Mumbai: Mumbai is gobbling frozen yoghurt, bought out by its 'healthy' tag. But is it really?

Mumbaikers who love their dessert are increasingly dumping the icecream cone in favour of a new sweetie that's just as creamy and tasty, but also assumedly more healthy: the frozen yoghurt.

The first frozen yoghurt joint sprouted in the city two years ago, and as many as 10 new brands have entered the game since February this year. Most proudly claim to have 'no fat' and 'no added sugar'.

Pro at it

Bacteria associated with lactic acid, popularly called probiotic bacteria, are naturally present in yoghurt and are primarily responsible for making it healthy. This friendly group of bacteria reside in the intestinal tract — the first line of defence in the body's immune system. They help in digestion, which in turn helps the body assimilate nutrients from the food we eat better. They also provide B vitamins, insulin, Vitamin K and essential fatty acids.

Not so sweet
The good bacteria, mixed with low fat milk and no added sugar sounds like a great alternative to all the brownies in the world. But on close inquiry, the perfect picture tumbles like topping.

Flavoured versions of yoghurt contain more sugar (by virtue of added flavour) than plain versions. Froyo, Yogurtbay, Cocoberry and Yoforia employees at branches we visited admitted to adding a wee bit of sugar to the plain mix to lend it flavour. Yogurberry's plain flavour contained no sugar, the brand maintained.

Experts say, the flavouring used upsets the balance of the cup on the health scale — fresh fruits obviously make it healthier, but most outlets use canned fruits, syrups (more sugar) and synthetic flavouring.

The yoghurt itself is suspect in many cases
The base powder is imported from Europe or the US, and countless little ingredients that flavour the mix make what finally comes out of the machine.

And the probiotic bacteria?

"Bacteria succumb to sugar," says nutritionist Naini Setalvad. "Though a small amount of probiotics could be present in the yogurt, their health benefits are nullified by the white sugar, something our body doesn't need at all."

Yoforia claims to use organic milk and organic fruit. "All the farmers and vendors we work with come from in and around Mumbai are certified by our headquarters, where their products are tested in advance," explains the Carter Road outlet manager Kunal Shringarpure. Yet it also uses a mix of powder and real yoghurt in all its creations.

Artificial flavours and preservatives can cause immune suppression, according to Setalvad. "They disrupt hormones and impair memory. They could also trigger minor health problems such as a cough," she says. What about 'healthy' flavours like taro root that's offered at Yoforia. "Taro root is healthy," confirms Setalvad. "However, its vitamins and minerals could be lost if it's heavily processed. On the bright side, it is low in glycemic index, and affects blood sugar slowly."

Top it right
Now the allure of the yoghurt cup lies in the colourful palette of toppings you can choose from. And therein lies the trap. Exotic fruits such as blueberries and raspberries are usually canned, diminishing their nutrient value. The syrups — chocolate, butterscotch or caramel — are high in HFCS (High Fructose Cane Sugar), the processed sugar linked to obesity. The same goes for the chocolate mousse, cookie crumble, chocolate sprinkles, jellies and cheesecake base.

Your healthiest option
: Plain sugar-free dahi that you can sprinkle with nuts, muesli or fresh fruit.

How to make your own

If you want to ensure that the frozen yoghurt is truly healthy, just make one yourself. Setalvad tells you how: Take low-fat dahi, add some fresh or dry fruits, sweeten it with honey and run it through the blender. Leave it overnight in the freezer. Top it with nuts when you are ready to dig in.

(Agencies)

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