a more significant impact on your digestive health. My go-to probiotic is naturally the Just For Tummies Live Bacteria. To find out more, follow the link here
Dr. Anthony Hobson of The Functional Gut Clinic has also outlined that many people with a perceived dairy intolerance are intolerant of the A1 beta casein protein rather than lactose, and there are good A2 yoghurts from older breeds of cattle, sheep or goats that people could try?
A round-up of my yoghurt review
- Arla – Skyr
- Non-fat yogurt. Contains Icelandic Skyr cultures
- Contains only natural ingredients
- No artificial flavours or sweeteners
- No preservatives
- High protein, lower sugar than many and zero fat
Per serving: 6g sugar, 16.5g protein, 0g fat
- Coconut collaborative
- Dairy-free alternative
- Live cultured coconut milk yoghurt (coconut milk 50%, coconut water 45%, cornflour, potato starch, pectin (from fruit), selected dairy-free cultures (S. Thermophilus + L. Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium Lactis).
- Low sugar, although high in fat and low in protein
- Uses thickeners
- No artificial flavours or sweeteners
Per pot: 3g naturally occurring sugars, 1.44g protein, 13.8g fat
- FAGE TOTAL
- Ingredients: pasteurised cow’s milk cream (milk), live active yoghurt cultures (S. Thermophilus + L. Bulgaricus, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei)
- No thickeners or preservatives
- Live active cultures
- High protein, but also high in sugar and fat
Per pot: 8.5g fat, 6.5g sugar, 15.3g protein
- Rachel’s Organic Yoghurt
- Only contains 2 strains of probiotics – Lactobacillus acidophilus & Bifidobacterium
- Organic and free of added chemicals
- Zero fat, but very high sugar and minimal protein!
Per 100g: 0.1g Fat, 14.3g sugar, 5.4g protein
- Activia Probiotic Greek Yoghurt
- Contains a strain of bacteria, Bifidobacterium animalis lactis DN-173 010/CNCM I-2494, which has been shown to survive passage through the gastrointestinal tract in sufficient amounts
- Contains carageenan, a thickener which ironically is damaging to the gut lining
- Very high in sugar
- Relatively high in protein
Per serving: 16g sugar, 12g protein, 0g fat