Is Chobani Greek Yogurt Healthy?

June 25, 2012

Is Chobani yogurt healthy?I’m dedicated to giving the middle finger to the food industry – more specifically to the food marketing industry – whenever they deserve it. Like when it comes to Chobani greek yogurt.

Why? Because I used to work in advertising, selling “food” products that are terribly misleading. Look around. For all the “healthy food” on the market, we seem to just be getting sicker and sicker.

I remember when Chobani first hit the blog scene. It felt like every healthy food blogger was suddenly raving about the free samples they’d received in the mail and using yogurt in their baking and cooking umpteen ways. It’s still going on now, years later. Well, gotta hand it to the marketing folks at Chobani. They know how to use bloggers to market their product. So let’s talk about it.

Chobani Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is delicious, no doubt. And it’s received attention for having more protein and less sugar than regular yogurt. Chobani in particular has been appealing to the health-conscious consumer and we see this reflected in the packaging. “Only Natural Ingredients” is scrawled across the top (but we know by now that means nothing, right? The word “Natural” is not regulated in food marketing.) Chobani also reminds us that this product is non-fat (some varieties are low-fat). And as a sponsor of the Olympic team, it’s gotta be good for us, right?

Well, it appears to be healthy! But is it?

For the record, I define “healthy” food as food that is real, whole, nutrient dense and comes from the earth.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients.

Nonfat Yogurt made from nonfat milk
Milk is a perfect example of a whole food – when we keep it whole, that is. As soon as we start removing fat, it’s no longer in its natural state. I’m sorry to have to say this, but Chobani is right off the bat not a whole food.

Why does it matter? Well, in this case, fat is important for absorbing calcium. There may be 20% of your RDA of calcium in this cup, but it won’t be absorbed properly without fat.

What about the milk used to make Chobani? It’s not organic. That’s a bummer. But the Chobani website claims that the milk they use is free of rBST (a synthetic growth hormone). That’s good.

One last thing. You know Greek yogurt is just yogurt that’s been strained, right? You can do it yourself with a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. (Of course companies like Chobani also use the thickeners listed below, but there’s still a straining process.) The result is thick, creamy yogurt and the leftover whey. So imagine all the milk that’s turned to yogurt and then strained for Chobani. Where does all the whey go? It’s an environmental concern.

Live Cultures
Super. That’s the best part of eating yogurt, nutritionally speaking.

Real fruit? Great. I wish they were organic. Blueberries in particular are one of those fruits that according to the Environmental Working Group you should always buy organic to avoid some serious pesticide residue.

Evaporated Cane Juice
Apparently blueberries are not sweet enough on their own. Damn. Evaporated Cane Juice is about as sugary as sugar gets. There’s no redeeming value here. In fact, it’s one of the biggest reasons I said no when Chobani asked to send me samples. I try to keep sugary treats out of the house and I certainly don’t need it in my “health” food.

Pectin and Locust Bean Gum
Thickeners. No big problem here. But note that if you made your own yogurt at home, these are not part of the recipe. They’re kind of a “cheat” for industrially made stuff.

The verdict?

Chobani has a lot of healthy aspects, but it’s not a whole food. And it’s just another way sugar sneaks into your diet. Finally, the non-organic ingredients and whey disposal issues present an environmental concern.

It appears to be healthy but it definitely…isn’t the best.

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