Today, fat is demonized as a horrible component of food that we should avoid at all costs. Commercials today show skinny girls eating low-fat and zero-fat products, thus making the link in our minds between beauty and low-fat. If you eat high-fat products, you must need a motorized cart to push you around at Walmart, right?

Is this association really deserving and true, though? I’m not so sure. I decided to look at the list of ingredients between two different types of yogurts I just happened to find in my fridge and see if anything was hiding in that low-fat yogurt.

Liberté Méditerranée Moka (8.5% M.F.) Liberté-Méditerranée. Source: http://thehealthyapple.com/2010/04/23/liberte-yogourt-recipes/

Ingredients:

  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Coffee preparation
  • Active bacterial culture (acidophilus, bifidus, L. casei cultures)
  • Sugar
  • Skim milk powder
  • Milk protein concentrate
Yoplait Source Vanilla Tango selection (0% M.F.) Vanilla Tango. Source: http://www.yoplait.ca/source/en/vanille.aspx

Ingredients:

  • Skim Milk
  • Fruits (mandarins, oranges)
  • Active bacterial culture
  • Milk and whey proteins
  • Modified corn starch
  • Gelatine
  • Natural and artificial flavours
  • Pectin
  • Locust bean gum
  • Concentrated lemon juice
  • Potassium sorbate
  • Sucralose
  • Vitamin A palmitate
  • Vitamin D3
  • Colour

The flavours are different so the ingredients aren’t exactly the same. However, see how the high-fat yogurt actually contains less additives than the low-fat one? While there are a lot of good things in the low-fat yogurt as well, there are some other things I’m not so crazy about. Modified corn starch? Artificial flavours? Sucralose? No thanks.

I’m also not sure why yogurt needs to have locust bean gum put in it. The first time I saw that I went “WTF?” I guess without any fat the stuff would be as runny as water without some gum to hold everything together.

Final verdict

Personally, I am just not as satisfied with the low-fat yogurt. I don’t think it’s horrible; in fact, it tastes fine. The Méditerranée is just so much creamier though, and it leaves me feeling fulfilled in my stomach.

Is fat bad for you, or good? Is sucralose safe, or not? Even the nutritional experts can’t agree on these points. While it is true that consuming too many calories will lead to weight gain, regardless of where those calories come from, fat is nonetheless an important and dense energy source, and one that our bodies are naturally equipped to burn efficiently, if given the right incentives to do so.

Many modern findings are supporting the fact that many of our modern health problems are due to the fact that we eat too many overly-refined foods and processed carbs, not because we eat too much fat. Too much fat can hurt due to intake of too many calories, and it’s true that there are good fats and bad fats, but things like refined grains and sugars, corn starch, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) (where animals are pumped full of, you guessed it, more grains and corn, among other things) have been increasingly shown to be linked to detrimental health outcomes.

Nutrition is an ever-changing field, so the consensus of one year will be the discredited theories of the next. I have personally seen health benefits from switching to a more primal or paleolithic type of diet, and while I don’t go hardcore and reject all modern foods (sure, I eat pizzas every now and then, and I eat at restaurants though I go for delicious yet primal meals, like duck), I do try and eat less refined grain/sugar products, and this alone has made a difference in my mood and well-being.

Further Reading

I’m someone who is susceptible to brain fog, and the doctors are at a complete loss as to why. For me, brain fog is essentially a type of persistent headache that does not hurt, but leaves one’s head clouded nonetheless. I have seen a general practitioner and a neurologist, and after doing an MRI scan, they basically told me to just live with it as it’s probably all in my head, anyways. :)

After doing my own research and reading (since these doctors were unable and unwilling to help), I now believe that it’s connected to the chemical and nutritional balance within my own body. Modern diets really aren’t ideal in more than a few ways, and symptoms such as brain fog can arise as a result. Proper nutrition is essential to maintaining a healthy body, and yogurt can play a key part of that.

While I think that Liberté Méditerranée tastes much better than the alternatives, and while it contains less additives (no sucralose, for one!) it’s still a commercially-processed product so I’m not sure how ideal it is. I do feel better after eating it, so I wonder if a natural yogurt would be even better.

Mrs. Accountability has written about GAPS syndrome and clearing brain fog over at Out of Debt Again, and she was kind enough to share the following resources with me:

Here are a few choice excerpts from the above:

Cultured grade A non fat milk is a euphemism for dry milk dissolved in water. Dry milk is produced by spray-drying skim milk at extremely high temperatures. This process causes oxidation of remaining lipids, which, in turn, are implicated in atherosclerosis and cancers.”

Sucralose (E 955), a.k.a. Splenda®—an artificial sweetener. It has been reported to cause migraines, DNA damage, and thymus degeneration.  The thymus produces T-cells, which play a central role in adaptive immunity.”

“Finally, if you are experiencing bloating, flatulence, or abdominal discomfort after eating processed yogurt or ice cream, you are likely being affected by soluble fiber fillers, such as inulin, guar gum, agar, or pectin. To exclude junk food like Activia from your diet, just read the labels. By law, it’s all printed there.”

So, reader, what is your take on low-fat versus high-fat foods? Do you avoid the high-fat stuff out of guilt? While I mentioned that the ads for low-fat foods are advertised by skinny girls, many guys go for them as well (probably without telling their guy friends) as they don’t want to walk down the beach with a big belly! Are they really making the right choice, though? Some people (like me) don’t care about the weight gain/weight loss, and avoid artificially low-fat foods for entirely different reasons.

Do you eat anything you want so long as it tastes good? Few topics inspire as diverse a range of opinions as food and nutrition, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. :)

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About

Kevin has left the office, and he is currently fighting the rat race by working on his own business. He enjoys exploring unvisited places around the world and gaining new experiences. He believes that by properly managing our energy and time, we can learn to invest our lives wisely.

49 Comments Kevin on Nov 29th 2010

49 Responses to “Is Low Fat Yogurt Really That Good for You?”

  1. I did the low fat dieting thing in my late twenties/early thirties. I discovered at that time the additives necessary to make the food taste good. For example, in addition to eating low fat, I swore off sugars of all kinds and guess what? Many foods that were low fat were also filled with some sugar derivative or worse yet, an artificial sweetener. I’ve made a point to avoid artificial sweeteners my entire life – some of them are classes as neurotoxins! I believe it was a mistake all those years ago to avoid fats in my diet, and truly believe it set me up with an eating disorder that I’d never had – namely craving sweets when I’d never really been a sweet eater. For most sweets contain fat! Which my body was craving. Fat is vitally important to our well being, especially the function of our brain. Younger people can get by with eating poorly but as the body ages it really starts to show. Great article and thanks for the link!

    • Kevin says:

      Thanks for all of the great help and info, Mrs. Accountability, I really appreciate it! I think you should write a post on the GAPS diet and how it has helped you. It could really benefit a lot of readers.

  2. Hey Kevin,

    I eat organic, plain yogurt only. The low fat and flavored stuff is like wonder bread. Awful stuff that’s more harmful than good. It does its part to increase inflammation, coagulation and the growth of adipose and cancer cells, thanks in part to its higher sugar content. Your brain will thank you, I think, for avoiding any flavored or low fat yogurts. If you want flavour, splash your yogurt with a dash of vanilla and a touch of agave nectar, if you miss the sweetness. It’s better not to have agave nectar, but it’s far better for you than sugar or even honey.

    • Kevin says:

      That’s an apt analogy, I think. I don’t think the government’s doing a very good job here; in fact, they used to promote margarine as a healthy alternative! In fact, the fact that they are the ones saying it is worse, because although people treat a private company’s claims with natural skepticism, they are less likely to do so of government claims.

      I should go find some natural yogurt. If some high-fat supermarket stuff can feel this good, imagine if I could find something better!

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mrs. Accountability, Kevin. Kevin said: New blog post: Is Low Fat Yogurt Really That Good for You? http://www.investitwisely.com/is-low-fat-yogurt-really-that-good-for-you/ [...]

  4. Squirrelers says:

    Good topic here, Kevin. Especially salient for me, as just an hour ago I ate an individual serving of yogurt.

    Personally, I like Greek-style yogurt. Brands I have tried are Fage and Chobani. The Chobani version I ate this morning was, admittedly, blueberry flavored. The ingredients were:

    Nonfat milk
    Blueberries
    Evaporated Cane Juice
    Blueberries
    Natural Flavors (hmmmm….)
    Pectin
    Active Cultures

    Other than the “Natural Flavors”, I find that the rest are pretty good, even though it’s non-fat. Really, to me the difference is moreso the natural ingredients vs the fat/non-fat aspect. Somehow, there’s a slightly discernable difference in how I feel after eating natural foods vs those that are either A) highly processed, or B) have lots of artificial ingredients.

    • Kevin says:

      It certainly sounds much better than the low-fat yogurt I found lying around. :)

      I think that these artificial foods and additives have a bigger health impact than believed. I still don’t know for sure what causes my “brain fog”, but I do know that certain things get rid of it… like eating whole yogurt that does not contain sucralose, for example. I wish I knew more specifically what the cause was, but I will probably have to find someone that knows real nutrition, and not just what they learned from a few out of date books. That might be a little tough. Thank God for the Internet, cause if not for that I would never have learned about Primal, the Gaps Diet, etc… nor would I have you guys to bounce ideas off of and listen to. :)

      • Evan says:

        I eat those 2 types of Yogurts also. Surprisingly, they don’t kill my stomach since I am known to fight with dairy products. Kevin, you may want to check out CureZone it is a great site if you can weed through the crazy people

  5. snowy says:

    Plain greek/balkan yoghurt plus fresh fruit and a few crushed walnuts is the way to go, in my opinion. Filling and incredibly tasty. Check out a pot of unflavoured astro balkan yoghurt for ingredients – skim milk, cream, active cultures – there are only three, none of them is sugar, and you can recognize what each of ingredient is! Greek yoghurt has a lot of protein too.

  6. It’s super easy to make yogurt at home and that way you can control exactly what goes into it if you are so inclined.

    I hate artificial sweeteners especially in yogurt. I have a very sensitive stomach and it just wreaks havoc on me.

    I’d be curious to what discoveries you have made on the diet front. I need to do more there. I generally eat a balanced diet, but I think I have way too many carbs and sugars in mine.

  7. Hi Kevin, I’ve been staying away from carbs for some time now, and my gut thanks me for it. Stomach problems are now mostly a thing of the past. Not that the occasional pizza and plate of pasta (or double slice of apple pie a la mode) doesn’t slip through on occasion, they do. As for youghurt, we’ve taken to buying organic yoghurt and yoghurt cheese through the OK Food Coop, and have been pretty happy with it.

    • Kevin says:

      We probably do eat too many carbs. When I cut down carbs I noticed a bit difference in my health levels… I believe us humans are not meant to shove so many carbs down our thought, at least not in the way that we’ve been getting them. Carbs from veggies and whole foods is superior to processed carbs, for example. In the paleo point of view, grains in general are meh, but I believe that some are better than others.

      I guess we’ve partially adapted to them due to the thousands of years of agriculture… but during that time, people mostly did not eat as they do today with all of the artificial crap in food and super-refined foods. I am learning more and more just how important nutrition is to one’s health, and not necessarily in the way that we learned from school while young.

  8. Doctor Stock says:

    How very true – in fact there are so many preservatives in our food it is ridiculous. Try to eat natural foods for a ask – it’s killer

    • Kevin says:

      Added your URL in. ;)

      I guess we can’t avoid some preservatives and additives in today’s world, but where I draw the line is when it is implied that we’re better off eating sucralose just because it’s 0% fat. There’s something wrong with that. I think a lot of people would be better off if they realized that it’s OK to eat whole foods and that it’s OK to eat fat. I believe that one has to take a holistic approach here, as the path to health is not lined with zero-fat products. :P

  9. Kevin, I attend to my health and diet and am frequently overwhelmed by trying to eat healthy. There is so much crap in food, unless you want to pay a ton for all organic it is so difficult to avoid excess preservatives and other stuff. Your article nailed my experience as I recently tried to select a container of yogurt!

  10. Hi Kevin,

    Great topic! Saturated fats have definitely been made the enemy, but saturated fats such as those found in natural milk (raw), natural yogurt, and butter are integral to a stable cell structure necessary to protect our body’s organs.

    The best commercially made products we’ve found in the U.S. are Brown Cow Plain Cream Top yogurt and Greek Gods Greek Yogurt Traditional Plain. If you like them sweetened, add ripe bannana, raisins, chopped apple, grapes, or other left-over fruit to the mix.

    If you have access to real (raw) milk, making yogurt is simple and cost effective. Shoot us an email and we can provide some assistance.

    Also, a great website that debunks the various food fads that invariably pop up from time to time is the Weston Price Institute. They provide excellent information for those of us desiring to take back control of our health by assuming more control over what we ingest.

    • Kevin says:

      I think I agree with that. The primal diet also agrees with what you’re saying, and you know what? Although I eat butter and eggs, my cholesterol levels were amazing the last time I took a blood test. I do have high bilirubin that I’ve had since birth, and that may be connected to the fog, so that’s something else. I do know that I feel much better eating this whole yogurt…

  11. I was thinking about this very topic when I was at the grocery store for Thanksgiving shopping. I was thinking about how popular ‘Snackwells’ cookies became because they were low fat. Nobody seemed to care at first that they were loaded with sugar, they were just glad there wasn’t much fat. Food companies love to take away the bad ingredient and replace it with a bunch of other cruddy ones.

    I embrace fat. Not saturated fat, but almonds, avocado, and yogurt! Health has so much to do with the fuel you put in your body, but unfortunately, even the medical community doesn’t fully understand how everything works and what is good or bad.

    Maybe I will just go and graze in the backyard instead. Oh wait, there is probably chemicals in the grass too…

    • Kevin says:

      I think it’s kind of retarded to call something full of sugar (and maybe some other crap) healthier than natural fat. Though, I do prefer sugar over sugar substitutes, and sugar in natural forms such as as found in fruit.

      I’ve turned my girlfriend onto avocados. She used to think they were so strange, but now she loves them! :)

  12. Nicole says:

    I have insulin resistance. That means I eat a glycemically balanced diet as best I can. One of the things I discovered when I was trying to get pregnant and pregnant is that a lot of emotional ups and downs just completely disappeared when I eat whole food instead of refined and processed stuff. If I’m not on an even keel, I now know that means I need to eat something healthy and filling.

    On top of that, I enjoy eating *real* food. So I eat full fat (artisan when I can get it) ice cream in the little pints, but not half gallon ice cream with ingredients I can’t pronounce. I do not eat artificial sweeteners. Once I switched diets, things that didn’t used to seem sweet all of a sudden did. Plain milk chocolate now seems weak and cloying. Dark chocolate that used to taste like chalk is rich and nuanced. I like it.

    • Kevin says:

      I enjoy eating real food too, and you know what? It tastes so much better.

      How could I find out if I also have insulin resistance? I have heard that an oral glucose test is useful. Maybe next year when my insurance renews itself…

      • Nicole says:

        There’s a challenge test with nasty orange drink and there’s a blood test. You can also look for signs such as dark patches of skin, skin tags etc.

  13. Nicole says:

    p.s. You may have an allergy/intolerance to an artificial sweetener– allergies can cause brain fog. Or you could be carb crashing… I definitely think that different types of diets work for different people– refined carbs aren’t as bad for most people as they are for me. Gluten is worse for some people than for others, as is milk. I don’t have any problem with whole grains, but I have friends who do great on white rice but not whole wheat bread. It is very important to listen to our bodies.

    • Kevin says:

      I haven’t yet figured it out, and I might need to see someone who knows what they’re doing. Sadly, it seems that general practitioners don’t, and well, if it’s not my brain, then the neurologist can’t help me either, right? He thinks it’s just something in my head that I have to live with.

      The nutritional explanations make the most sense to me, and I noticed an improvement when I switched from how I was eating before to a more primal diet. I noticed further improvements by eating the whole fat yogurt more often… so it is definitely all about the nutrition, I think.

  14. Good post Kevin, I like these Invest It Wisely for your body type of posts :)

    Personally, I don’t follow many “front” labels on foods – what they claim. I try to look at the back first, and the number of ingredients. Have you read Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”?

    I enjoyed the read since amongst other things, other than how he talks about almost everything we eat is corn-based these days (somewhat true), he argues that any product you’re putting into your body that has more than five ingredients, you should be wary of. My wife and I have been following a similar rule of thumb for a few years now, and although we enjoy the odd burger and fries now and again, we find we’re eating much healthier overall.

    Back to your yogurt debate, I have yet to find a decent yogurt without a bunch of ingredients. The Yoptimal we eat every other day for lunch (that we bring to work) has at least 10 ingredients (including corn starch) but at least within the first few are milk, cream and fruits :)

    If it’s not from the earth, it’s hard not to buy anything in stores these days that isn’t overprocessed. Doesn’t make it right…

    Cheers,
    FC

    • Kevin says:

      Why does the government still subsidize agriculture? It’s not about the small farmers…

      I asked my chef friend about the book, and I agree with the basic gist of what he said about it. We lost something when we modernized our society. Our modern food system can support a huge population… but we’ve lost something along the way, and we’re paying a price for it.

      The Liberté Méditerranée is the most decent yogurt I’ve found in the super markets so far, and if you get Plain and add your own fruits and nuts, it barely has any sugar in it. Just milk, cream, and bacterial culture, basically. Compare that to the others that have locust bean gum (wtf?), corn starch, and other crap. I bet natural or organic yogurt would be even better, but I’d have to find a specialty store that carries those and hopefully it’s not $20 a pint.

  15. Yogurt does provide tons of nutritional benefit to people.

    In the past couple of years, I’ve seen a lot of frozen low-fat yogurt franchise chains popping out of nowhere on trying to get-in to the low-fat yogurt mania. Most of these franchise chains offer self-serve frozen yogurts so people make their own and includes various choices of toppings.

    • Kevin says:

      Ah, froyos. ;)

      They might be better than the crap-ass ice cream that is usually served that has 30 ingredients in it. I’d love to try some real ice cream too, but I haven’t seen any without some crazy sounding chemical compounds, or soy protein or other weird stuff. ;)

  16. [...] It Wisely discusses real food, which is the only kind I’ll eat.  (Though I’m pro-whole grain for me, even though I [...]

  17. Linda says:

    You may want to see if your doc will test you for food sensitivities. This is not the same the allergy tests and many docs don’t do this or believe in it. My primary doc follows holistic and integrated medicine approaches, though, and when I started seeing her because I was having a set of nearly debilitating symptoms (one of which included brain fog) she drew blood for these tests, too. For me it revealed that I am not sensitive to gluten (phew! I love whole grains!), but that I am extremely sensitive to pineapple and cow dairy of all kinds. As much as I like pineapple, it’s not hard to avoid. Avoiding cow dairy is much harder.

    Thanks to the fact that I live in a large city and the proliferation of upscale markets and ones catering to various ethnic groups, I can get goat milk based dairy products pretty easily.

    While my brain fog was due to hypothyroidism and not food sensitivities, I so see quite a difference in my health and well-being when I’m stringently avoiding cow dairy. I feel more energy and less cranky when I do so.

    I try to eat real, whole foods as much as possible. That means I do a lot of my own food prep and cooking, and that I carry my own breakfast and lunch to work. This is not just good for my body; it’s also good for my savings account. :-)

    • Kevin says:

      I’m also bringing fresh food from home much more often and eating out much less often these days. I’m kind of disappointed with the doctors I have seen so far, because it seems like they are just trying to get rid of me. One basically said “oh well, guess you have to live with it. Beats me.” I was able to push to get an MRI, but that’s only because I paid for it myself through private insurance. A good thing that at least not every aspect of medicine is socialized up here in Canada, and we still have the choice in some areas!

      I’m interested in the food sensitivity test; I’m going to have to take a look and see about getting this done. Thanks for stopping by!

  18. Jim Smith says:

    Low fat is so much worse than normal yogurt. Its full of sugar to replace the taste taken out by the “low fat”. Eat the whole fat and be healthier.

  19. Forest says:

    Bad, bad, bad…. I am looking into getting so all natural organic greek yoghurt and just growing my own from there. Having trouble sourcing it in Cairo but I think I have a lead at a nearby Italian store!

    If you get real good thick high fat greek yoghurt I find it can just be reduced with a little skim milk (which should just have had the fat skimmed off the top and nothing added) and then used for cereal and smoothies.

    • Kevin says:

      The closest I have found to that is the Liberté Méditerranée plain, although they do have 0% Greek yogurt…

      • Forest says:

        If you go to a Greek deli or sometimes Italian deli you will find homemade natural greek yoghurt…. I am certain there are some in your part of the world and you can grow it in the fridge just by adding milk….. Liberte does taste nice though, always used to grab that (can’t remember the other brand I used to get) when lived in Montreal as had no fridge space in our shared house for growing yoghurt and such things.

  20. I love Liberte yogurt! So good :) and creamy.

    All that low fat yogurt business is garbage- all those chemicals they put in the yogurt makes them not yogurt anymore :(

    What the heck is Locus Bean Gum anyways?

    • Kevin says:

      LOL… apparently it’s some kind of “glue” from a tree that they use to add consistency, since the fat is missing. I had the same thoughts when I saw that in the ingredients list, though. I’m glad to see we share the same thoughts here. :)

  21. Good Food In My Plate says:

    I just bought today a Liberté certified organic probiotic strawberry yogourt (650g) and here’s the list of ingredients :

    “Ultrafiltrated partly skimmed organic milk, organic fruit preparation (sugar, strawberries, water, modified corn starch, pectin, citric acid, natural flavour), bacterial culture”.

    “Modified corn starch”, what the heck ? It is labelled “organic”, right ? “Natural flavour”, we all know that it stands for “non-organic flavour” ?

    I think Liberté should stop bullshitting people and not use the word organic when it is actually not organic, the milk might be organic but as soon as you add chemically modified ingredient the resulting product is NOT organic…

    • Kevin says:

      Interestingly enough the stuff touted as being healthier isn’t always so; aside from Greek yogurts, I find that the lower-fat yogurts have more crap in them than the higher fat stuff, and anything promoted as being extra-healthy usually has some extra crap in there, too. I haven’t found the perfect yogurt, but most flavours of the Méditerranée seem good, with less added ingredients than other yogurts.

      Who is certifying the product as organic? Well, maybe the corn source was “organic”, too. :P

  22. LVaz says:

    I actually get irked watching Source, Silhouette, Activia commercials and the like promote their “low-fat”, “sugar-free” and even “no aspartame” yogurts (no aspartame because they put sucralose in it instead…sheesh!). I was once a sucker to all of that nonsense, until I did some self-studying on nutrition, and when I read the ingredients of those yogurts, I felt sick to my stomach. Gelatin… corn starch… and yeah, locust bean gum, whaa?? I recently disocvered Liberte’s 0% MF Greek Yogurt; it has only TWO ingredients: Skim milk and Bacterial cultures….that’s IT! It is a wonderful `canvas`, if you will, to create a world of tasty, healthy treats. The other day I mixed natural peanut butter, unsweetened cocoa and a touch of stevia to it and it was absolutely decadent…other days I like to add organic maple syrup, sliced almonds and fruit… this morning I just added some stevia and savoured every spoon. I did pick up Liberte Mediterranee over the weekend, and fell head over heels in LOVE with it!! Definitely swapping out my ice cream for that! I bought the coconut flavour, and lemon flavour…oh, so decadent. It’s full-fat, but still a much, much better choice than ice cream. I’m also on a journey to start eating clean…I started some time ago and still have a ways to go, but it’s a fun journey.

    • Kevin says:

      Liberté Méditerranée is definitely a real treat. I have looked around for some “clean” ice cream around here and was unable to find a single one that had less than 20-30 ingredients… it’s a shame.
      Thanks for the great comment!

  23. [...] much sugar and other fake ingredients are loaded into the low-fat yogurt to make up for the loss of flavor from fat. Fatty yogurt isn’t [...]