Greek Yogurt Recall: How to Choose the Best Yogurt

Last week, the yogurt-maker Chobani recalled some of its Greek yogurts after reports of gastrointestinal illnesses.


On its website on September 5, 2013, the day the recall was announced, a statement read:
Today Chobani, Inc. issued a voluntary recall of a small quantity of product produced at the company's Idaho facility. Over 95% of the units in question have already been identified and removed from retailer shelves.

Chobani began a proactive and voluntary withdrawal of product, after learning that a small quantity had been affected by a type of mold commonly found in the dairy environment. While this type of mold is unlikely to have ill health effects, due to some claims of illness the company has decided to go from voluntarily withdrawing to voluntarily recalling the limited amount of potentially affected product.

When the news about the recall first hit, I received a notice in my inbox that came directly from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. From the way it was worded, I (erroneously) assumed it was all of the Chobani Greek yogurts. This turned out to be false. Here's the information you need to pay attention to, according to Chobani's updated community website:

 If you've purchased these products with the code 16-012, best by dates 9/11/2013 – 10/7/2013, please discard and contact our Customer Loyalty Team: http://chobani.com/care.

I happen to be a big fan of Greek yogurt. It's not just about its taste and texture, which is tangy and creamy and feels indulgent (while it's not). It's about its protein content too—it's high. And frankly, I have trouble finding foods I like that contain the protein I should be eating daily (I could live happily on carbs—the good kind, of course).

In general, it's recommended that 10 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories come from protein. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women get about 46 grams a day. Just to give you an example of protein counts, a cup of milk contains 8 grams; a 3-ounce piece of meat contains about 21 grams.

In a 2011 health article at U.S. News & World Report.com, (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diet/articles/2011/09/30/greek-yogurt-vs-regular-yogurt-which-is-more-healthful) writers Angela Haupt and Kurtis Hiatt sing Greek yogurt's praises:

In roughly the same amount of calories, it can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half. Those are "two things dietitians love," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet.

So, now what? Even though all of Chobani's Greek yogurts are not affected, you might be made uncomfortable by the recall and searching for a new yogurt. Or perhaps now that Greek yogurt has come to your attention, you might be interested in trying it for the first time.

But it can get mighty confusing to the average consumer. Fruit on top, fruit on the bottom, fruit mixed in. Fat-free, low-fat, sugar-free, dairy-free. Toppings and mix-ins.

With all the yogurts on the shelf—both Greek and traditional—how to decide?

First, try to determine if the (healthy) bacteria in yogurt is "live" bacteria. Look on the label for words like "live cultures" or "active cultures." It may or may not carry the National Yogurt Association's "Live & Active Cultures" seal, which requires a yearly fee for the producer. Because live cultures decline over time, eat your yogurt soon after purchasing it to get the most live cultures possible.

Why do you need good bacteria in your body? It provides benefits by adjusting the natural balance of organisms in your intestines or by acting directly on your digestion or immune function.

It's a win-win for those of you who are lactose intolerant: you should have less diarrhea, gas or other symptoms when you eat yogurt. The cultures in yogurt can help by changing milk's naturally occurring sugar, called lactose, into lactic acid.

How can you decide which yogurts are best? To keep yogurt healthy, make sure it doesn't contain a lot of saturated fat, added sugars or possibly unsafe sweeteners.

High-fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar can double yogurt's sugar content. Those fruit-on-the-bottom varieties? The "fruit" is often fruit-juice concentrates, not real fruit. And all those added toppings—mini M&Ms, for instance—may make yogurt taste better to you, but they can add up to soaring sugar content, without any added nutrition.

Keep in mind that there are naturally occurring sugars in yogurt's milk and fruit (that is, if it's real fruit), and the Nutrition Facts label does not tell consumers how much sugar in the product comes from naturally occurring sugars versus the added sugars, which can account for up to 12 grams of sugar. Confusing, I know.

Some yogurts offer added vitamin D, which is a tough (but valuable) vitamin to get without exposing your body to the sun's rays or taking vitamin D supplements. Very few foods contain natural vitamin D. It is present in the flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna and mackerel) and fish liver oils, as well as smaller quantities in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.

If you need vitamin D from yogurt to help you reach your daily target—which is 600 IU for adults up to age 70 and 800 IU for people over 70 (note that the recommendations vary)—you should check the label. Vitamin D is listed as a percent of the daily value (400 IU). For instance, a yogurt with 20 percent of the daily value will contain 80 IU.

You may also enjoy getting more information here:
Treat Your Body Right
Choosing the Right Yogurt for You
The Facts About Milk

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