Ask the Nutritionist: Dig a little to figure out sugar in yogurt
Q: How much of the sugar in yogurt is from added sugar rather than from the fruit or the yogurt itself?
A: Product nutrition fact labels don't distinguish between the naturally occurring sugars in milk, yogurt or fruit, and other added sugars. However, you can make an educated estimate by comparing the sugar content listed on flavored yogurt to the sugar listed in a similar serving size and type of plain (unflavored) yogurt. Just make sure you're comparing sugar content of comparable servings; some list five or six ounces as a serving and others list eight.
You'll see that six ounces of traditional (regular) fruit yogurt typically has 23 to 29 grams of sugar, whereas the same amount of nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt contains about 13 grams of sugar, all naturally occurring in milk. That means that 6 ounces of the sweetened fruit yogurt contains 10 to 16 grams of sugar from the fruit and added sugar, or about 2½ to 4 teaspoons of sugar. (Each teaspoon of sugar is equal to about four grams.)
We might like to believe that sugar is mostly from fruit, but it would take more than one cup of sliced strawberries to reach 10 grams of natural fruit sugar. So even accounting for the natural sugar content of the very small amount of added fruit, we are still getting about two to four teaspoons of added sugar in just a six-ounce portion.
You can skip the label comparisons and get less added sugar, fewer calories and more nutrition if you choose plain yogurt and add your own fruit.
Q: Why do nutrition recommendations talk about limiting red meat? Can't I keep my saturated fat low by simply choosing lean cuts?
A: When eating red meat (beef, pork or lamb), choosing lean cuts is important in order to limit saturated fat and avoid excess calories. But eating too much of any red meat -- more than 18 ounces cooked, weekly -- increases risk for colorectal cancer. Red meats that are processed -- such as bacon, hot dogs and sausage -- are also available in leaner forms, yet even small amounts of these meats, eaten regularly, lead to higher risk for colorectal cancer. Processed meats are also consistently linked to increased risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
There are several potential theories as to why red meat may link to increased risk of these chronic diseases. Red meat (especially beef and lamb) is high in a form of iron called heme iron. Heme iron is also found in smaller amounts in chicken and fish. Higher heme iron content may partly explain links between excess red meat and risk of colon cancer, since it seems to promote formation of compounds that can damage intestinal cells. Some large population studies link higher consumption of heme iron and heme iron from red meat with increased risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, respectively.
Emerging research also suggests that bacteria in the gut may play a role. It may convert compounds in red meat to substances that promote atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries") and/or cause less healthful types of bacteria in the intestinal tract to flourish.
Since unprocessed red meat in excess amounts is linked to colon cancer and may pose other health risks, choose lean cuts of fresh meat and also limit amounts to no more than 18 ounces per week. And be sure to save processed meats for special occasions.