I have never been a fan of trends or fads. Most of the time people join in because everybody else is and actually have no idea why that thing is “in.” One of these such trends is Greek yogurt. I’ve heard people justify buying it because it is “healthier” but they don’t seem to know what makes it healthier, alas it is in almost everyone’s shopping cart at the grocery store! Do you know why Greek yogurt is suddenly all the rage, or is it all just Greek to you?
First of all, what is Greek yogurt?
Surprise! Both Greek yogurt and regular yogurt hail from a combination of milk and bacterial cultures. The bacteria ferment the lactose (milk sugar) to produce lactic acid. After fermentation, the liquid whey is then strained off the solid yogurt, to create the creamy yogurt consistency we love.
So how does Greek yogurt come about? Greek yogurt is actually just regular yogurt that has been strained an additional time or two more than regular yogurt. This is why Greek yogurt has a much thicker, creamier consistency, and why regular yogurt often has some liquid in the container when you buy it.
Nutrition wise, how does Greek yogurt compare to regular yogurt?
After comparing a regular vanilla Danone Creamy yogurt, with a vanilla Danone Oikos yogurt (the Greek line from Danone), here is how Greek yogurt stacks up:
- Almost equal calories
- Less fat
- Less sodium
- Less carbs
- Lower in calcium
- Slightly less sugar
- Higher protein
*The whey that is strained out contains much of the sodium, carbs and calcium found in yogurt, which is why Greek yogurts tend to be lower in these areas compared to regular yogurt.
So is Greek yogurt healthier then?
The only real significant difference is that Greek yogurt is higher in protein, about 2-3 times the protein of regular yogurt. Protein helps us feel full after eating and gives us energy, so if we are going to enjoy a dairy treat such as a fruit yogurt, we might as well make it as nutritional as possible and choose Greek yogurt!
That being said, the catch with any yogurt is that there are many different flavors, which means there are plenty of opportunities for added sugar and fat to sneak in. Thus, it is best to stick to plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself with some fresh fruit, granola or a drizzle of honey. It is also wise to choose the low-fat and no added sugar or low-sugar options.
Plain yogurt can also be a great replacement for fattier things when cooking, like sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese or butter. Use it in place of eggs in baked goods, mix it with spice to make a creamy vegetable dip, or use it to make the dressing in your favorite cold salads!
Beware impostor Greek yogurt!
In my research for this post I came across this article from the Globe and Mail, that talked about impostor Greek yogurt. That is, companies selling “Greek yogurt” that is not actually true Greek yogurt. Instead of straining the yogurt after fermentation, companies may add protein powder, milk protein concentrate or filter the milk before fermentation to make the yogurt resemble Greek yogurt. (The article names Liberte and Yoplait as two of the companies guilty of this, and notes that Chobani strains its Greek yogurt properly and uses all natural ingredients. No mention of other Greek yogurt brands).
A plug for Greek yogurt
A few weeks ago my Mom bought some Greek yogurt for us to try (coconut flavor), so we could see what all the Greek yogurt fuss was about. Being a Nutrition student, I of course had to try some! HOLY MACARONI it was amazing! It was SO thick and creamy, and the coconut flavor was incredible. It immediately swept me away to a sandy beach with an ice cold pina colada in my hand. Heavenly!
*Please note this is the only brand and flavor of coconut yogurt I have tried, so I am of course, completely biased with this opinion.
Have you tried Greek yogurt? Do you like it better than regular yogurt?