Organic yogurt. Sounds so healthy, doesn’t it? It may not be healthy enough to give your kids on a regular basis. It all depends on what kind you buy, suggests a study published in the British Medical Journal that examined the sugar content of a wide variety of yogurts.
Yogurt is a fermented dairy food that appears to help with digestion and overall health. A good source of “friendly” bacteria or probiotics, yogurt provides important nutrients like protein, calcium, iodine and vitamin B.
Milk and milk products contain a natural form of sugar called lactose. However, many also contain added sugar, and dietary guidelines recommend choosing dairy foods that are low in both fat and sugar. Plain, no-sugar-added yogurt contains five grams of sugar from lactose.
People tend to consider yogurt a healthy food without paying particular attention to its sugar content.
Researchers at the University of Leeds and the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom looked at the sugar content of nearly 900 yogurts and yogurt products found in five supermarket chains. The products were divided into eight categories including children’s yogurt, dessert yogurt, natural or Greek yogurt and organic yogurt.
The average sugar content of all yogurts was well above what is considered “low sugar” except for natural or Greek yogurts. Less than nine percent of the products studied met the criteria for low sugar, and only two percent in the children’s yogurt group did.
Not surprisingly, dessert yogurts contained the most sugar with an average of 16.4 grams per serving, followed by organic yogurts (13.1 grams) and children’s yogurts (10.8 grams). Greek and natural yogurts averaged 5 grams per serving.
The amount of added sugar in yogurt may not be as troubling as the sugar in sodas and fruit drinks, but what is concerning is that people generally consider yogurt a healthy food, especially organic yogurt without paying particular attention to its sugar content. Foods labeled as “organic” are especially perceived to be superior. With yogurt, that’s not necessarily true.
Plain, no-sugar-added yogurt contains five grams of sugar from lactose alone.
Given the childhood obesity crisis and the problem of tooth decay among young children, the issue of added sugar in yogurt is something parents need to be aware of.
Parents, read food labels carefully to determine how much added sugar is in the yogurt you provide your children. Since plain yogurt contains five grams of sugar from lactose, anything above that number is added sugar, except in the case of yogurt with added fruit. The amount of natural sugar (fructose) has to be considered. It can get confusing, so you need to look carefully at the nutritional information on yogurt labels.
The best advice is to avoid yogurts marketed to children as they are likely to contain more sugar, and to avoid fruit-flavored yogurts. Look for those with actual fruit. Better yet, buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit.
The study is published in BMJ.