Get acquainted with the brands available to you, and do some research online. If it is an organic yogurt, than you know the cows haven't been give Growth Hormone. If it isn't an organic, then check to see if they advertise "no bovine growth hormone" on their site. The one major national chain that is non-organic but BGH free is Brown Cow. Dannon and Yoplait both use BGH.
First step is looking at the labels. The ingredients should be Milk, whole milk, no part skim or low-fat etc. (all will say pasteurized, but you don't want homogenized milk.)
After Milk should come the live culture blend. These vary from brand to brand. There are some that are more beneficial than others, but generally speaking you just need them to be "live." And OF COURSE ALWAYS BY PLAIN!!! YOU CAN ADD IN FRUIT IF YOU CHOOSE!
All ingredients aren't created equal...Let's start with milk...
Ingredient 1: Milk
- Ideal circumstance is milk from Grass Fed Jersey Cows (why jersey? They produce the highest butterfat ratio milk which makes them ideal for yogurt without stabilizers or thickeners). If the brand isn't grass feeding, but they are jersey cows, it is at least one step up. Notice there is no preference here about organic vs. conventional. This yogurt is the one that would be far superior in any category, organic or conventional. The only brand I know of that is sold in larger chain store is "Hawthorne Valley." You can find them at Whole Foods Grocery Stores and Wegmans Stores alike...it is priced in the mid 4's at Wegmans and I believe high 3's at Whole Foods
- Next in line is milk from organically fed jersey cows or another variety. At least you know they haven't been eating tons of GMOed corn and pesticide ridden nonsense....
And they will be antibiotic free...another plus.
- next in line is conventional Jersey Cow or other cows that haven't been treated with BGH.
- lastly we have our conventional national brands.
I'm not going to go into the huge list that might be present on national conventional brands...b/c quite frankly it would be impossible to cover them, and they are frequently changing additives etc.
- Inulin: A popular additive in Organic brands (Stoneyfield to just name one). So, just b/c it is in an organic product doesn't mean that it is good for you. There are definitely 2 sides of the coin on this, but most importantly they really have done no extended studies on this substance. It is naturally occurring and found primarily in substances like the Jerusalem artichoke, and in small amounts in onions. The caveat with it, however, is that it is an isolated substance that is being widely produced as a "sugar" substitute type substance. I hope we have learned our lesson over the years of isolating a single compound out of a "natural" fruit or plant and extensively using it without the other naturally occurring counterparts. (Sucrose would be one, as would Splenda) We know the effects of Table Sugar, and while it is natural, I don't think anyone would argue it is Good for us.
- Inulin is said to to be a pre-biotic which helps in the production of more probiotics... This could be a good thing... Research has also shown that b/c it completely by passing the upper gut and goes right into the colon it feeds a really negative bacteria that is associated with leaky gut syndrome and candida infections. Introduction of inulin to an individuals system can produce no results or that similar to a food allergy or sensitivity...gas, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, headache, etc.
- Another popular one is Pectin:
- This is has been around for quite some time. It is used as a stabilizer or thickener in yogurts. You will frequently find this in yogurt where the cows aren't grass fed simply b/c a non-grass fed cow's milk contains less butterfat. In order for the yogurt to "set-up" to a consistency that most American favor, they add in the Pectin. If you search for European style yogurt, you might have some luck in finding yogurt without pectin.
- Pectin again is a plant cell wall isolate. There have been no negative studies that suggest pectin to have an adverse health effect. It is just as sign that the milk for the yogurt was unhealthy...
If you are using yogurt and you love your brand, and it is a good quality one, please share your information with us.