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The AFK community were asked what product they would like to have reviewed next. There were a few close contenders, but yoghurt took the lead. The most popular yoghurts were voted for. These are the yoghurts that form the basis of this review.

I have included a few extra yoghurts. These are yoghurts that I am aware of that rank well. I have done this to illustrate the differences across yoghurts.

I have kept this yoghurt very simple, looking only at ‘plain’ yoghurts. It is amazing how many yoghurts there are when looking at the plain versions. The analysis becomes a lot more complicated the minute we start looking into different flavours.

I generally recommend to stick to the plain yoghurts and top them with delicious fresh fruit and amazing wholefood ingredients instead.

I know that many of you consider sweetened vs unsweetened, so I have made sure to include both options for you, so that you can make an informed decision.

Let’s get to the additive free review

It blows my mind every time I undertake a review. There is a lot of work that goes behind the analysis. I thought that by keeping the review to favourite brands and reviewing only plain flavours, it would keep the review small. There were over 70 different ingredients used across the 45+ yoghurts that I reviewed! Imagine how many ingredients there would have been if I had looked at fruit flavoured yoghurts!

No wonder people are so confused and don’t know which options to choose!!

Please note: this is NOT an exhaustive list of yoghurts. The brands that were voted most popular by the AFK community have been reviewed.

What ingredients should you find in your yoghurt?

Yoghurt has a long history and an interesting one too!

Yoghurt is believed to have been discovered by Central Asian herdsman. They stored their extra goat’s milk into containers that were made out of animal stomachs to preserve whilst travelling. They realised that the milk became thick and tart and still edible despite long times in the hot sun.

Yoghurt was always made at home up until 1919.

It wasn’t until 1905 when a Bulgarian microbiologist discovered Lactobacillus balgaricus (the bacteria strain that ferments milk into yoghurt). After this was discovered, yoghurt became commercialised in Barcelona, Spain in 1919.

Moving on to today, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) defines yoghurt to mean:

“A fermented milk where the fermentation has been carried out with lactic acid producing microorganisms.”

fermented milk is defined as:

“A food obtained by fermentation of milk or products derived from milk, where the fermentation involves the action of microorganisms and results in coagulation and a reduction in ph”

We now see a variety of different microorganisms used in our yoghurts and “media” that they are grown on. More on this a little later.

So we know, in the beginning, yoghurt was simply milk and microorganisms.

Your typical ingredients that you will find in your yoghurt should include:

Milk 
Cultures (microorganisms)

What ingredients do we now find in yoghurts?

I will take you through each category of ingredients, so that you get an idea of the range.

Milk and cream

Biodynamic / organic pasteurised milk 
Organic milk 
Jersey cow milk
Pasteurised whole milk
Skim milk
Organic cream
Cream

I understand that some people have allergies and intolerances to dairy – either to the proteins or sensitive to lactose.. That is why I have included non dairy options too (see below).

It appears that there are a lot of people that choose low fat yoghurt or fat free yoghurt. I think many people don’t realise that by choosing fat free or low fat that they may be reducing the amazing benefits that come from yoghurt. Not to mention there is a big difference in taste!

People tend to think that by consuming low fat or fat free yoghurt they are less likely to become obese than people who eat full fat options.

Swedish study says that consumption of full fat dairy product is correlated with a lower risk of developing central obesity. Central obesity being excessive weight gain around the abdomen. A meta analysis of 16 studies in the European Journal of Nutrition echoes the weight-gain link.

US nutritionist Walter Willett of Harvard School of Public Health comments on the debate:

“The idea that all fats are bad still persists in the minds of many people, despite layers of evidence that this is not true. If anything, low fat/high carbohydrate diets seem to be related to greater long-term weight gain.”

Walter Willett’s theory on why obesity risk might be higher for those consuming low – fat dairy products:

“One likely explanation is that the full-fat version provides more satiety, but it is also possible that some of the fatty acids in milk products have an additional effect on weight regulation. Also, unfortunately, in many low fat dairy products the fat is replaced by sugar, and these will almost certainly induce more weight gain than the full fat versions.”

This is a complex area….but something worth considering and investigating further depending on your reasons for choosing low fat / fat free.

I think it is also important to consider that milk contains water soluble and fat soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins are a type of vitamin that is absorbed into the body through fatty tissue. Fat soluble vitamins absorb best when taken with higher fat foods.

There are 4 types of fat soluble vitamins:

– Vitamin A
– Vitamin D
– Vitamin E
– Vitamin K

“Milk contains the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. The content level of fat soluble vitamins in dairy products depends on the fat content of the product”. Your body is actually likely to absorb less nutrients without the fat that accompanies the milk.

Food for thought…..

Plant milks

In the selected vegan yoghurts, I saw the following used as the base for the yoghurt:

Coconut
Coconut milk
Almonds
Coconut water

Cultures

In a lot of the yoghurts I reviewed, I found only “live cultures”, “probiotics” listed in the ingredients. I presume this is because the individual strains are very long names and it can be hard to fit on product labels.

I will say that every manufacturer that I spoke to, they were more than willing to provide which strains were included in their yoghurt. I wanted to make sure that they were all the cultures (and nothing else hidden) in the catch all ‘live cultures”.

Not all manufacturers have replied at this stage. I have waited longer than usual for responses. It is a busy time of year, I will update the findings if I hear back subsequently and the info impacts my ratings.

The types of live cultures and probiotics that were included in the yoghurts:

Probiotics acidophilus
Lactobacillus Acidophilus
Synbio – Lactobacillus.
Lactobacillus Casei L. Bulgaricus
Rhamnosus
Paracasei
Probiotics bifidus
Bifidobacterium
S. Thermophilus


I am not going to attempt to discuss the benefits and advantages of these strains. I recommend having a chat to your naturopath about which strains would be most beneficial for you and your family.

Reviewing the cultures in the vegan yoghurts, labelled as “live vegan cultures” was interesting.

Vegan cultures

Initially I had a hard time getting my head around ‘live vegan cultures’. In the beginning, I assumed that the strains required to make yoghurt needed to be animal derived.

I was informed by vegan yoghurt manufacturers that the cultures are sourced to ensure that they do not come into contact with dairy and are vegan friendly. These cultures are not grown on dairy “media”.

Some manufacturers were happy to discuss what ‘media’ they were grown on. Other manufactures less so. I recommend that you contact the manufacturer if you are concerned about what ‘media’ your vegan culture is grown on. For the purpose of this review, I have made a call, that it is outside the scope of this product review.

Other ingredients

Remembering, traditionally yoghurt comprised only two ingredients, milk and cultures.

Let’s have a look at all the other ingredients that are now included in commercialised yoghurts:

Milk solids

Organic milk solids
Milk solids
Non fat milk solids
Skim milk powder

This is an interesting ingredient that appears in most of the yoghurts I reviewed. Milk solids refers to the dried powder that remains after all the water is removed from the milk. These are often added to yoghurt to give a richer “mouth feel’ to low fat yoghurts, without adding extra fat.

There is debate about the health impact of milk solids. There is a school of thought that believes that during the processing of turning fresh milk into a powder, it results in cholesterol oxidising.

What’s the big deal of oxidised cholesterol?

Oxidised cholesterol is a dangerous form of cholesterol and can be irritating to blood vessels. It is this irritation that triggers the formation of plaque, the precursor to heart disease.

Speaking with one of the most passionate manufactures about the milk solids, their perspective was:

“Studies on dairy milk powders / dairy products have come to no conclusive evidence that oxidised cholesterols are present or at any level to cause any risk.”

I have come across some articles that indicate that oxidised cholesterols are present and can cause risk:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jssc.200301249

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/MV_Calvo/publication/272785201_Presence_of_cholesterol_oxidation_products_in_processed_dairy_foods/links/54edcd690cf272fc6d225551.pdf

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1365-2621.1988.tb10181.x

In my rankings, I have included it as a highly processed ingredient and will leave you to decide if this is an ingredient you choose to avoid in future.

Sweeteners

Organic raw sugar
Organic honey
Honey
Sugar
Fruit juice concentrate
Tapioca syrup
Dextrose

A big range of sweeteners!

I will say in the past I have been very dubious about fruit concentrates.

I was surprised to learn that techniques have improved when looking at fruit juice concentrates. There are now alternative options to use sugars derived from fruits without hydrolysis, chemical products or enzymes. The process is a physical extraction only.

Not all manufacturers have responded or use these techniques. This has been reflected in the ratings. If I haven’t heard back from a manufacturer on how they have processed this ingredient I have classified it a highly processed ingredient.

This is a perfect example of why you can’t see an ingredient on a label and assume every concentrate has been made in the same way.

Tapioca syrup was used in one of the vegan yoghurts to aid the fermentation process. It provides food for the live cultures to feed on. In dairy yoghurt production, the cows milk contain naturally occurring lactose that the cultures feed on.

Usually the syrup is made using enzymatically hydrolysed and hence I classify it an an ultra processed ingredient.

Starches / gums / thickeners / emulsifiers

Organic tapioca starch
Tapioca
Rice starch
Rice flour
Native starch
Corn starch
Modified starch
Pectin

Gelatine
Tara Gum
Agar
Locust bean gum

Emulsifiers

Starch is increasingly used as a functional group in many industrial applications and foods due to its ability to work as a thickener. [1]

Stabilizers are important ingredients in manufactured dairy products because of their capability to improve viscosity and sensory properties, and inhibit or decrease whey separation during storage, as well as enhance the ratio of total solids in manufactured dairy products [2]

There are many sources of stabilizers. Some are synthetic (for example Carboxyl Methyl Cellulose); many of them have a plant origin, which is considered the cheapest and includes the most widely used ones such as corn starch, while a few, like gelatin, are of animal origin.

Starch is also widely used in yogurt manufacturing as a thickener to reduce defects, making the body and texture of manufactured yogurt appealing as well as reducing cracks in the surface of the curd milk [3,4]. Therefore, many plants are used to extract starch.

Again, there is a lot of variance when it comes to starches in terms of how they are processed. Some a created by physical processes, such as grinding rice, others are treated with enzymes to create the starches. I have reflected these differences in the rankings.

Colours

Caramel
Carotene
Paprika extract

Thankfully only a few yoghurts contained colour. If real ingredients are used, there is no need for colour in yoghurt. Often colour is added to make the yoghurt look creamier than it is.

Flavours

Natural vanilla bean flavour
Natural flavours
Flavour

These types of ingredients are what single manufacturers out from the rest of the pack. There really is no need for any of these ingredients in a yoghurt. I would want to see real vanilla bean, not an imitation flavour. Check my blog for topics on flavours to learn more.

Again, you need to question: 

Acidity regulators

Citric acid
Acidity regulator
Malic acid

I found an interesting correlation when looking at these acidity regulators in products. The products that contained acidity regulators also contained the ingredient water. Knowing the two ingredients that are required to make yoghurt are milk and cultures, why would water be included? To cut costs perhaps? For me, this raises the question, if water was excluded from the product, perhaps the acidity regulators could be excluded too?

Let’s get to the rankings

I know that you are eager to see the results. As I have mentioned to the AFK Community already, not all the manufacturers responded to my queries and questions, despite enthusiastic customer service emails initially. Manufacturers that had nothing to hide, were more than happy to field my questions and answer my queries multiple times and quickly!

The following rankings are based on my knowledge and experience with these ingredients and discussions with other manufacturers. 

You will see that I have ranked the yoghurt into 4 categories:

Avoid

These yoghurts contain some or all of the following ingredients: flavourings, gums, thickeners, acidity regulators, food colours and milk solids.

Mundella Greek Vanilla Yoghurt

OK

These yoghurts contain some or all of the following ingredients:
gums, thickeners and acidity regulators.

Nakula Coconut milk yoghurt natural

BETTER

These yoghurts contain milk solids or starch (vegan)

HnH Coconut Yoghurt

BEST

These yoghurts are clean and completely free of additives and highly processed ingredients.

Bondi Coconut yoghurt

How does your yoghurt rank?

I would love to hear your thoughts….what do you think about the above? Will you be voting with your dollar and buying a different yoghurt going forward?

Is it any wonder that consumers have such trouble navigating the supermarket shelves? The average consumer does not have time to do this. Big food manufacturers rely on this. They know you are time poor.  

Here at Additive Free Kids, I want to help empower each consumer to vote with their dollar every day. To help you, I have created the AFK PANTRY RESET coaching course.

This course will remove the overwhelm and fast track your journey to additive free. You can find out more here and join the waitlist.

Which vote will you be making at the supermarket next? If you would like to take a look at other product reviews or blogs, click here.


About The Author

Francine Bell

Francine Bell is the Managing Director of Additive Free Kids, a food coach, mentor and is one of Australia’s leading activists against additives in foods. Francine is a mum to 5 boys and has personal experience working through the damaging effects of additives to resolve the multiple health issues and behavioural problems in her own children. It became Francine’s purpose to help other families achieve the same improvements for their families. These changes can be overwhelming, especially for time poor parents, Francine has done all the hard work for families to ensure they have access to additive free food, anytime, anywhere. Additive Free Kids specialises in assisting families to live healthy lives free from additives. Visit her website

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