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Is Frozen Yogurt a Healthy Dessert?

Health + Wellness
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By Helen West

Frozen yogurt is a dessert that's often promoted as a healthy alternative to ice cream. However, it isn't just regular yogurt that's been in the freezer.

In fact, it can have a vastly different nutrient profile than regular yogurt.

This article is a detailed review of frozen yogurt, exploring its nutritional content and health effects, particularly as a substitute for ice cream.

What Is Frozen Yogurt and How Is It Made?

Frozen yogurt is a popular dessert made with yogurt. It has a creamy texture and sweet, tangy taste.

Frozen yogurt is quite similar to ice cream, but the main difference is that it's made with milk instead of cream.

Additionally, like ice cream, it is often sold in cups or cones with a wide range of topping options, such as fruit, cookies and chocolate chips.

You can buy frozen yogurt in stores or make it at home. It's also sometimes used as an ingredient in drinks like smoothies or in desserts as a substitute for ice cream.

Ingredients can vary slightly between brands, but the main ones are:

  • Milk: This can be liquid milk or powdered milk. Powdered milk is referred to as "milk solids" on the ingredients list.
  • Yogurt cultures: These are "good" bacteria like Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.
  • Sugar: Most companies use regular table sugar, but some brands use alternative sweeteners like agave nectar.

Many frozen yogurts also contain ingredients like flavorings and stabilizers to improve their taste and texture.

To make frozen yogurt, manufacturers mix together milk and sugar. They pasteurize the mixture, heating it to a high temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.

The yogurt cultures are then added and the mixture is allowed to rest for up to four hours before it's frozen.

Bottom Line: Frozen yogurt is a frozen dessert made with milk, yogurt cultures and sugar. It has a creamy texture and a tangy taste.

Nutrients in Frozen Yogurt

The nutrition content of frozen yogurt can vary depending on the type of milk, sweeteners and flavorings used in the yogurt mixture.

For example, frozen yogurt made with nonfat milk will have a lower fat content than varieties made with whole milk (1).

Additionally, the toppings you choose can add extra calories, fat and sugar to the final product.

Below are the nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of regular, whole-milk frozen yogurt and 3.5 ounces of nonfat frozen yogurt, with no toppings or flavorings (2, 3):

Because of the variations in recipes, always check the label to make sure what's in your frozen yogurt.

Bottom Line: Frozen yogurt is low in fat and protein, but can be very high in sugar. The fat and sugar content depend on the amount of fat in the milk.

Health Benefits of Frozen Yogurt

Frozen yogurt may have some health benefits, compared to other frozen desserts.

It can contain beneficial nutrients and bacteria, lower levels of lactose and fewer calories than desserts like ice cream.

It Can Contain Good Bacteria

Like regular yogurt, some frozen yogurt contains probiotics.

Probiotics are live bacteria that are also known as "good bacteria." When eaten, they can have beneficial effects on your health (4, 5).

However, the benefits of bacteria in frozen yogurt depend on them surviving the manufacturing process.

If your frozen yogurt was pasteurized after the good bacteria were added, then they will have been killed off.

It has also been suggested that the freezing process could reduce the number of good bacteria. However, some studies have suggested this isn't the case, so freezing may not be an issue (6, 7, 8).

To see if your frozen yogurt contains probiotics, check for the claim "live cultures" on the label.

It May Contain Lower Levels of Lactose

If you have lactose intolerance, eating dairy products can cause digestive issues like bloating, gas and pain (9).

However, most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of dairy, especially if it contains probiotics (10).

This is because probiotic bacteria break down some of the lactose, reducing the amount per portion.

Because some frozen yogurts contain probiotics, people with lactose intolerance may be able to eat them without any digestive problems.

However, it's important to note that not all varieties contain live bacteria, so they may not have the same benefits (11).

It May Provide Nutrients That Benefit Bone Health

Frozen yogurt also contains reasonable amounts of some of the nutrients linked with good bone health, like calcium and protein (12).

However, despite this potential benefit, it's worth noting that you can also get these nutrients from regular yogurt.

It Can Be Lower in Calories Than Regular Ice Cream

If you're trying to cut back on calories, frozen yogurt is lower in calories than regular ice cream (2, 13).

However, make sure to watch your portion sizes and topping choices. If you're not careful, these can easily bump up the calories.

Bottom Line: Frozen yogurt may contain beneficial probiotics, lower levels of lactose, nutrients for good bone health and fewer calories than ice cream.

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