Frozen yogurt, also called “frogurt” or “froyo”, took the food world by storm and became the darling of America in the 80s. Now, it is back with a bang and this time, froyo is here to stay.
So, what is all the hype about frozen yogurt and why is it touted as a healthier alternative to ice cream and other desserts? What is frozen yogurt made of that makes it healthier? Well, if you want to know the answers to all these questions, read on.
Before we go into the details, let us see what frozen yogurt is and a bit about its origin.
Frozen yogurt is a frozen dessert that is made with yogurt and milk and sometimes, non-dairy products too. Froyo has a unique taste that is tarter and tangier compared to ice cream and since the product is made of milk and not cream, it has a lower fat content. Frozen yogurt, unlike regular yogurt, is not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and some frozen yogurt may contain active bacteria cultures, depending on the manufacturer.
Plain yogurt has been consumed around the world by people over several millennia, especially in India and the Middle East and it entered the United States during the early 1900s and started gaining popularity as a health food. Frozen yogurt was invented in 1970 in Massachusetts when a dairy employee of Hood put yogurt into a soft-serve ice cream machine.
In 1981, TCBY (This Can’t Be Yogurt), which later went on to be known as The Country’s Best Yogurt, produced the first commercial frozen yogurt, a sweeter and healthier product, which tasted like ice cream. At this time, frozen yogurt became so popular that TCBY became a roaring success and became the world’s biggest frozen yogurt franchise. By the mid-1990s, frozen yogurt accounted for around 10 percent of the frozen dessert market and around $300 million in terms of sales.
Today, the popularity of frozen yogurt continues across the world.
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So, what is frozen yogurt made of and why is it considered a healthy dessert? Let us take an in-depth look into what this delicious frozen dessert contains.
Frozen yogurt has similar ingredients as ice cream and the process by which frozen yogurt is made is also like ice cream. However, the only thing different is that yogurt culture is added in frozen yogurt. This yogurt culture consists of strains of bacteria like Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, which gives the frozen yogurt its distinct tangy and tart flavor. The yogurt culture constitutes around 1% of the ingredients in the frozen yogurt.
The main ingredient contained in frozen yogurt is milk and milk products. Generally, around 0.5% to 6% of the ingredients consists of milk fat and this depends on the type of milk used to make frozen yogurt, whether it is non-fat, low-fat or regular milk. The milk fat makes the frozen yogurt rich and creamy and it also acts as a catalyst for other flavorings.
MSNF (milk solids, not fat) constitutes around 8% to 14% of frozen yogurt. The MSNF comprises around 55% lactose or milk sugar, 37% of protein and 8% of other minerals and gives the frozen yogurt body. The protein in the MSNF helps to increase the viscosity, compactness, and smoothness of the frozen yogurt and prevents it from melting easily.
Sugar comprises around 15% to 17% of the ingredients in frozen yogurt. Generally, cane sugar or beet sugar is used as the primary sweetener; however, manufacturers use other combinations of sweeteners too. The sugar not only helps to add sweetness to the frozen yogurt that counteracts the tart and tangy taste, but it also helps to improve the viscosity and body and also increases the total solid concentration in the frozen yogurt.
The total solids help to add texture and body and also increases the food value of the frozen yogurt because the solids replace the water in the mixture. Egg solids may also be added to the mixture, as this helps to reduce the time needed for freezing the frozen yogurt.
The two very important ingredients in frozen yogurt are air and water. Usually, air is introduced into the mixture and this helps to add volume and makes the frozen yogurt light and airy. Water is present in the liquid ingredients of the mixture and the water goes from the liquid state to a semi-solid state.
Frozen yogurt never gets frozen completely, it only contains ice crystals.
Usually, stabilizers such as gelatin or vegetable additives such as guar gum, carrageenan, and others like it are added to the frozen yogurt so that the consistency of the froyo is maintained at the retail outlets because any changes in the temperature can cause the texture of the frozen yogurt to become coarse. The stabilizers also reduce crystallization, help to improve the handling and prevent the frozen yogurt from melting.
Emulsifiers are added and this helps to blend the liquids that do not mix by creating small air pockets in the mixture. Emulsifiers are generally in the form of fatty acids and they help to reduce the time required to whip the mixture and also adds firmness to the frozen yogurt.
Although milk products contain stabilizers and emulsifiers naturally, small amounts of both are added to the frozen mixture and this constitutes around 0.5% to 0.6% of the ingredients.
Other ingredients that are added in very small quantities to the frozen yogurt mixture are coloring, mineral salts and caseinate derivatives such as phosphates and citrates. Additional flavorings such as fruit, nuts, cocoa, fruit extracts, vanilla, spices, and sugars are also added.
Now that you know what frozen yogurt is made of, let us take a peek at how frozen yogurt is made. Large manufacturers use assembly lines that are dedicated to the production of frozen yogurt.
The ingredients needed for the frozen yogurt are measured as per the manufacturer’s recipe and the dry and liquid ingredients are mixed separately. The liquid ingredients are poured in a vat, mixed and then heated. The dry ingredients are then added to the liquid ingredients in a specific order.
The temperature of the mixture is then increased gradually. Most of the ingredients must be added before the mixture reaches a temperature of 120°F (49°C), otherwise, the mixture will become lumpy.
The mixture must be pasteurized in order to destroy the harmful bacteria and the process also helps to preserve the final product. Pasteurization is also required by law in several countries. The process of pasteurization involves heating the mixture to a very high temperature for a specific time and then reducing the temperature to below 40°F (4°C).
Homogenizing helps to make the mixture smoother and the process essentially decreases the fat to less than 2 micrometers. If the mixture is not homogenized, then the fat will rise to the top and form a layer of cream.
When the mixture is at around 90°F (32°C), the 1% yogurt culture containing the live bacterial strains is added to it. The mixture remains at 90°F (32°C) until it sets. Once it is set, it is ready to be cooled.
After the mixture is homogenized, it must be cooled. As it cools, the mixture becomes thick and viscous. When the temperature of the mixture is between 32°F (0°C) and 40°F (4°C), it is stored inside aging tanks within coolers and the mixture remains here for around 4 hours.
The other ingredients such as flavorings, sweeteners, and coloring are mixed and added to the mixture in the freezer. When the mixture is hardening, it is whisked and air is incorporated into the mixture to give it extra volume or overrun. Incorporating air into the mixture also helps to smoothen the consistency of the frozen yogurt and makes it more palatable.
The mixture starts freezing in around 3 minutes and in a few more minutes the required overrun is achieved and around 1/3rd-2/3rd of the water freezes. Once the required overrun is achieved, the mixture is packed and put into freezers. The freezing occurs very quickly to prevent the formation of large and coarse ice crystals. The frozen yogurt is then stored in a cold area, ready to be shipped.
It is also possible to make frozen yogurt in a soft-serve freezer. The frozen yogurt mix is available in either a liquid form that can be poured into the soft-serve machine or you can get it in a powder form, which must be mixed with water before pouring into the machine.
You can choose a mix with the fat content your want, high, low or fat-free, and the amount of air incorporated into the soft-serve froyo is variable. The frozen yogurt can absorb more air if the fat content is higher and the more air that is absorbed, the creamier and lighter your final product will be.
Since now you know what is frozen yogurt made of and what ingredients it contains, let us look at the nutrition content of frozen yogurt. Well, the nutrition profile of frozen yogurt depends on the type of milk that is used to make it and the sweeteners and flavorings that have been added to the froyo.
For example, if the frozen yogurt is made from non-fat or low-fat milk, the froyo will contain a lower fat content when compared to the frozen yogurt made with full-fat or whole milk.
Often, sugar is added to the frozen yogurt to sweeten the taste and also counteract the tart flavor and this causes the calories to pile on. Also, the toppings you add to your frozen yogurt can add fat, sugar and extra calories. However, frozen yogurt is often considered as a healthier alternative compared to other frozen desserts because it contains beneficial nutrients, probiotics and has lower lactose levels, which can have health benefits.
Below are the nutrition facts of 100 grams of regular frozen yogurt.
So, if you break down the nutrition profile of frozen yogurt according to the ingredients, you have:
Frozen yogurt does not contain cream and this is why it has lower calories compared to ice cream. While the frozen yogurt made from whole milk contains around 4 grams of fat, there are low-fat and non-fat versions of frozen yogurt too which contain around 2.94 grams and 0.65 grams of fat per 1 cup serving.
As we already know, bacteria such as Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are added to the frozen yogurt. Many manufacturers also add probiotics to the frozen yogurt for added benefit. However, since frozen yogurt is frozen, the freezing process may kill the probiotic strains, so the product may not offer the probiotic advantages that you may get from plain yogurt.
Frozen yogurt can contain around 15 grams to 40 grams of sugar in a 1 cup serving, which means that it can easily rival ice cream. However, the sugar contained in the frozen yogurt varies widely, depending on the brand, and some of the manufacturers add extra sugar to improve the texture and taste of the frozen yogurt and also to counteract the tart taste produced by the bacteria.
1 cup of regular frozen yogurt contains around 127 calories; however, often people can get quite carried away when buying frozen yogurt. Thinking that frozen yogurt is a healthier alternative compared to ice cream, people end up loading their frozen yogurt with toppings like candy sprinkles, chocolate chips, or cookies and this really can load up the calories, not to mention the sugar.
In conclusion, while frozen yogurt can be considered a “healthy dessert option”, it is really up to you to make it a guilt-free indulgence. The key is to moderate your portion size and choose healthy toppings, or better still, go toppings-free.