You may have noticed that Greek yogurt is everywhere these days. Although it’s long been a favorite ingredient for chefs and foodies, it’s only recently become mainstream. Greek yogurt, which is a staple in other parts of the world such as Europe and the Middle East, is richer and creamier than traditional yogurt. Now it’s popularity has spread to the US and sales of Greek yogurt have skyrocketed in this country. Multiple brands of Greek yogurt are popping up in grocery stores and many major yogurt manufacturers are introducing lines of Greek yogurt to get in on the competition. You may have even seen other new products using Greek yogurt, including frozen yogurt and granola bars.
So why is Greek yogurt so popular? Is it really healthier than its traditional counterpart?
Both types of yogurt are made with milk that has had live bacterial cultures added to it, causing it to ferment. The fermentation process thickens the yogurt and gives it a tangy flavor. The yogurt is then strained to remove the liquid whey. The difference between the two types of yogurt is that Greek yogurt is strained much more extensively to remove most of its whey. Because it is strained so much, it takes a lot more milk (up to 4 times as much) to make the same amount of Greek yogurt than regular yogurt. The result is a thicker, creamier texture similar to sour cream.
Here’s how Greek yogurt stacks up compared to regular yogurt:
- Protein- Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt- almost double the amount. The high protein content helps keep you feeling full longer. It’s a great option for breakfast to give you long-lasting energy throughout the morning. It can also be a good source of protein for vegetarians.
- Carbohydrates- Greek yogurt has less (roughly half) carbohydrates than regular yogurt because a lot of it is lost during the extensive straining process. This makes it a great option for anyone watching their carbs, including diabetics. But be careful because the carbs can add up if you add a lot of sweeteners to your yogurt.
- Fat- Greek yogurt actually has more saturated fat than traditional yogurt. Saturated fats in your diet should be limited because they raise cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. So, if you’re going Greek, choose the fat-free or low-fat varieties instead of full-fat. The good news is that the lower fat versions are so creamy and thick, you won’t miss it.
- Sodium- Greek yogurt has less sodium than traditional yogurt because a lot of it is lost in the straining process. This makes it a great option for anyone watching their sodium intake.
- Calcium- Greek yogurt has less calcium than regular yogurt because once again, some of it is lost through the straining process. Although Greek yogurt still contains a good amount of calcium, if you are worried about your calcium intake, make sure you get adequate amounts from other sources.
So what’s the final verdict? With more protein combined with less sugar and sodium, Greek yogurt does have a nutritional edge over regular yogurt- just be sure to choose fat-free or low-fat varieties. But with this said, keep in mind that both types of yogurt are good for you and provide probiotics that are beneficial for digestive health- just make sure the label states that it contains live, active bacterial cultures.