Dessert is dessert and no sugary treat can ever really be considered “healthy,” but the low-fat frozen yogurt craze has many of us convinced it doesn’t count.
Katherine Booking, a registered dietician and co-founder of AppforHealth.com, cautions consumers that it does. “A lot of frozen yogurt places these days allow you to self-serve and you can easily end up doling out huge portions, then adding high-calorie toppings,” she says. “You could walk out of your favorite fro-yo shop with a 400-plus calorie treat; thinking you’re having a 100 calorie dessert.”
A common frozen-yogurt myth is that since it’s yogurt, it’s full of healthy probiotics that maintain digestive health and give your immune system a boost. But whether a given brand of frozen yogurt contains enough probiotic bacteria to actually have this beneficial effect depends on the manufacturer. According to Simin Nikbin Meydani, a professor of nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University:
Although the flash-freezing technique used in the production of frozen yogurt, unlike slow freezing in a freezer, should not kill the live cultures [and healthy bacteria in yogurt], there is no guarantee that this won’t occur.
As a result, the number of bacteria in frozen yogurt is usually lower than that in the yogurt it was made from. However, different yogurts and frozen yogurts are made with different types of live cultures and probiotics, and the levels that remain in frozen yogurt depend on the numbers that were in the yogurt and on the heartiness of the specific bacteria that was used.
To find out if your yogurt has a healthy helping of probiotics, you should read labels and look for the National Yogurt Association’s “Live and Active Cultures” seals on yogurt containers. But, as far as Booking is concerned, “Overall, probiotics are not worth the calories in most frozen yogurt since you can get probiotics virtually calorie-free in capsules or in fat-free regular yogurt.”
So what’s Booking’s solution? “I’d rather opt for a small portion — about a half-cup serving — of the ‘real deal’: regular ice cream. If I’m going to indulge, I really want to enjoy my indulgence,” she says.
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