healthy eating for healthy aging

Yogurt has jumped the shark

Yogurt has jumped the shark

In the 1960s, Dannon was the only the yogurt brand available at my local grocery store. The flavors were: vanilla, lemon, coffee. Yes, coffee flavored yogurt. My mom ate yogurt; I wouldn’t touch it. Now I have some almost every day, for the protein, calcium, probiotics and flavor.

Our yogurt options have changed dramatically in the past 50-some years. For one thing, you can’t find coffee flavored yogurt anymore, but you can find Kool Aid, Oreo and M&M flavored yogurt. Progress! Food companies have taken what was once a simple and perfectly healthy food and transformed it into junk food, but with the ‘yogurt’ health halo attached for marketing purposes.

Want “yogurt” without the actual yogurt? You can buy plant-based “yogurt”, lacking the nutrients you might expect from a dairy food, like protein. This coconut-milk-based product has ZERO GRAMS PROTEIN. A big selling point for real yogurt is that it’s a good protein source. This stuff is just calories, much of it from the 15 grams added sugar.

It could be worse

Artificially sweetened yogurt is insulting enough. Artificially sweetened Kool Aid yogurt would be especially annoying. There are enough questions about the metabolic impact of artificial sweeteners to put me off. Nevertheless there are plenty of artificially sweetened yogurt options.

I assume Oreo YoCrunch yogurt isn’t artificially sweetened either. But hey, it’s low fat! That makes it healthier, right?

Better Choices

Yogurt is being junked up for marketing purposes, but you can still find real yogurt. Most brands offer plain, vanilla and fruit varieties. Flavors will vary according to the amount of sugar added and the types of bacteria used for fermentation. Greek style yogurt is great for protein, although has somewhat less calcium. Kefir, a fermented dairy beverage, is good for both protein and calcium. Simple vanilla or plain yogurt are fine choices, too.

Consider skyr, which isn’t technically yogurt, although it is a fermented dairy food. The fermenting cultures are slightly different, so skyr is less tart than yogurt. It’s also much, much higher in protein. A small container of skyr can have 16 grams of protein, compared to about 6 grams for regular yogurt. That’s impressive! A selling point for people (such as older adults) who want to optimize protein intake.

Finally …

Fermented dairy foods like yogurt, kefir, and skyr have a gut health reputation. What if you find that a certain brand doesn’t agree with your digestive system? I suggest you try a different brand. Companies use unique fermentation cultures, which are a mix of different bacteria. Your digestive system may not agree with a particular brand of yogurt because of the bacteria culture.

Or you may have trouble digesting the natural milk sugar lactose. The bacteria that ferment milk into yogurt break lactose down, but not all of it. Lactose-intolerant people can take a lactase* supplement when eating yogurt.

*lactose-digesting enzyme available in tablets or chewables