Picking yogurt at the store can feel like taking a multiple choice test you didn’t study for. With so many options, it’s hard to tell which one is best. To help ease the burden of yogurt-shopping, Ellie Krieger, a registered dietician and nutritionist, addressed some common questions about this culture-conundrum in a Washington Post article:
Nonfat or whole-fat? The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend choosing low-fat or nonfat yogurts to reduce your intake of saturated fats, which have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. That said, whole-fat yogurt has become more popular, and some research supports its newfound popularity. For example, one review of observational studies found whole-fat dairy products were not associated with obesity. Whole-fat yogurt could also contribute to weight management because it can help you feel full, curbing your appetite. The bottom line? Krieger advises sticking with low-fat or nonfat yogurt, adding healthy fats from sources like nuts or nut butters, then topping with fresh fruit for an extra tasty treat.
Greek or regular? To make Greek yogurt, regular yogurt is strained to drain off the whey. This process produces a thick, creamy yogurt with concentrated protein and low sugar content. Sounds perfect, right? The problem, Krieger asserts, is that while the yogurt strains, nutrients like calcium, potassium, and zinc also drain off with the whey. In addition, the sugar naturally present in dairy doesn’t pose the same health risks as added sugar, so Greek yogurt's “low-sugar” designation isn’t as great as it sounds. In sum, both yogurts have different nutritional benefits, so there’s no need to choose—enjoy both!
Sweetened or unsweetened? While the sugars naturally present in dairy and fruit don’t pose a health problem, it’s best to avoid added sugars as they’ve been linked to increased risks for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately, food labels don’t usually distinguish between the two, so it can be hard to tell where the sugar comes from. Your best bet is to choose unsweetened yogurt, then add fresh fruit or a little honey.