For many people, yogurt has become a sort of go-to health food. Not only does the creamy snack offer a great nutritional profile (which we’ll look at in more depth later) but it’s also rich in healthy bacteria called probiotics. In fact, almost 30 percent of Americans eat yogurt on a daily basis. But, in recent years, Greek yogurt has exploded on to the scene and seemingly taken over the yogurt market. According to the American Council on Exercise, sales of this thicker, tangier yogurt variety steadily doubled every year from 2008 to 2011. What makes Greek yogurt so special? Is it really the best option for you? Is it really worth the added cost compared to traditional yogurt? Below, I will discuss the benefits of both types of yogurt as well as the differences between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt which I hope will allow you to make a better choice for you and your family.
What Makes It Greek?
Of course, the most obvious reason for calling Greek yogurt “Greek,” is that it’s produced in the traditional Greek fashion. Strictly speaking, traditional Greek yogurt is made from goat’s milk rather than cow’s milk the main ingredient used to make most American-made products. The big difference, however, is a result of the processing that Greek yogurt undergoes.
While regular yogurt is strained once or twice, Greek yogurt is strained much more thoroughly than it’s counterpart. This process removes most of the liquid whey, sugars and water from the yogurt. Although this might seem like a small difference, it completely changes the end product. The most noticeable difference is that Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt.
The straining process used to produce Greek yogurt means two very important things to manufacturers and consumers alike. First, Greek yogurt takes more time to make. Second, it requires more milk. While one gallon of milk will generally create a gallon of regular yogurt, four galons of milk are required to make one gallon of greek yogurt. This process means that Greek yogurt requires more time to produce and create thus making it more costly and expensive compared to American made yogurt..
Because of this, there are many “Greek-style” yogurts on the market now that do things a little differently. Instead of using the costly and time-consuming straining process, these companies opt for thickeners like cornstarch or various vegetable gums to achieve the desired consistency. These additives aren’t necessarily bad for you but, it could change the nutritional profile of the yogurt. Plus, it’s always good to know what you’re putting in your body so if you’re going to spend the extra money on “Greek” yogurt, you probably want it to actually be Greek yogurt.
As I mentioned above, the multiple passes through a cheesecloth that Greek yogurt makes have a significant impact on the nutritional content of the yogurt. Interestingly, both varieties of yogurt have about the same about of total calories, making them good options for dieters. Let’s see how the two stack up when it comes to other aspects. Of course, exact numbers will vary from brand to brand, but this will give you a general idea to help you make your decision.
- Fat: Unfortunately, Greek yogurt is remarkably high in saturated fats. While recent research has shown that saturated fats aren’t necessarily as bad for you as once thought, they still aren’t recommended in excessive amounts. Greek yogurt can pack as much as 16g of saturated fat into a serving, making it three-times as fatty as it’s standard counterpart. For this reason, you may want to choose the low-fat Greek yogurts, rather than the regular preparation.
- Carbohydrates: This is really where Greek yogurt starts to shine. After being strained, Greek yogurt typically has about half the carbohydrates and dietary sugars then regular yogurt. These numbers will change significantly, though, in flavors with fruit added. Still, this fact makes plain Greek yogurt a perfect choice for low-carb dieters.
- Protein: Another area where Greek yogurt has a clear advantage is in it’s incredibly high protein levels, which are usually double that of standard yogurt. This high concentration of protein will not only give you the nutrients you need to encourage muscle growth and stabilize blood sugar, it will also help you feel fuller while providing longer satiety so that you may avoid snacking later.
- Micronutrients: When it comes to micronutrients, calcium and sodium are really the only two contenders worth considering in this discussion. As far as calcium goes, regular yogurt is the clear winner with over three-times the amount of this vital mineral. Conversely, Greek yogurt has about half the sodium of regular yogurt, which could be a deciding factor if you’re concerned about your blood pressure.
Consider Your Situation
As you can see, both options of yogurt have their distinct pros and cons that should be weighed when making your decision. For example, if you’re trying to stick to a low-carb/high-protein diet, Greek yogurt is a perfect choice for you. People with concerns over their heart-health, however, may prefer the low-fat, low-sodium features of standard yogurt. Parents of young children may also like the idea of the higher calcium content inherent in standard yogurt and pick that for their snacks. The lower cost of standard yogurt may also be a powerful deciding factor for many people.
Ultimately, you need to consider your personal situation and pick the type of yogurt that is best for you which compliments your dietary goals. Regardless of what you decide, both standard and Greek yogurts have their undeniable merits.