Is ACTIVIA Yogurt All It’s Cracked Up To Be?


activia

Sam and I are out of town for a few days, staying in a hotel and eating the complimentary hotel breakfast. I love yogurt and eat it almost every day, so yesterday morning I grabbed a container of ACTIVIA peach yogurt from the hotel buffet and ate it on top of melon chunks. As I ate the yogurt, I studied the container. My curiosity was piqued by the claim on the front of the package: “Helps Regulate Your Digestive System.” I remembered Rule #8 from Michael Pollan’s latest book, Food Rules : “Avoid Food Products That Make Health Claims.” Is this one of those health claims I should be wary of? I wondered. Time to do some sleuthing and figure out if ACTIVIA yogurt is all it’s cracked up to be.

Know Your Labels

I started by looking at the back label:
ACTIVIA Peach Yogurt (4 oz.)

  • Calories: 120
  • Total Fat: 2g (Sat Fat: 1g)
  • Sugars: 19g
  • Protein: 3g

Red Flag #1: HIGH SUGAR CONTENT
A measly 4 oz. (½ cup) serving of this “healthy” yogurt contains 19 g (nearly 5 teaspoons) of sugar. Yikes! A quick look at the ingredients verifies the sugar content.

INGREDIENTS: Cultured Grade A Reduced Fat Milk, Sugar, Peaches, Fructose, Water, Modified Food Starch, Contains less than 1% of Milk Protein Concentrate, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Flavor, Kosher Gelatin, Annatto Extract and Black Carrot Juice Concentrate (For Color), Agar Agar [?], Lactic Acid, Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Xanthan Gum, Vitamin D2.

Not only are there two sources of sugar, but sugars are the second and fourth of the 18 ingredients. This sounds more like a dessert than a healthful breakfast component.

Red Flag #2: INCONSISTENT NUTRTITION FACTS
I couldn’t quite decipher the “Agar Agar” ingredient on my container because that part of the yogurt label was scrunched, so I looked up the peach yogurt nutrition facts on the ACTIVIA website. Interestingly enough, the nutrition facts and ingredients online were different than what appeared on my label.

Online nutrition facts for Activia Peach Yogurt (4 oz.): ­­­­­

  • Calories: 110
  • Total Fat: 2 g (Sat Fat: 1g)
  • Sugars: 17g
  • Protein: 5g

INGREDIENTS: Cultured Grade A Reduced Fat Milk, Peach Puree, Fructose, Sugar, Water, Contains less than 1% of Whey Protein Concentrate, Corn Starch, Modified Corn Starch, Kosher Gelatin, Natural Flavor, Annatto Extract and Black Carrot Juice Concentrate (For Color), Sodium Citrate, Malic Acid.

The online nutrition facts portray a slightly healthier yogurt (fewer calories, less sugar, more protein, fewer ingredients). Is ACTIVIA trying to make their product look healthier online? Or was this an honest mistake, perhaps an accidental posting of the nutrition facts of an older/newer yogurt formula? I don’t know the story behind the ACTIVIA nutrition facts, but there is one thing I do know: what I want in my yogurt.

Know Your Yogurt

NOT TOO MUCH SUGAR
In its most basic form, yogurt contains only two ingredients: milk and Live and Active Cultures. With the alarming rise of diabetes and obesity, you’re better off buying (or making) plain yogurt and sweetening it yourself with fresh fruit or a teaspoon of honey or jam instead of indulging in unnecessary sugar.

LIVE AND ACTIVE CULTURES
In addition to calcium and protein, one of the major health draws of yogurt is the Live and Active Cultures they contain. These good bacteria or probiotics help regulate the natural bacteria that line the digestive tract. Thus arises the premise of ACTIVIA’s health claim: their yogurt will help you stay regular.

The ACTIVIA peach yogurt contains three cultures: L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus and Bifidobacterium Lactis DN 173-010. This is a good start, considering some yogurts contain no Live and Active cultures because they are heat-treated to prolong shelf life. Still, there are lower-sugar, more concentrated options for consuming Live and Active Cultures: ­­­­­­­­­­­the 365 Everyday Value Plain Yogurt at Whole Foods contains 6 Live and Active Cultures. And if you’re really gung-ho about Live and Active Cultures, try Kefir, a cultured yogurt drink with European roots. Lifeway Kefir contains 10 Live and Active Cultures.

It’s likely that Live and Active Cultures do have a positive effect on health (see here), but do you really need to consume Live and Active Cultures to stay regular?

Know Your Body

A better (and more immediate) solution for someone suffering from “slow intestinal transit” (as ACTIVIA calls it) is to eat more fiber: legumes, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Considering a recent CDC study found that fewer than 1/3 of U.S. adults eat 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables each day, it’s no wonder people are suffering from “slow intestinal transit.” And if people are missing out on fiber from fruits and vegetables, they may be missing out on other nutrients as well.

Furthermore, ACTIVIA’s scientific proof that their yogurt helps “slow intestinal transit” is hard to come by: I couldn’t find any scientific proof on their website, and a Slate article also calls into question the existence of ACTIVIA’s scientific proof.

So is ACTIVIA all it’s cracked up to be? I don’t think so. If you want to eat yogurt, go for plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself. If you want to incorporate Live and Active Cultures into your diet, find a yogurt with a higher concentration of these probiotics. If you’re concerned about “slow intestinal transit,” eat more fiber. By knowing what your body needs to function well—in this case, ample fiber and not too much sugar—you can tailor your diet to include whole, unprocessed foods that will leave you feeling energized and strong.

Want to learn more?
–  Learn from the Mayo Clinic which foods have high fiber contents
–  Learn about Live & Active Cultures from the National Yogurt Association
–  Learn about Lifeway Kefir

20 Thoughts on “Is ACTIVIA Yogurt All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

  1. Lauranne on November 10, 2010 at 4:02 PM said:

    You go! :)

    • nicole on December 2, 2012 at 1:28 PM said:

      Wel this is all fine and dandy. but you really think your smart. Activia is does do what it says on the labels. I have had stomach problems my whole life. Including a bout of cancer at one point. A while back, my DR told me to eat Activia, along with my meds. My meds use to make me sick. Many meds. and Activia in my diet, I have fewer problems with my stomach. Peach has sugar. A peach from a tree has sugars. You are not going to find things, without sugar. And when you do they are bad for you. I think I will trust my gut, and the lack of pain, over this. I also gave it to my baby, she use to cry all night, and cry and cry. Her stomach would hurt. But giving her activia before bed, calmed that down a lot too. Activia tastes better and there may be sugar. Sugar is not the devil, that the world says it is. High furctose, and other things are not so good for you. But if your body does not have any sugar, you will die. Your body does need certain levels of sugar. Without it you get sick. People like to post, and think they are so smart. But not always right. If it helps me and my daughter not feel pain, and I can eat it as a diabetic, then I do not see the problem really.

    • Activia is not really good for you. Go buy plain Middle Eastern Yogurt, Zdan brand, which has more cultures than Activia,(5 to be exact) and it comes in a 2 pound container, Get some fresh fruit, add a little honey or sugar, and boom! Alot cheaper and better for you.

  2. Crescent Rainwater on November 10, 2010 at 11:05 PM said:

    Oooooh! Such a wonderful, educational post, Andrea. And you have a compelling way of making nutrition fun rather than complicated or discouraging.

    • andrealein on November 11, 2010 at 11:58 AM said:

      Thanks, Crescent! I’m glad you found this fun to learn about. I really enjoyed researching and writing this post, and I guess that comes across to you readers!

  3. How interesting! I love that you did research on this. I think there are a lot of misleading products out there that claim to be “healthy” but aren’t!

    • andrealein on November 12, 2010 at 12:07 PM said:

      Hey Cortney! Yes, I agree that there are a lot of misleading products out there. I had so much fun working on this post that I think might try to do a similar post each month where I investigate whether certain health foods are actually healthy or not. :) Any thoughts for future products?

  4. Sheryl on March 16, 2012 at 8:18 PM said:

    I am so glad you wrote this blog. I was eating yogurt assuming it was healthy but noticing I was putting on weight and yeah wonder why? Now I have 10 cups of little containers loaded with sugar in my refrigerator. Also, one night I ate 4 yummy peach harvest activia cups and it is very creamy and delicious but never noticed any contribution to regulation. No change at all but now I know what I need to do. From now on its fresh fruit and plain yogurt for me.

    • andrea on March 18, 2012 at 5:11 PM said:

      I’m so glad you found this blog post helpful. :) It really is too bad that we have to do so much detective work and label reading just to eat! But I think it gets easier and easier. And I agree–plain yogurt with fresh fruit is a great way to go.

  5. David on April 5, 2012 at 5:23 AM said:

    Great article! It’s always nice when things are broken down without any BS.

    I’m wondering, is it psosible to add live cultures to plain yoghurt yourself ? Can you actually buy these (not including pills)?

    • andrea on April 12, 2012 at 1:41 PM said:

      Hi David. Glad the article was helpful. :) You know, I’m not sure how you’d go about adding live and active cultures to plain yogurt. I think I’d simply look for a brand of yogurt that contains live and active cultures. If you’re making your own yogurt, all the live and active cultures from the starter should be present in the new batch of yogurt. Just make sure you use yogurt that has live and active cultures to begin with.

  6. I have always wondered about the health benefits of Activia. The few times I’ve eaten it, I thought it was too sweet. I get plain Greek yogurt and add my own fruit, either blueberries or strawberries. Or eat it plain.

    • andrea on May 5, 2012 at 4:34 PM said:

      Yes, health claims can be misleading, which is really unfortunate! And I agree, plain yogurt with berries is so much more delicious than pre-sweetened yogurt!

  7. I know this article is years old, but perhaps you could post an update on the non-fat Activia yogurt? I got a 4-pack of raspberry “light” and it didn’t look as bad as you describe.

    • andrea on June 13, 2012 at 3:24 PM said:

      Hi Rob, That’s a great idea to post an update about non-fat Activia yogurt. This post has been quite popular, so I’m sure others would also like to hear about the non-fat version. I’ll get on it!

  8. roosky on March 20, 2013 at 3:41 PM said:

    Just wondering if you did any further research on the 0% fat Activia yogurts, which I’ve been eating a lot of lately ? I suspect there is still a lot of sugar in them too !

  9. I am alternating between activia and stoneyfield. But I think I will try the plain yogurt and get some frozen fruit. What’s the gain on stoneyfield?

  10. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright
    infringement? My blog has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any techniques to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d truly appreciate it.

  11. jennie forde on July 10, 2013 at 11:28 AM said:

    Hi andrea,
    I would like to thank you for the blog concerning activia yoghurt, I WILL NOT BE BUYING ANYMORE, I cant believe how much sugar i have been consuming.
    thankyou jennie.

  12. I have been eating 2 activia yogarts with and apple every morning M-F for years. I saw a guy on TV recently who said the food industry has moved the heavy sugar in soft drinks into yogart among other things. I found your blog and WOW 5 teaspoons!!! I am going to look for plain yogart from now on, the apples are sweet enough by themselves.

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