Yogurt is a great functional food with a long history of health benefits in many different cultures throughout the world. Yogurt is a fermented milk product that, according to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), in order to be called yogurt must be fermented with two characteristic bacterial cultures Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, companies may add additional bacterial cultures as well. It is a simple food, containing just two ingredients: milk and probiotic bacteria… or so it should be … however, a look at the shelves of any major supermarket will show rows of yogurts labeled as “active yogurt”, with an ingredient list that resembles a chemical cocktail.
The problem is that these yogurts, laced with chemicals, sugars and sweeteners, are undermining the health benefits of this wonderful functional food – the probiotic benefits are diminished as the food becomes more processed, and people are starting to take notice.
New Report Censures the Yogurt Industry
Some of the major yogurt brands have been accused of misleading innocent parents whose goal is to feed their families with healthier foods. The report, issued by The Cornucopia Institute, accuses these brands of leading parents to buy yogurts containing large amounts of sugar and artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers and colors by making them appear safe and healthy.
In addition, they also released a buyer’s guide related to the comprehensive report rating up to 114 brands. The guide separates the genuinely healthy options from those that should be avoided.
This group also called out agribusinesses for capitalizing on the healthy reputation of yogurt to market their dangerous products. It’s alleged that the industry has been adulterating the product to gain advantage and popularity over the competition. Mark A. Kastel, the co-director of The Cornucopia Institute, says thatthe marketing used by many of the largest agribusinesses involves junk food “masquerading as health food”. These businesses, he says, mostly aim at mothers who’re looking to provide healthier alternatives for their children. But in most cases, this is no different from giving a child a “soda pop” or “a candy bar with a glass of milk”. Many of these are really an unhealthy dessert option disguised as a health food.
Pathogenic Bacteria Thrive on Sugar
The Wisconsin-based research group presented findings that show no actual fruit in flavored varieties (such as strawberry) of certain brands. Instead, these flavors contain total sugars that even rival the amount of sugar found in candy bars. In some cases, instead of sugar, yogurt is sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. The use of aspartame has been associated with neurological diseases and brain tumors in lab animals.
Dr. King Yang, a Yale University professor in the area of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, says that the rise in the percentage of people with obesity coincides with the increased use of non-caloric sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame. Other studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners are antimicrobials, an article in the Journal of Contemporary Dentistry Practice concluded: “All the sweeteners used in this study [saccharin, aspartame and sucralose] have demonstrated significant antimicrobial activity.” At first, you might think this is a good thing, but if chemical sweeteners kill microbes in the mouth, how do they affect the beneficial microbes in the gut? And how can you possibly combine good probiotic bacteria in the same yogurt containing bacteria killing fake sugars? Aside from non-caloric sweeteners, carrageenan, a bioactive ingredient that is derived from seaweed and found in many popular brands, has been associated with severe gastrointestinal inflammation and disease, according to a published research. Carrageenan is also found in some popular yogurts (in squeezable tubes) aimed specifically at young children.
Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt and kefir are considered by many as effective probiotics, while this may have been true in the past modern production methods have rendered them largely ineffective. Although yogurt and kefir may contain “live and active cultures” there are usually not arge enough quantities to provide any significant therapeutic effect. We would encourage you to read more about why yogurt and kefir are not effective probiotics on our probiotic myths page. Let’s turn this around. Why not take charge of what you and your family are eating. It’s so easy to make homemade yogurt. Natren’s Yogurt Starter – is an excellent , much healthier way of getting high-quality probiotic yogurt on your terms. We also recommend supplementing smoothies or store-bought yogurts with a more potent probiotic source — such as our probiotic powders which aregreat for adding probiotic benefits to a variety of foods., Or take a daily supplement like Natren’s Healthy Trinity. Whichever way you choose to get your daily probiotic intake, choose wisely and carefully read the labels – especially when it comes to big-brand supermarket product.