Ever been stuck shivering in the dairy aisle deciding which yoghurt is best? Here’s how to sort the healthiest options from the nutrition traps.
Yoghurt has long worn a health halo and rightly so: it contains a blend of slow-digesting carbs and hunger-busting protein, making it the perfect post-workout saviour. And with its bone-boosting calcium and probiotics, it will keep your digestive system finely tuned. But not all yoghurts are created equal.
This is traditionally prepared by straining the water from plain yoghurt, resulting in a thick texture. This process often means a lower calcium level, but it has up to twice as much protein and a slightly higher fat content (around 8-10%), compared to 4% for standard plain or natural yoghurt. Some varieties have added sugar, cream, milk solids, gelatine and gums, which are used to create a creamier texture – always check the label. From a culinary perspective, Greek-style yoghurt tends to tolerate heat, making it a healthier substitute for cream in cooking.
This is the least processed, without the flavours and additives, although the fat content can vary depending on the type of milk used (whole or skim). The healthiest choices are the low- or no-fat varieties, as you’ll save on kilojoules and saturated fat without missing out on calcium and protein. If you prefer full fat, look for one with no more than 3g of saturated fat per 100g.
This is made by adding sugar, fruit or other flavour to plain yoghurt, which bumps up the kilojoule (energy) value – some “low-fat” varieties have up to 50% more than their full-fat counterparts! If a yoghurt claims to be fruit based, always check the label to see if whole fruit pieces are used, rather than fruit juice or concentrates.
Compared to cow’s milk, sheep’s milk has a similar percentage of fat and protein, but the fat molecules in sheep’s milk are slightly smaller in size and therefore easier to digest. Some varieties can contain up to twice as much calcium as cow’s milk, although with this comes extra lactose, so it may not be a great alternative if you’re lactose intolerant.
Coconut, almond and soy yoghurt
Plant-based yoghurts are absolutely booming. These alternatives are free from dairy (and therefore lactose), although compared to dairy-based yoghurts they’re low on both calcium (unless it’s added) and protein (an average of less than 2g per 100g of protein). Coconut yoghurt in particular has double the amount of saturated fat compared to the full-cream dairy varieties.
Looking for some cooking inspiration? Check out these recipes.