Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pantry Raid #14: Yogurt

I've put off the yogurt post for a while now thinking most everyone knows that the kind you buy with all the pretty packaging that tastes like something besides yogurt is loaded with all kinds of bad for you sugar and additives.  Then, I look at the grocery store shelves and have to question that thought...obviously, someone is still buying it in large quantities or they wouldn't be reloading all those empty spaces on a nightly basis.

Honestly, I've never in my life looked at the ingredient list on any of the flavored yogurts until just now.  I used to buy them all the time as a substitute for cake or cookies when I was having a craving.  One day, years ago, to cut out the sugar for the kids, I stopped buying them.  Had I read the ingredient list, I think even back then, I would have been shocked.  I cannot believe all of this stuff is added to a container of yogurt.  Here's the ingredient list for a popular low-fat strawberry flavored variety.  I found it on Amazon (had no idea they sold yogurt), because I got all frustrated trying to find any ingredient info on the manufacturer's website.  I always have to wonder why the manufacturers make it so hard to find their ingredient lists.  Even for their more "natural" options, where they advertise no corn syrup or additives...where's the ingredients list??   Anyways...here's the list.

Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Strawberries, Modified Corn Starch, Whey Protein Concentrate, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Aspartame, Potassium Sorbate Added to Maintain Freshness, Natural Flavor, Red No. 40, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

Wow!  I don't even want to know what the key lime pie, apple turnover or red velvet cake flavors have in them.  I did a quick search for the popular Go-gurt sticks that are packed everyday in kids lunches all over the country.  I was shocked at just the sugar content.  There is as much sugar in one of those 2.5 oz stick as there is in the above 6 oz cup.   Just to be a little nerdy, there's 13 grams of sugar per every 2.5 oz.  That's 5.2 g per ounce.  There's 65 g of sugar in a 20 oz Coca Cola.  That's 3.25 g per ounce.  Huh...guess you're better off sending your kid to school with a Coke than one of those sugar (corn syrup) sticks.

Let's take a deeper look at the ingredient list for our strawberry yogurt.

Cultured milk is just milk that has been mixed with a yogurt culture and allowed to ferment.  That is how you make yogurt.  What strikes me as odd here is that they are using nonfat milk.  I have done my fair share of making yogurt and have learned one thing.  The less fat in the milk, the runnier the yogurt.  So, how are they getting their yogurt all thick and creamy??

The answer...

They add Whey Protein Concentrate, Kosher Gelatin and Modified Corn Starch as thickeners and texture enhancers.   Kosher just means it conforms to the Jewish standards (laws from the Old Testament) on how to handle foods.  Modified corn starch is exactly what it says. They take an already processed food made from GMO corn and modify it's chemical makeup even further so that it does a better job of thickening.  Whey Protein Concentrate is the cheapest form of protein on the market.  It's just a concentrated, powdered form of protein derived from whey, which is the byproduct of cheesemaking. 

Now that we have a nice thick yogurt, time to make it taste like something else.  Even in my house where we eat plain yogurt, if we add anything, it's always something to sweeten it up.  We mostly use raw honey.  They use High Fructose Corn Syrup and Aspartame.  I have been all over the corn syrup topic in the Pantry Raid posts.  To sum it up, it's science-made and our bodies don't react well with it at all.  Aspartame is another beast.  It's not even derived from a "food".  I say food in quotes, because GMO corn isn't a food either.  Aspartame is a chemical concoction made 100% in a lab.  It is a very controversial ingredient with research claiming it can cause headaches, anxiety, memory loss, depression and many more severe side effects.  The FDA says that have done the counter research and proven otherwise.  Either way, it's a chemical and it was not designed by God for our bodies to consume.

A little more flavor is added with Strawberries and "Natural" Flavors.  Yey for the strawberries...they are actually in there!  Too bad they are on the Dirty Dozen list (the list of the 12 fruits and veggies with the highest levels of chemical residuals from chemical pesticides and fertilizers in the end product).  Since strawberries aren't a natural flavor enough, the manufacturer added more "natural" flavoring (insert sarcasm here).  Wonder why they don't say vanilla extract, strawberry juice or something like that?  What exactly is a "natural" flavoring, and what kind are they adding??

Somewhere along the line, someone decided that, allergic reactions aside,  it can't be strawberry flavored unless it's really red, so Red Dye #40 is added to make sure we get it that it's REALLY strawberry flavored.  I guess white yogurt with little red flecks of strawberry just doesn't get the point across? 

Then, because the product needs to last through storage before it's shipped to the distributor, shipping to the distributor, storage until it's shipped to a store, shipping to a store, storage until it gets to the shelf, sitting on the shelf until it's bought and sitting in our refrigerator until we eat it (which can be a long time if it gets pushed to the back of the frig), plenty of preservatives are added like Citric Acid and Potasium Sorbate.  Potasium Sorbate is made by neutralizing potassium hydroxide with sorbic acid.  It can be a skin, eye or respiratory irritant.  Citric Acid is another chemical compound...not lemon juice like I used to think :)

Last, but not least, the need to add back in what was taken out through processing the milk is there, so a little Vitamin D, Vitamin A and Tricalcium Phosphate are in there for good measure.  All of which being synthetic supplements. 

I find this all to be so amazing, considering that perfectly good yogurt can be made by just adding a bacteria starter to heated up milk and letting it ferment.  Cook down some strawberries and pour them over top with a little honey and voila...strawberry yogurt--very yummy strawberry yogurt might I add :)!

I'm going to have to post a How to Make Yogurt guide soon so you can try this out for yourselves!!

If you're not in a yogurt making mood, just buy the plain organic yogurt and flavor it yourself.  If you want to buy the already flavored varieties, just look for the ones made with nothing but real food.  You will probably still be eating "evaporated cane juice" which is just a fancy name for sugar, but it will be much better than corn syrup and aspartame!! 

Happy Tuesday!



  1. Enjoyed your column on the yogurt. It is 11:30 and I am sitting at my computer itching with a rash from guess what sweet pickles with Yellow $5 and 6. If you are allergic to aspirin you can be allergic to #5 and 6. They are in same chemical family. I also am allergic to #40 red that you mentioned. Gail

    1. Oh, Gail...that stinks!!! I didn't know about the relation to aspirin...that is great info! I am amazed at how many people have these allergies. Hope you feel better soon :)