[tc-my-thumb]A patient today told me that the Cornucopia Institute released a “Yogurt Buyer’s Guide” and that the yogurts I recommend were not high up on the list. The Cornucopia Institute does great work and I don’t ever recall disagreeing with their positions, so I was eager to take a look as to where my favorite yogurts landed.
Best Yogurt: Types & Differences
If you look at the buyer’s guide the Seven Stars logo (one of my favorite yogurts) is for the maple yogurt, but the Traders Creamery is for their plain yogurt. Initially I thought that they were comparing the maple to the plain, but that is not the case as they explain the methodology here. It turns out that they are holding companies accountable that sell added sweeteners or additive filled yogurts. If any product in their product line contains more than just milk and lactose digesting bacteria then the entire brand can lose points.
For example even if a yogurt by brand A is just as pure and natural as a yogurt by brand B, but brand B has one additional sweetened yogurt, it costs brand B in the Cornucopia point rating system. The scoring is not based on an individual product within the brand, but rather the entire product line or brand. In addition my favorite yogurt, Side Hlll Farm from Western Mass, had points removed because they are not yet certified organic, although their cows are grass fed.
Yogurt Marketing Lies
The Cornucopia Institute is calling on yogurt manufacturers to stop the marketing lies. They are asking the FDA to standardize the definition of yogurt just as cheese is standardized. They are especially concerned about the advertising to mothers thinking they are giving something healthy to their kids.
Yoplait Go-Gurt—“fruity” drinkable yogurt in a tube marketed to children has no actual fruit but tastes and looks like fruit yogurt due to artificial colors and artificial flavors. Go-Gurt also contains carrageenan along with artificial preservatives and synthetic ingredients. The milk is conventionally produced, from CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) dairy cows fed genetically engineered corn and soybeans. And on a price-per-ounce basis, the Go-Gurt brand, owned by General Mills, costs more than many organic yogurt products.
Organic yogurt should be a somewhat minimal choice for dairy. But even more important than organic is grass-fed as some may be grass-fed but not organic.
… consistent with other recent peer-reviewed and published findings, found that organic yogurt had more advantageous ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids and higher levels of beneficial fats, including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), than conventional yogurt.
And The Best Yogurt Goes To…
The yogurts I think are the best available in Massachusetts are: (all Whole Fat Plain Yogurt – if you want fruit w/yogurt then add it when you eat it!)
- Trader’s Point Creamery – grass fed – (in glass a big plus, but $$$$)
- Side Hill Farm – local to Mass and grass fed (my cost/benefit/local favorite)
- Seven Stars – Biodynamic grass fed
- Hawthorne Valley – Biodynamic farm and grass fed
- Butterwork Farm – most sour – organic and grass fed
All of these yogurts are organic, although the Side Hill is not yet certified organic. In the winter the cows get fermented hay bales and some organic grain.
(If you are in Brunswick Maine they have some awesome grass fed raw yogurt sold in glass (Raw milk is legal in the Vacation state!. I forget the name, but wow is it good.)
If you want a Greek yogurt which is good for people with a whey intolerance then the best one is the FAGE Total. Be careful not to get the 0% or 2% “FAGE Total”as that has added thickeners and has fat soluble nutrients removed. Full fat only. Plain only. FAGE pledges to only buy from Northeast farmers that do not use bovine growth hormone (BGH). I wish they could do better and buy from higher quality farms. There is a market ripe for organic grass fed Greek yogurt.
Why So Much Sugar In Yogurt?
While we are on the subject of yogurt I thought I’d answer a frequent question “Why is there so much sugar in yogurt?”. If you look at a plain whole fat yogurt you will see that there are several grams of sugar. This sugar is lactose. The total natural sugar should not vary much between real yogurts as the lactose breaks down to about 4-6%. You cannot get it much lower as further fermentation causes a lower pH and would kill the bacteria. So any yogurt is going to have naturally occurring sugar, although people with lactose intolerance can often tolerate yogurt because of the fermentation process.
So enjoy your full fat plain yogurt until the cows come home.
Yours In Health
Licensed Dietitian / Nutritionist
Lerebours E1, N’Djitoyap Ndam C, Lavoine A, Hellot MF, Antoine JM, Colin R. Yogurt and fermented-then-pasteurized milk: effects of short-term and long-term ingestion on lactose absorption and mucosal lactase activity in lactase-deficient subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 May;49(5):823-7. PMID: 2497632. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]