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Superfood: Greek Yogurt

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Despite the hype, does Greek yogurt really have more mythical properties than its regular counterpart? Here are the true differences between Greek yogurt and the regular kind.

MY BIG FAT GREEK YOGURT — WHY IT'S SUPER

Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft

 

Greek yogurt, also called strained yogurt, yogurt cheese (or in some cultures, you-left-the-milk-out-too-long), is simply yogurt that has been strained in a cloth, paper bag, or filter to remove the excess liquid. Through this process, Greek yogurt ends up not only thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, but also chock-full of protein and probiotics, which are basically live bacteria (the good kind!) that can improve digestion, and bolster immunity, and maybe even reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance [1]. It takes approximately four pounds of raw milk to produce one pound of Greek yogurt, whereas standard yogurt is more of a 1:1 ratio. And, of course, everyone knows the  ancient proverb: " Four times the milk, four times the fun!"

Greek yogurt also typically ends up lower in carbohydrates and sodium. A lower level of carbohydrates means less lactose, the sugar in dairy products that can upset stomachs, making it easier to digest as well as ideal for diabetics and those naturally sensitive to dairy. Though Greek yogurt may seem like the Hercules of the yogurt world, it doesn’t win every round. During the straining process, some of the calcium is removed with the liquid whey. Regular yogurt has about 10% more calcium than Greek yogurt, so if calcium is the goal, consider sticking with regular yogurt.

Yogurt of the Gods — Your Action Plan

Although some may not initially like Greek yogurt's tangier taste, its versatility in the kitchen may turn them into believers. Besides being delicious on its own, Greek yogurt also doesn’t curdle at high temperatures and stays fresher longer, making it particularly useful in the kitchen. It can be used as a substitution for sour cream, cream cheese, and even mayonnaise.

But before loading up on a fridge full of Greek yogurt, know that whole milk Greek yogurt typically has twice the amount of fat and protein than regular yogurt. Like the traditional flavored yogurt, flavored Greek yogurt can also be loaded with sugar. When looking for Greek yogurt, opt for low-fat or non-fat versions to reap its health benefits without the added calories. Have a sweet tooth? Sweeten up Greek yogurt with honey, cinnamon, a sprinkle of flaxseed, or some fresh berries and nuts for a delicious and healthy treat.

Updated August 2011.

Works Cited

  1. Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial to health. Parvez, S., Malik, KA., Ah Kang, S., et al. Helix Pharms Co. Ltd, Kyung-Hee University, and Department of Biological Sciences of Oriental Medicine, Graduate School of Interdepartmental Studies, Institute of Oriental Medicines, Kyung-Hee University, Dongdaemoon-gu, Seoul, Korea. Journal of Applied Microbiology 2006 Jun;100(6):1171-85.