3 Reasons Why Yogurt Rocks — Plus 1 Kind To Avoid

It's no secret that yogurt is good for your body — which explains why there's been a veritable explosion of new brands and products hitting stores. Remember when all we had was either drippy Dannon or plain Pinkberry? No more, our yogurt-loving friends. It’s a new era for yogurt. Not only are there tons of not-so-sugary, mousse-like "Greek" kinds on the block (Chobani and Fage, that’s you), there are DIY yogurt bars and froyo joints popping up like crazy, too.
“The benefit of eating yogurt is not only its calcium and protein content, but its bacteria content,” says Lana Masor, M.S., R.Y.T., a nutritionist in New York City. “Yogurt gets its consistency and tangy taste from the probiotic bacteria that is added to ferment the milk — and probiotics are helpful in supporting a healthy digestive system, as well as fighting off those nasty yeast infections that us ladies would rather not chat about.”
We are assuming you’ve jumped on the Greek bandwagon because, well, who hasn’t? (Sales of Greek yogurt are projected to be $1.2 billion by the end of this year, according to Mintel). But in case you are late to the party — or you love it but don’t know why it’s good for you — here’s how your yummy yogurt of choice stands up to the old school stuff.
It's Got More Protein And Calcium
“Greek yogurt has almost double the amount of protein that regular yogurt has, which is important for building and maintaining good muscle tone, as well as helping to increase satiety or having that sensation of feeling full,” says Masor. Plain yogurt is still a great source for the big C (as in calcium), but Greek kinds typically have three times the amount as regular versions. So, essentially, reach for one every a.m., and you’ve got one less supplement to worry about (strong, healthy bones coming right up).
It's Got Less Carbs, Sodium, And Sugar
So, it’s like hitting the stay-slim lottery of delicious snacks. “For diabetics and those individuals that are concerned with their carbohydrate intake, Greek yogurt weighs in at roughly half the carbs,” says Masor. It also has half the amount of sodium and way less sugar, too. “Greek yogurt is thicker because of the additional straining the product undergoes, which removes much of the liquid whey, sugar, and lactose,” explains Masor. But obviously those laced with sugary fruit on the bottom (or honey for that matter) is going to make the calorie count go up quite a bit. “It is definitely best to stick with the plain, low-fat variety of Greek yogurt,” she says. “Those that have the added fruit, honey, vanilla, etc., are just a lot of added sugar and unnecessary food processing.”
Plain For Plain, It's Got The Same Calories
Pretty much, the numbers are the same whichever kind you choose — when it’s kept bare, as in just yogurt. Which means, stay away from the parfait. “Brightly striped cups look that way because they’re loaded with extra calories and fat from all of the granola and sometimes added syrup,” says Masor. If you want to add something sweet to your yogurt, simply mix in some fresh blueberries or strawberries. “To get that nice nutty texture and flavor, chop up some walnuts, almonds, or pecans, and add that to your yogurt, and even some flax seed to get extra omega-3,” suggests Masor.
Opener Image: Via Cooking Light; Main Image: Via Voskos
Sadly, there is one type of yogurt that doesn't stand up to that good-for-you claim: froyo, or should we say faux-yo. Frozen "yogurt" is not the same as regular yogurt. “It is just a name given to a dessert that is an alternative to regular ice cream,” explains Masor. “You can just as easily say that ice cream is good for you because it is a dairy product and provides you with calcium and protein, but there are obvious reasons why there are better choices out there to get a healthy dose of both.”  
In order for the two to match up nutritionally, you’d basically have to freeze your Fage (yes, we mean your yogurt cup). So, how does froyo stack up to ice cream in terms of fat and sugar? “In the super-sweet flavors of frozen yogurt, there is going to be less fat but not necessarily less sugar than regular ice cream,” says Masor. “And then if the frozen yogurt is sugar-free, then you can bet it is filled with artificial sweeteners amongst other chemicals.” As in, all the flavors we ooh and aah over: cookies and cream, red velvet, and cheesecake. “There are two things in this world that make food taste really good — fat and sugar — so if something claims to be fat-free but it tastes delicious, you can bet that it is loaded with sugar,” says Masor. “Even worse, low in fat and sugar means lots of ingredients that do not occur in nature.”
But you could walk right on past that Pinkberry and into one of the new yogurt pop-up stores that are popping up allover. Dannon (who we must say has its own Greek versions now, too) has Yogurt Culture Company and Chobani (currently the number-one seller in the U.S.) opened its namesake "yogurt bar" last month, both in NYC. But that doesn’t mean you should turn your yo into a full-on sundae. “All the toppings and flavorings make it not so healthy — for example, it is like taking a nice green salad made with kale, fresh bell peppers, and tomatoes, and drowning it in ranch dressing,” says Masor. What options you should opt for: the fresh fruit, of course; go ahead and pile them on. The crushed up chocolate bars? Look. The. Other. Way.
Photo: Via Pinkberry

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