Are There Health Benefits to Flavored Yogurt?

No, according to nutrition expert Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat. There could be some health benefits to yogurt’s friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus), which may replace some of the bad bacteria in your body. But research shows that there is a lack of scientific evidence to completely support this claim, so it’s more of an idea than a fact. Sort of like my “idea” that I can eat a donut for breakfast every day, when the fact is that at some point my jeans won’t fit.

When it comes to flavored yogurts, as Nestle puts it, they’re “a fast-selling dairy dessert with the aura of health food.” Low-fat or not, most contain sugar, fructose, corn syrup, aspartame, or other sweeteners. And although these yogurts come in fruit flavors, very few of them contain actual fruit, but high-calorie fruit-juice concentrates. As for yogurts that come with rainbow sprinkles, Oreo pieces, or M&M's for mixing in, forget about it. A six-ounce container of one of these flavored yogurts can have as much as an ounce of sugar. Even in YoBaby, Stonyfield’s organic yogurt marketed to parents for babies and toddlers, sugar accounts for more than 50 percent of the calories.

A better alternative, Nestle suggests, is buying organic plain yogurt and flavoring it yourself with fresh or frozen fruits—even if you sweeten it with sugar you’ll still end up with something healthier than factory-flavored yogurts.

Leena Trivedi-Grenier is a Bay Area food writer and cooking teacher with an undying love for pot stickers. She earned her master's in gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu. Besides CHOW, her writing appears on her blog Leena Eats and in various food-based encyclopedias.