What exactly is Greek yogurt? It's made by adding a culture to heated cow's milk, which is the same process used in making regular yogurt (In Greece they may use sheep's milk.) The yogurt is then placed into muslin or cheesecloth lined strainers, allowing all the excess liquid or whey to drain off. (This step is skipped when making regular yogurt.) This process produces a product that is much thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, much like the texture of sour cream. It tastes less bitter, which has probably helped it grow in popularity once people have tasted it.
Greek yogurt costs more than regular yogurt simply because it takes more milk to produce the solid end product: there is a lot of whey drained off during that straining process.
Nutritionally, both regular and Greek style yogurts are nutrient-dense power houses. However, there are 3 main differences:
- Regular yogurt is higher in calcium. During the straining process, much of the calcium is actually in the liquid, or whey, which ends up making Greek yogurt lower in calcium.
- Greek yogurt is higher in protein. Much of the protein is in the thick solid that forms when the culture is added. Because more milk is needed to make the yogurt, Greek yogurt ends up much higher in protein.
- Greek yogurt is lower in carbohydrates than plain yogurt. Lactose is the simple carb (sugar) found in both in the whey and in the milk solids. After straining, only about half of these naturally occurring sugars remain.
Compare 6 oz. of these Non-Fat Yogurts:
Dannon Plain Oikos Greek Yoplait Lite Yoplait Original
calories 80 80 80 170
carbohydrates 12 g. 6 19 33
protein 9 g. 20 5 5
calcium 30%DV 20 20 20
vitamin D 0 0 20 20
Try It, You'll Like It! If you haven't yet tried Greek yogurt, try some plain, fat-free, with some fresh fruit on top and maybe a tiny drizzle of honey on top to see what you think. It really is less bitter than regular yogurt, so thick, creamy and smooth. It makes a wonderful, protein packed afternoon snack or it can even serve as part of a healthy meal. It makes a fantastic base for fruit and veggie dips. I love to use Greek yogurt anywhere a recipe may call for sour cream or mayonnaise. It's thick creamy consistency is perfect, and the nutritional benefits can't be beat!
Don't forget regular, non-fat plain yogurt is wonderful and so good for you, too. And, it's higher in calcium and less expensive. I still love my plain yogurt, fresh fruit, about 1/4 cup of dried oats, and a few walnuts sprinkled on top. So good for a quick, yummy, easy breakfast.
Just remember one thing: even when you buy fat free yogurt, you need to watch the label carefully. Many are loaded with sugar. Some sugar will always be on the nutritional label; there is lactose in the milk product. Look at the ingredient list for words like sugar, or anything that ends in "ose" indicating added sugars. Try as often as you can to choose plain, fat free or low fat yogurt or Greek yogurt and add your own fresh fruit. You just may surprise yourself at how delicious it really is!
Your homework this week: Go Greek!