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The 'health' food that's making us fat
The U.S. dietary guidelines urge us to eat yogurt, but not the kind with 30 grams of sugar and a cookie-crumb topping. The marketing of yogurt explains a lot about the obesity epidemic, and there are some types you should only have for a treat. - photo by Jennifer Graham
The U.S. dietary guidelines urge us to eat yogurt, but not the kind with 30 grams of sugar and a topping made of candy pieces or cookie crumbs. That such a thing even exists explains a lot about the obesity epidemic and why it's so difficult for people to lose weight, according to the BBC, which says that dessert yogurts masquerading as health foods contribute to the "obesogenic" environments.

Unsweetened, full-fat yogurt is, in fact, a powerfully healthful food, correspondent Nick Triggle wrote for the BBC.

"It can boost your immune system, is good for your bones and is great at satisfying hunger," Triggle wrote.

"The problem is that a great deal of the yoghurt we buy is not the natural stuff. Instead we seem to like the processed products, which are made by partly substituting yoghurt and adding a combination of other ingredients such as gelatine, sugar and flavourings. It tends to be cheaper to produce per calorie, but nowhere near as good for you."

For evidence, the BBC cites a report by the U.K.'s Food Foundation, which analyzed the nutritional content of Mller Corner yogurt, once sold in the U.S.

The report noted that the products in the company's "Crunch Corner" line contain between 21 and 30 grams of sugar.

"For a young child these products can contain almost enough sugar to take them close to their daily recommended sugar intake. For adults they commonly have enough to take them over the halfway mark," the BBC report said.

Mller, which calls its high-sugar offerings "dessert yogurt," doesn't suggest we eat Crunch Corner at every meal, but says it can be part of a "varied and balanced diet." But health-food crusaders say the bigger problem is advertising that makes us want more of the foods we should eat the least.

"Some 58 percent of advertising spent is on confectionery and convenience food, compared to only 3 percent on fruit, vegetables and pasta" (in the U.K.), Triggle wrote. This helps create the "obesogenic environment" that contributes to weight gain and encourages sedentary behavior.

Some people believe a sugar tax will help solve the problem, both in the U.K. and in the U.S. But sometimes all a family needs is a reminder to check the labels before loading the shopping cart with yogurt.

The USDA says sugar should make up no more than 10 percent of our daily calories meaning no more than 12 teaspoons a day if you eat 2,000 calories. (Four grams of sugar, by the way, is roughly equivalent to one teaspoon.)

Of course, some of the sugar in yogurt is natural and comes from milk. It's the added sugars that are the problem, registered dietician Ellie Krieger writes in The Washington Post, which means we should probably pass on the ones that have candy and cookie pieces to sprinkle on top.

She says we should eat both thickened yogurt (like Greek or Icelandic Skyr) and regular yogurt, and she recommends buying nonfat or reduced-fat varieties, then adding healthy fats such as nuts or nut butter, and maybe a little fresh fruit.

"Second, because calorie for calorie, refined sugar appears to be worse for your health than saturated fat, if faced with a choice between a sugary nonfat yogurt and an unsweetened full-fat option, go for the latter," Krieger says.
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