I adore strawberries. Their sweet juices popping in my mouth as I bite into them brings me the happiness of summer. Perhaps I love them even more because the season is short. Oh, I know you can get those pumped up strawberries from far-away climes all year round, but they are simply not the same. So whilst they are in season, I eat quite a lot of them 🙂 And my favourite way to eat them is to create my own strawberry yoghurt.
Recently whilst enjoying my strawberries with a dollop of rich, creamy natural yoghurt, it made me wonder. How did my favourite summer dessert compare with the commercially bought yoghurts in terms of nutrition and calories? And what is really in these yoghurts that are ‘sold’ to us as being healthy? Let’s take a peek under the bonnet, so to speak, at some of the added ingredients and discover why they are in your yoghurt.
Skimmed Milk Powder or Concentrate: Many ‘low fat’ yoghurts will not only use skimmed milk, but also add skimmed milk powder or concentrate. Activa uses all three forms. Why? Because it makes the yoghurt thicker without adding more fat as found in whole milk. Greek style yoghurts are often made in this way too. There is a commercial reason too. The vast majority of processed foods are made in factory-like environments that is nothing like your kitchen. Using a skimmed milk powder is more economical as it takes up less space and has a very long shelf life.
Polydextrose: This is a synthetic polymer synthesised from dextrose, sorbitol and citric acid. It’s added to foods to reduce the sugar and fat content of a food.
Modified Maize Starch: The modification process of the maize (what we call corn) involves treating the maize starch with either acids, alkaline or enzymes. Modified starch can thicken milk or water without heat.
Carrageenan: Found in Shape and Activa yoghurts is extracted from red seaweed and then modified. It’s used a gelling/thickening agent and food stabiliser. Much research has been done on this gelatine-like product with some studies showing it can have adverse effects on health. Because of this the EU has prohibited it’s use in infant formula. Personally, if it’s not considered safe for babies, then I’m not going to eat it either!
Xanthan gum: Is made by fermenting glucose, sucrose or lactose. During this process, the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris secretes a polysaccharide (sugar molecules) which is extracted, dried and ground into a powder. Finally it’s added to liquid to form a gum. It’s widely used in processed foods as a thickener.
Guar gum: Guar beans are ground into a white powder then added to liquid to form a gum. It has 8x the thickening properties of corn starch. It’s a natural product – but my question on seeing in the ingredients list is why the food has to be thickened? Usually it’s because the food has been modified—such a the removal of fat—or they are using water the Müller Fruit Corner does. And of course water is much cheaper than milk.
Purple or black carrot juice concentrate Adds sweetness and colour.
Sodium citrate: This is used as a flavouring agent – it’s slight tart – and as a preservative.
Citric acid Found naturally in citrus fruits. Today though the mold Aspergillus niger is grown by feeding it a sugar solution and the mold produces citric acid as result. It’s very widely used as a preservative. In 2007, worldwide, 1,600,000 tons were produced.
Live cultures: All yoghurt is made by allowing bacteria to ferment the milk. Some, like Yeo Natural and Activa still contain live cultures of bacteria. Most flavoured yoghurts are heat treated or have added preservatives to stop the fruit from fermenting and going rancid and so the live cultures are killed off. Live bacteria are beneficial to the gut in particular they produce lactic acid which aides the digestion of lactose (the natural sugars found in milk).
Calories vs nutrients of the different yoghurts
Many people, when trying to lose weight, look at the calorie content as a guide as to which brand to buy. Yet this can be be misleading as your body doesn’t count calories, instead it reacts to the nutrients within the food you eat. Calories that come from food with levels of sugar are far more likely to cause weight gain than food with a slightly higher fat content (and therefore more calories). Although obviously not to the extend of eating lots of fatty foods!
Looking at my table they show the nutritional content per pack size and Shape is the smallest of the yoghurts. If I levelled the playing field and worked out the content per 100 g both Shape and my fresh strawberries with Yeo Natural Yoghurt both contain 49 calories. In this comparison, the most modified of the yoghurts Shape has the same calorific value as my fresh strawberries and yoghurt. Guess which one tastes the best?!
Sugar content of the different yoghurts
If I calculated the sugar content also based on 100 g of each yoghurt, the results are surprising.
Müller Fruit Corner – 15.2 grams = 3.8 teaspoons
Activa – 13.3 grams = 3.3 teaspoons
Shape – 6.3 grams = 1.6 teaspoons
Fresh strawberries with Yeo Natural – 5.5 grams = 1.4 teaspoons
Again the taste of the fresh strawberries and natural yoghurt is worlds apart from that in the packs – yet it has less sugar than even the one advertised at being the one to help you with weight-loss.
When eating meals or snacks with a high sugar content (whether this is added sugar or naturally occurring) your body quickly digests and absorb the sugars into the blood stream. Unless there is an instant need for energy, your body won’t tolerate a high blood sugar level for long, so your body releases insulin to ‘mop-up’ any excess sugar. Insulin helps converts the sugars into body fat.
We can change how our body processes sugar by ensuring that each meal or snack contains some fibre, good fats and/or protein. These nutrients take the body much longer to digest. Adding them to your meal or snack means your body can’t ‘get at’ the sugars so quickly. This helps keep your blood sugar levels stable, minimises the insulin response and lessens the creation of body fat.
I often add some seeds and nuts to my strawberry yoghurt. Now it is nutritionally balanced with good fats, adds more protein nd fibre. I usually just sprinkle them on, but for the purposes of this article, I weighed them and worked out the nutrient content. In this photo are 5 g of pumpkin seeds, 3 g of sunflower seeds and 8 g of almonds.
My strawberry yoghurt now contains: 154 calories, 7.2 grams of fat (much of which is now rich in good fats), 8.4 grams of sugar, 8.8 g of protein and 2.3 grams of fibre. This is far, far more filling than any of the other yoghurts. The inclusion of the nuts and seeds means this dessert will stay in my stomach for several hours helping me stay feeling full. Despite having more calories, it’s far less likely to be converted into body fat than if I had eaten any of the commercial yoghurts.
Which Strawberry Yoghurt is the best?
The fresh strawberries with natural yoghurt wins hands down – for taste, health and for helping me stay slim.
Finally, using Sainsbury’s website for prices…
Fresh strawberries with Yeo Natural Yoghurt (part of a 500g pot) 59p.
Müller Fruit Corner Strawberry 70p each or 50p when bought as a 6-pack
Shape Strawberry Yoghurt 25 p (bought as a 4-pack)
Activa Strawberry Yoghurt 50 p (bought as a 4-pack)
I personally wouldn’t want to eat any yoghurt other than natural with live cultures, but if you forced me to choose one, then I would opt for the Müller Fruit Corner. Despite it’s high sugar content, it is made from all natural ingredients and I would prefer that over very highly modified Shape and Activa brands.
Eat Well—Be Well 🙂
I am always interested to hear your thoughts, views and ideas. Get in touch via the comments box below.
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