On the web page for nonfat Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt, the tag line is “a great balance of 80 calories per 6 oz, important nutrients, and delicious taste!” (Incidentally, the first thing you see is a really embarrassing ad campaign featuring Heidi Klum sitting on a modern whit leather couch saying “Yummy” and licking her fingers. Uh, not yummy.)
My mother buys this stuff by the bushel, and I’ve eaten one from time to time, but my husband says they taste “chemical-y.” I have told my mother it’s not real food, but so far I’ve had nothing to back that up with, just a hunch. So this week, in honor of my mother, we’re going to look at the ingredients in this yogurt. I have taken the ingredients straight from their site.
Nonfat milk. Milk that has less than 0.5 percent milk fat.”Fresh milk is received directly from local dairy farms.” Ah, I can see it now, the young milk maidens milking the cows and running it over to the Dannon plant. So idyllic. Dannon said in February 2009 that they would be going Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) free, but I can’t find any evidence that they have actually done this.
This synthetic hormone—approved by the FDA in 1993—is used to increase milk production in dairy cows. It has been banned in Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union. According to Wikipedia, “the United States is the only developed nation to permit humans to drink milk from cows given artificial growth hormone.” (I have an email in to Dannon asking when they went rbGH free, if indeed they have. For now, I’m going to just say that they may or may not have rbGH.) The FDA does not require special labels for dairy from cows given rBGH.
There are companies who say that they don’t use milk from cows treated with rbGH, but the only way to know for sure is to find a local farm where you can see how the animals are treated. Since most of us can’t do that, here is a page that has links to lists of national rbGH-free dairy producers from Food and Water Watch, a “non profit organization that advocates for common sense policies that will result in healthy, safe food and access to safe and affordable drinking water.”
Fruit/Flavors. “Fruit, natural and artificial flavors can be added to some of our yogurts.” Ah, the natural and artificial flavors again. It seems that pretty much every processed food has these. I don’t know which ones specifically are in each Light & Fit, but you can check out what some of them are in the post I did last week about Candy Corn. In general, this means that the flavors are probably not natural in the way any of us think of “natural.” Also, artificial colors are rumored to affect children in the area of hyperactivity, and some of them can cause allergic reactions in asthmatics or people allergic to aspirin.
Live and Active Yogurt Cultures. “Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are added to the milk. In addition, some DANNON cup yogurts contain a third culture called Lactobacillus acidophilus. These cultures are carefully cultivated in DANNON laboratories by expert yogurt technologists.” This kind of scares me and makes me laugh at the same time. I’m not sure what this means either.
“Besides milk, fruit and live and active cultures, some DANNON yogurt varieties may contain other ingredients that enhance the flavor, texture and appearance of the finished product.”
I personally think plain yogurt tastes good and doesn’t need any “other ingredients” to make it look, feel and taste better. It’s also interesting that in this ingredient round up, they don’t mention the natural and artificial flavors again.
Cornstarch. “A natural starch extracted from corn, cornstarch helps give body and texture to yogurt. The Food and Drug Administration has deemed modified cornstarch as a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) ingredient, meaning that it can be safely added to foods under current good manufacturing practices.”
Gluten. “The natural system for stabilizing flavor might contain ingredients derived from gluten sources.” Hmmm. Why doesn’t the yogurt *I* buy have gluten in it then if it’s so natural?
Aspartame. “A low-calorie sweetener, aspartame is made of two naturally occurring amino acids: aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1981, aspartame has been determined safe for the general population, as well as for people with diabetes.” See my Diet Coke post for more about aspartame.
Fructose. “A simple sugar derived from fruit, fructose is added to several DANNON products for a natural-tasting sweetness.” “Natural tasting.” This can also be made in a laboratory, so I’m not sure if the wording is clear. Is it the kind that is derived from fruit or the kind that is man made? Not sure.
Pectin. “A fiber derived naturally from fruit, pectin helps thicken the yogurt and create the desired consistency and texture. Some DANNON yogurt varieties may contain a small amount of a pectin blend made from citrus fruits including lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit.”
Gelatin. “Some of our products contain gelatin to give them the desired consistency and texture.” “Desired consistency.” Again, I like the yogurt I buy and it has NO gelatin in it. Why does Dannon’s yogurt need gelatin? Check out more about gelatin in my Candy Corn post.
Mineral Compound. “Calcium, potassium and sodium phosphate are mineral compounds that are present naturally in milk. These minerals can be added to our products for specific functions that improve quality.”
Now, not to make this longer, but I am looking at the ingredients of my plain Stonyfield nonfat yogurt in my fridge right now and these are the ingredients: Cultured pasteurized organic nonfat milk, pectin, vitamin D, 6 live active cultures. Four ingredients.Of course, this is PLAIN yogurt, and Stonyfield does need to “color” their flavored yogurt, but they use beets and strawberries to do so, not food coloring. They DO use “natural” flavors, which I’m curious about. Are they really natural? At any rate, it’s best just to buy plain yogurt and add what you want to so that you KNOW what you’re eating.
Lots to think about. If you have any reaction, input, information, please leave a comment. I think this is really important to talk about and be informed about what we’re eating!
Another yogurt that doesn’t use rbGH is Brown Cow. Do you know of any other brands? Please comment so I can add the brand to a list I’ll be putting together for a future post. Thanks!!
We’ve moved! Check out Middle-Aged Jock at www.middleagedjock.com!