The frozen yogurt industry, a multi-billion dollar business, has swept the nation of pints and frozen yogurt shops.
Since regular yogurt in its purest form contains live active cultures and probiotics that are beneficial for one’s health, frozen yogurt has developed the stigma of a healthy dessert.
“Probiotics are healthy bacteria that naturally live in our own gut,” Keene State College’s Health Science Professor Jeanelle Boyer said.
“In yogurt, there are good, healthy bacteria. If people have less healthy bacterial populations, they might be at risk for more inflammation, or gastrointestinal disease,” Boyer said.
However, from reading nutritional facts and ingredient lists more in depth, recent research supports that most frozen yogurt brands are not healthy options or even healthier than ice-cream.
“If you want to compare frozen yogurt to some ice-creams, in comparison it could be healthier. But to consider it a health food I think sends a wrong message because it does tend to be high in sugar, and quite a few of them are high in saturated fats if you can’t find reduced fat or low fat versions,” Boyer said.
Even though yogurt contains health benefits like healthy bacteria, probiotics and live cultures, these healthy properties could be diminished while processing yogurt into frozen yogurt.
“Freezing doesn’t kill bacteria itself, but some freezing processes can create crystals, like ice crystals, that are hard on the bacteria,” Boyer said.
As well as freezing being a potential harm to the probiotics and live cultures in yogurt, the process of pasteurization—heating products to rid all bacteria, which creates a longer shelf life in frozen yogurt—will kill the probiotics and live cultures.
However, not all brands of frozen yogurts are pasteurized.
This means they can still contain those probiotics and live cultures that benefit our health. The National Yogurt Association has a voluntary labeling program to further distinguish which frozen yogurt brands contain live cultures after being processed. If there is a NYA Live & Active Cultures seal on a brand of frozen yogurt, consumers know the specific brand contains probiotics and live cultures.
However, even though some frozen yogurt brands or franchises contain probiotics and live cultures, they also contain a large amount of sugars, extra calories and saturated fat unless if it’s fat free. There are other ways to get probiotics.
“Anything that is fermented has a microbial process,” Boyer said, who likes to drink kombucha for her source of probiotics. Foods like sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables are known to have live cultures and probiotics. If those foods or drinks are not appetizing there are probiotic supplements as well.
Through recent research and exposure of frozen yogurt not being as healthy as consumers thought, perhaps the hype is decreasing.
“I feel like the stigma of frozen yogurt is over-hyped because frozen yogurt, even though it’s marketed to be healthy, isn’t when you look into the fine ingredients,” Justin Yamet, a communications student at KSC said.
With an interest for food and healthy eating, Yamet provided some advice.
“The way I see it is, if you can’t read it, don’t eat it,” Yamet said about the long list of ingredients we see on most frozen yogurt brands. “People should know that it’s not a replacement for regular yogurt because there’s high fat, and high sugar in it. But if people are thinking that it’s a healthy treat, they’re not correct. It’s not healthy, it’s just like ice-cream. It has a lot of sugar, so if you really wanted to eat a healthy dessert, just eat fruit,” Yamet said.
Boyer also offers advice about being an aware frozen yogurt consumer. “This is where I always encourage people to read nutrition labels and learn the basics of nutrition so they can be a knowledgeable consumer,” Boyer said.
However, there is still hope for frozen yogurt lovers out there, and that hope happens to be Keene State’s neighbor. Chris Georgiatis of Yolo Frozen Yogurt in downtown Keene explained how Yolo strives to provide healthy and delicious options for customers.
“My philosophy that I built this around was if I myself wouldn’t eat it, then I wouldn’t serve it to any customer.” Georgiatis stated. “For example, the yogurt you go and get at franchises is typically good to sit in a freezer for six months. I think about that to myself and I say ‘how is it possible that a milk product can be good six months from today,’ and that doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Georgiatis while cutting up fresh strawberries for toppings.
With only 25 calories per ounce, six grams of sugar per ounce and fat-free, Yolo’s fresh frozen yogurts seems to be a healthier option than most leading brands and franchises.
Also, through Georgiatis’s process in creating his frozen yogurt, probiotics and live active cultures are still present in Yolo’s frozen yogurt.
“I wanted to serve something that was healthy in terms of frozen yogurt,” Georgiatis said.
Perhaps frozen yogurt should not be considered a healthy dessert, but “froyo” lovers should know that there are healthier options as long as they strive to become educated consumers and read labels.
Annelise Kloster can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org