Health column: How much sugar is in your yogurt?

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10/18/2010 5:29 PM |

The following diet and exercise information is provided by The American Institute for Cancer Research.
Q: How can I tell how much of the sugar in yogurt is from fruit and milk and how much is from added sugar?
A: The product label doesn’t allow you to distinguish among the different sources of sugar. However, you can compare the sugar content listed on flavored yogurt to the sugar in a similar type of plain (unflavored) yogurt, since the difference between them will reflect added sugar content. When you do, you’ll see that eight ounces of most regular fruit-flavored yogurt contains about two teaspoons to two tablespoons of added sugar. There are about four grams of sugar in one teaspoon. Eight ounces of most regular fruit-flavored yogurt contain 26 to 39 grams of sugar, whereas the same amount of plain regular yogurt contains 16 to 17 grams of the sugar naturally found in milk. That means that the sweetened fruit yogurts contain 10 to 27 grams of sugar from fruit and added sugar. We might like to believe that’s mostly from fruit, but a quick check of the nutritional content shows it’s not.
While strawberry yogurt contains 0 to 2 percent of the daily vitamin C, if the yogurt contained even a tablespoon of strawberries it would have about 10 percent. When doing this comparison, be sure to compare similar serving sizes and types of yogurt. Nutritionally, eight ounces is considered a serving of yogurt, but a six-ounce container must list nutritional values for six ounces.
Greek yogurt starts with lower sugar content because of the whey that is drained off. But eight ounces of fruit-flavored Greek yogurt, too, contains two to four teaspoons of added sugar. The take-home message if you don’t want to do the label comparisons is that you can get much less added sugar, fewer calories and much more nutrition if you buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit.
Q: Does tai chi count as a form of moderate exercise that reduces risk of chronic diseases?
A: Depending on how it is used, tai chi apparently can decrease risk of some long-term health problems while posing very little chance of harm. Tai chi is one form of what is called “meditative movement,” including a three-part focus on the body (posture and movement), breath and mind (meditation).
Both tai chi and a similar form called qigong include slow, flowing, dance-like motions and may also include sitting or standing meditation postures and gentle or vigorous body shaking. Some forms do fall in the category of moderate-intensity exercise.
A recent review of 67 separate randomized controlled trials of tai chi or qigong concluded that they showed benefits after eight to 12 weeks for heart health (especially blood pressure); and bone health and balance, especially among those who were sedentary or at risk of falls. Benefits are most clear comparing those who practice these movements to people who are sedentary.
Tai chi and qigong may provide benefits similar to other forms of exercise, but the results are less consistent, perhaps depending on frequency and specific style. Impact on weight control was inconclusive.

Karen Collins is a registered dietician and certified nutritionist with The American Institute for Cancer Research, the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk.