The cold, hard facts about frozen yogurt

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2011, 12:00am


It was believed that the biblical Abraham owed his virility and longevity to yogurt, while ancient Persians and Middle Eastern nomads used it as a way to preserve the goodness of milk. Hongkongers have also caught on to the health-giving benefits of the fermented dairy food - albeit the frozen version, a fad of the 1980s that's now making a comeback worldwide. More than 25 frozen yogurt shops have popped up in the city in the past couple of years, proclaiming the food's no- or low-fat probiotic powers.

But is it really a healthy alternative to ice cream? Elaine Hsieh, a US-registered dietitian at Quality HealthCare's iWell Centre, sorts the fact from the fiction.

Frozen yogurt contains lots of healthy probiotics and live cultures.

True and false: research has shown that probiotics can help regulate bowel movement, strengthen the immune and digestive systems and improve inflammatory conditions.

While frozen yogurt is often marketed as containing probiotics, much of the beneficial bacteria can be lost during commercial processing. For products that come from America, look out for the 'live and active cultures'' seal by the US National Yogurt Association, which indicates that the yogurt contains 10 million cultures per gram at the time of production. American frozen yogurt franchise Tuttimelon Yogurt, with outlets in Sha Tin and Tsim Sha Tsui, for example, has this seal.

But there isn't a governing body for yogurt in Europe or Asia, so be aware that what the marketing materials say may not be the truth.

It's low in calories.

False: we get calories not just from fat, but also from sugar. Frozen yogurt is lower in fat compared with ice cream, but it can contain more sugar. According to the US Department of Agriculture's nutrient database, 100 grams of vanilla ice cream has 207 calories, 11 grams of fat and 21 grams sugar, while the same amount of vanilla frozen yogurt has 159 calories, 5.6 grams of fat and 24 grams of sugar. True, froyo is lower in calories than ice cream, but that still doesn't make it low in calories.

It's cholesterol-free.

True and false: all animal products - including milk, a basic ingredient in frozen yogurt - contain cholesterol. But the fat and cholesterol have been removed in skimmed milk. So while low-fat frozen yogurt contains cholesterol, non-fat yogurt - with negligible amounts of cholesterol (about 2mg to 5mg per 100 gram serving) - can claim to be cholesterol-free. A pre-packaged product can be labelled as such as long as 100 grams of the product contains less than 5mg of cholesterol, not more than 1.5 grams of saturated fat and trans fats, and contributes less than 10 per cent of calories from its saturated and trans fats.

Toppings don't add many calories.

True and false: sweet toppings such as syrup and sprinkles are calorie traps. Two tablespoons of gummy bears, for example, contain 110 calories and 16 grams of sugar; two tablespoons of crumbled Oreo cookies contain 130 calories, six grams of fat and 12 grams of sugar. Watch out for 'healthier' toppings too, such as dried cranberries (96 calories, 0.4 grams of fat per two tablespoons) and mixed nuts (168 calories, 15 grams of fat per two tablespoons).

Fresh fruit, on the other hand, is low in calories, with two tablespoons of fresh fruit containing fewer than 20 calories. They are also a source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. But stay away from fruits in syrup, as they have added sugars.

It's better than ice cream.

True and false: overall, frozen yogurt is not high in nutrients such as calcium and vitamins. While it is a healthy alternative to ice cream when the sweet cravings strike, the halo that surrounds froyo may lead people into eating a bigger portion than they normally would. Give in once in a while to a small cup of froyo, but remember to eat in moderation.