You’d be hard-pressed to find a trusted nutritionist who doesn’t recommend a good quality yoghurt as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Amongst many other benefits, yoghurt is a great brekkie and snack option, it keeps you feeling fuller for longer, it’s known to feed the good bacteria in your gut and can even help you shed a few kgs.
But as most of us are aware of by now, there is a catch—and that catch is that not all yoghurts are created equal.
Although there are a few general rules to follow (ie. opt for no added sugar, avoid low-fat varieties, aim for high protein and good strains of bacteria), selecting the right one can be pretty confusing.
So confusing, in fact, that people might find themselves steering clear of it altogether—which is why we’re calling upon an expert to help break things down for us once and for all.
Read on as Steph Wearne, registered nutritionist (and head of nutrition at 28 by Sam Wood) takes us through some points to keep in mind when it comes to selecting the right type of yoghurt (including what to look for on the label—because let’s be real, that’s always the hardest part!).
For those who can tolerate dairy, what are the benefits of having natural/Greek yoghurt?
Dairy is a good source of protein which helps to keep us fuller for longer and aids in muscle cell repair and growth. It’s also a good source of calcium and vitamin D which are essential for bone health. Cultures are another benefit of yoghurt as these help to populate the beneficial bacteria in our gut.
Can consuming yoghurt assist with weight loss? How so?
Yes, as part of a whole food based, balanced diet, yoghurt can definitely be included in a diet aimed for weight loss. The previously mentioned protein and also fat content of full fat yoghurt is helpful to keep us satiated plus the additional micronutrients will ensure our body is getting the support it needs to shed the weight.
If you can tolerate dairy, should we be choosing natural yoghurt over other types like coconut yoghurt?
In terms of other dairy options you should definitely opt for a natural or Greek over the flavoured varieties and nutrition-wise, a dairy yoghurt tends to be more nutritious than other varieties such as soy yoghurt or coconut yoghurt. However, these options can still be a good choice for those who are intolerant or want to mix things up.
Nutritionally, how does coconut yoghurt weigh up against dairy yoghurt?
Nutrition-wise, coconut yoghurt is lacking some of the important nutrients that yoghurt contains (protein, calcium, vitamin D) and is also much higher in fat so less is needed. For those who are intolerant to dairy, coconut yoghurt can still be a good addition to the diet but a variety of food is important to ensure you are covering the nutrients that are lacking.
How does yoghurt differ to kefir? And what are the benefits of kefir?
Kefir is a fermented milk product that is similar to yoghurt. Due to the fermentation process, it is a richer source of the good bacteria than yoghurt. Yoghurt generally contains up to five main strains of bacteria however kefir can contain up to 20.
What exactly is meant by strain?
Bacteria can have different strains which each have different functions. This is why it is good to get a balance of different strains when looking at products and some strains can be more effective for different health concerns such as eczema, immunity, IBS or vaginal health, so it’s important to look at what strains will be most beneficial for your body.
What should we be looking for on nutrition labels?
A really good quality yoghurt will only have these ingredients: organic unhomogenised cows milk, organic milk solids (may or may not have) and live cultures. The cultures may not be listed on the label but all good brands should be transparent with this on their website or if requested and the strains should be; acidophilus, bifidus, casei, thermophilus and bulgaricus.
How much sugar is too much when it comes to yoghurt? Again, what should we be looking for on the label?
Yoghurt is a diary product and contains the natural sugar, lactose. When looking at the label, anywhere from 4-6g of sugar (per 100g) would be the natural sugar and anything additional is added sugar. A better way to identify added sugar, however, is by looking at the ingredients lists and seeing is sugar (or any other names for sugar) are listed there as the amounts of natural sugar can vary between products and brands.
How much fat is too much when it comes to yoghurt? Or is there no such thing?
The fat provided by yoghurt is healthy fat so we always want to be choosing full fat options. In addition, the low fat options are more processed and often contain additives to make up for the mouthfeel and taste of removing the fat. A good quality full fat yoghurt can contain up to 5-6g of total fat per 100g.
So we should be looking at the sugar content, not the fat?
Definitely the sugar. The easiest way to identify added sugar is to look at the ingredients list and see if sugar (or any other sweeteners or sugar substitutes) are listed.
What are some of your favourite ways to enjoy yoghurt?
With homemade muesli, on my porridge, as a snack with berries, mixed with tahini and made into a salad dressing, in a smoothie.
What are some unexpected ways to enjoy yoghurt that people might not have thought of?
You can blend with avocado and some honey and then freeze in iceypole moulds for a creamy green frozen yoghurt. I also love to place some yoghurt in a sieve (lined with muslin cloth and set over a bowl) and leave in the fridge overnight to let the whey drip out so you are left with a super thick and creamy yoghurt/labne which you can use as a cheesecake or as a fetta replacement.
What are some of your favourite yoghurts on the market and why?
Barrambah Organics, Schulz Organics, Paris Creek Biodynamic, Jalna Biodynamic and Five:am organics. I always prefer to opt for a full fat Greek or natural yoghurt as these have the best nutritional value. I like to also select an organic brand where I can as pesticides tend to accumulate in fatty products like those from animals. Lastly, I have personally contacted the labs of each of these brands and can confirm that the claims for their ‘cultures’ are actually present in the final shelf product and aren’t destroyed along the way via processing.