Know Your Nutrients—Probiotics: Are All Yogurts Created Equal?

Know Your Nutrients—Probiotics:
Are All Yogurts Created Equal?
by Amanda Hawkinson

Yogurt is a good source of probiotics. At least that is what popular health magazines would have us believe. I can’t tell you how often I talk to someone about probiotics, and they reassure me that they are getting probiotics by eating yogurt daily. When this is brought up I am often intrigued and ask “what kind of yogurt?” Which usually gets the response, ”Yoplait.”

Unfortunately, not all yogurts are created equal. While it is true that probiotics are used when turning milk in to yogurt, many natural occurring bacteria in milk are killed off during the pasteurization process. This process increases shelf life and reduces potential pathogenic microbial contamination, but due to heat-sensitivity, most probiotics are destroyed by the process.

Luckily, there are some yogurts out there that are labeled with live, or active, bacteria that have not been heat-treated. However, it is hard to know the real amount of bacteria that is being consumed, along with what strain is being consumed. Without knowing the strain being eaten, it is difficult for us to know how much of the probiotics are resistant to gastric or bile acids, or which specific health benefit they offer. This leads to a list of unknown variables between yogurts.

So what kind of yogurt should you indulge in? I personally prefer to consume foods with the least amount of processing or number of ingredients and additives. For general health benefits, a plain yogurt (not your typical grocery store flavored yogurt with granola) with active bacteria would be a wise choice. Adding fresh fruit at home can be an effective way of making plain yogurt more desirable.

With the introduction of pasteurization, and other processing (including added sugar), the decline of probiotics in our food sources quickly followed. It is vital to carefully make the right selection when hunting for the perfect yogurt.

Some great examples to look for are:
• Homemade yogurt from raw milk
• Plain Greek/ Kefir
• Dannon All Natural
• Stonyfield Frams
• Horizon
• Organic yogurt from health food stores

Note: Steer clear of any “lite” yogurt!