We know that yogurt is good for us. But head to the milk and dairy aisle today and you’ll see a dizzying variety of options.
As a convenient snack, yogurt provides protein as well as vitamins and minerals such as calcium, B vitamins and phosphorus, says Jason Ewoldt, R.D.N., L.D., wellness dietitian at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living program. “Yogurt also contains probiotics, 'good' bacteria, which research suggests when included in the diet might have several healthful properties.”
Knowing that, go ahead and eat more of it, provided you choose the healthy kinds. For years, Greek yogurt has been the go-to variety for optimum health. But what’s the difference? Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained to remove its whey, resulting in a thicker consistency than that of unstrained yogurt, while preserving yogurt's distinctive sour taste. Is one better than another?
Let’s take plain nonfat yogurt — no fruit at the bottom or any other garnishes — and see how Greek and regular compare.
It’s no wonder nutrition experts steer you toward the Greek kind. On average, Greek yogurt contains as much as 17 grams of protein, compared with around 9 grams in regular yogurt, Ewoldt says. Double the protein! More protein in your diet is beneficial for muscle recovery and growth, and it helps keep you feeling fuller longer.
You’ll notice that Greek yogurt is creamier. That’s because the whey, the watery liquid you see at the top of regular yogurt, is removed from the Greek variety. That extra step gives Greek yogurt a creamier consistency. Choose the texture that fits your taste buds.
Sugar and carbohydrates
Yogurt is one of those healthy foods that can easily be made less healthy because of the sugar content. Some taste like dessert. Because nutritionists urge us to avoid too many sweets, going Greek is a smarter choice.
“Greek has a lower amount of sugar (around 5-8 grams, compared to 12 or more grams) than the regular yogurt, while still having the high levels of vitamins and minerals,” Ewoldt says. Greek yogurt also contains about half the carbohydrates of regular varieties. And remember, adding sweeteners and fruit can up the carb count.
Nutritionists usually suggest choosing nonfat yogurt. Do that and you’ll find both regular and Greek yogurts with less than 1 gram, as they’re made with skim milk. But if you go full fat, regular yogurt has fewer fat grams. A serving size of regular yogurt can contain 8 grams of fat, 5 saturated. By comparison, a Greek full-fat yogurt has 10 grams total, 7 saturated. Ultimately, it depends on your diet. An advantage of more fat is that it does keep you satiated longer.
“When comparing yogurt brands, it’s best to look for lower sugar, which will generally be your plain, not flavored, lower-fat options and higher-protein options,” Ewoldt says. “Choose plain yogurts, then add your own fruit or nuts to enhance the flavor and nutrition.”