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The scoop on yogurt.

Emma Stirling
Emma Stirling APD

Do you love yogurt? We do at GI News. Obviously it has a whole lot to do with yogurt’s low GI that makes it a perfect, portable snack to get you through the afternoon. But it’s the package of nutrients, versatility and huge range of offerings that sees us getting down with dairy at many a meal.

Know your ABCs When shopping around for a yogurt, make sure you fully investigate the probiotic or friendly bacteria cultures. They sometimes have long scientific names most of us can’t pronounce, like lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or LGG. The three most common names are acidophilus, bifidus and casei, but there are many different strains and only some are backed up by scientific research. Scientific evidence is needed to show that the strain survives the acidic environment of the stomach, arrives and multiplies in the gut and helps promote positive health outcomes like boosting your immunity or beating the bloat. Most reputable brands have their probiotic strains and clinical studies available on their website.

Build your bones Calcium content of yoghurt varies, so make sure you compare the amounts of this valuable bone building nutrient per 100 grams on the nutrition information panel. Go for at least 80mg of calcium per 100 grams, which is around 10% of the recommended dietary intake. And check out new yogurts also boosted with vitamin D which assists calcium absorption.

Take caution with portions With luxuriously smooth, creamy textures, full fat (more than 4g fat/100g) yogurts should be treated as a calcium-charged alternative to cream, sour cream or mayonnaise, not a daily snack choice. It’s fine to have a dollop on your muesli and summer berries but make sure you share the tub around, as these yogurts often have three times the calorie content as reduced fat versions. Also keep in mind some tubs are labelled as containing 2–3 serves so you need to double or triple the per serve figures if you eat the whole pot. As a rule of thumb, stick to around 500 kilojoules (about 120 calories) at snack time.

Waist not, want not A recent scientific review published in the 2012 International Journal of Obesity found that including dairy foods such as milk and yogurt in a weight loss diet can help accelerate fat loss, especially metabolically harmful belly fat linked to an increase risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The review concluded that including three to four serves of dairy foods as part of a kilojoule-restricted diet led to greater weight and fat loss, compared to a standard calorie restricted diet that didn’t include the same serves of dairy every day.

Get cooking For a healthy tang use natural low fat yogurt in pancake mixture instead of milk, whip into a marinade for chicken with fragrant cumin or mint for char grilled lamb kebabs. Did you know? Like cream, yogurt can curdle if over-heated. So simply stir natural or Greek style yogurt in just before serving or mix in a little corn flour before adding to a hot dish. Enjoy!  

Emma Stirling is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and health writer with over ten years experience writing for major publications. She is editor of The Scoop on Nutrition – a blog by expert dietitians. Check it out for hot news bites and a healthy serve of what’s in flavour.