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What's Actually INSIDE of Your Store-Bought Yoghurt?

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Yogurt is a fermented milk beverage with viable and well-defined bacteria, It is defined by the symbiosis of 2 strains of bacteria (S. thermophiles and L. bulgaricus) in a sterile environment at a very low temperature (36°C–42°C) for 3–8 hours. 

Similar to milk kefir, the strains in yoghurt also uses lactose as their food source. When milk lactose is used as the fermentation substrate, lactic acid and other bio compounds are formed. As a result of a decrease in pHas fermentation progresses, the development of harmful microbes are delayed. Calcium and phosphorus present in milk are converted into their soluble form which enhances its digestibility and overall bioavailability.

Today, the yoghurt industry are manufacturing yoghurt in a way consumers expect and demand - mouthfeel, textures, stability and shelf life. It has to be the same experience everytime. They are often thickened, often flavored, product with an extended shelf life. It contains essential nutrients and is a vehicle for fortification (added probiotics, fibers, vitamins, and minerals). It is also easily modified by sweeteners, fruits, and flavors to affect consistency and aroma.

In this blog, we are highlighting the common substances and additives present in yoghurt and their functions/effects.

Cream - They are added to increase the thickness of the yoghurt.

Milk solids - They are added to increase the thickness of the yoghurt. Milk solids are the dried powder left after all the water is removed from liquid milk, aka milk powder. They provide nutrients but also contain additives. 

Natural flavours - They are added to enhance the taste of the yoghurt and often do not provide any nutritional benefits. Natural flavours are substances extracted from plant or animal sources while artificial flavours are man-made from chemicals.

Despite the name "natural', they are usually heavily processed, Individuals may also have allergic reactions due to the presence of added substances in whole natural flavour mixture. 

For example, instead of using actual strawberry fruit, the yogurt may contain a natural flavor derived from the fruit that simulates and provides the characterizing strawberry flavour. 

Juice concentrate - They are added to enhance the taste and color of the yoghurt. Juice concentrate are fruit juice with majority of the water removed. They are mainly filtered, evaporated, and pasteurised. They are much more heavily processed than fruit juice itself and may harbour additives and sugar. Sodium is also often added into vegetable concentrate. As concentrate does not spoil as easily as fresh juice, this makes them more cost-effective and is a good option to replace juice in fruit yoghurt. They provide some vitamins and nutrients but lack in fiber. Concentrate and juice causes a spike in blood sugar levels due to the lack of fiber. It is recommended to consume whole fruit and even limit consumption of 100% fruit juice. 

Acidity regulators - Examples are citric acid, trisodium citrate. They are added to maintain or change the pH of the alkalinity and acidity of the food that prevents disease causing organism from growing in the food. This hence increase the shelf life. However, overconsumption can lead to tooth decay and other complications.

Stabilisers - Examples are food starch, gelatin, locust-bean gum, guar gum (extracted from guar seed) and pectin. They are added to increase the shelf stability and thickness of the yoghurt by helping to retain its emulsion state and physical properties. In this case, preventing yoghurt from separating into whey and curd. 

Thickeners - Examples are modified corn starch, gelatin, locust-bean gum, guar gum, pectin. They are added to increase the thickness of the food without altering the taste. Over consumption of thickeners may include constipation, increased gas production and loose stools. 

One of the common permitted stabiliser and thickeners used in yoghurts is thickener (1442) aka Hydroxypropyl Distarch Phosphate.  As a modified food starch, it is chemically prepared by treating corn starch with propylene oxide and phosphoric acid.   While the natural state of food starch exhibits health benefits, modified food starch is actually extensively mulled and treated to confer heat and acid stable properties. This hence makes them a great stabiliser, emulsifier and thickener that does not retains the health benefits of its original state. Hydroxypropyl Distarch Phosphate has been shown to reduce zinc and iron absorption into our bodies which are important micronutrients for human growth, development and maintenance of immune system. 

Stabilisers, thickeners, acidity regulators are one of the fastest growing sector in the food industry, Although these food additives are beneficial in the food industry, research are highlighting the downside of these additives on our health.

Common effects linked to preservatives and additives are carcinogenic, asthma and allergic reactions, bowel symptoms, preterm delivery, increased resistance to antibiotics, hyperactivity in children. Permitted emulsifiers can affect the cells on our gut lining, leading to an increase in the leakiness of the gut and thereby increase the susceptibility of autoimmune disease and other illnesses.

Summary

While these additives are used in amounts that does not pose a threat, they can be accumulated in the long run, in months and years. Effects are even greater on children as their body size is smaller than adults. Start reading the ingredient labels to take control of our diet and determine what’s really being added to your daily foods. Strive to cut back on processed and packaged foods and incorporating more fresh and whole foods into our diet to minimize our intake of food additives.

TGF milk kefir contains over 30 to 50 strains of probiotic microbes which is more than 10 times biodiversity of yoghurt. TGF kefir smoothies are made with only fresh and whole fruits that do not have any added additives, thickeners, stabilisers, flavorings, colorings and sugar. They separate into whey and curd eventually. They are not filtered and can even feel the fiber chunks. Best of all, they taste great even without flavorings!

 

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