Q: Does frozen yogurt contain the live active cultures that make it a probiotic?
A: Most frozen yogurt today does include some live probiotic cultures, though products vary and may not provide the same level found in refrigerated yogurt. Like refrigerated yogurt, frozen yogurt starts with pasteurized milk and adds the two specific live cultures Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilis that characterize yogurt. Then other ingredients are added, such as various forms of sugar, flavoring and possibly fruit, stabilizers and cream. Most of the live bacterial cultures survive the flash-freezing technique used to produce frozen yogurt. Variations in production techniques, bacteria type and other ingredients mean all products aren’t the same according to Dr. Simin Meydani, Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University.
No federal standards govern production of frozen yogurt, although the National Yogurt Association sponsors a voluntary labeling program. The Live & Active Culture seal on containers of frozen and refrigerated yogurt can only be used on products that meet specific criteria indicating a significant amount of live and active cultures present at the time the yogurt is produced. The number of cultures needed to meet these criteria is lower for frozen than for refrigerated yogurt, though many frozen yogurts may meet the higher standard.
As with refrigerated yogurt, don’t let frozen yogurt’s potential as a probiotic lead you to overlook the excess calories that can come from overdoing. Check the serving size on container labels where calories are listed as a reminder that it’s best served in a small dish (like what is sometimes called a “custard cup” or traditionally sized coffee cup) or in a cereal bowl in which you’ve first served a cup of unsweetened, nutrient-rich fruit for filling power with fewer calories.