What Are The Health Benefits Of Greek Yogurt Vs. Regular Yogurt?

I love yogurt, and so do many of you, but I really love Greek yogurt, but what is Greek yogurt and why do I love it? Well, not only do I prefer the taste, but I also have come to find that it is the healthier of the two varieties as well, particularly the non fat variety.

So, is Greek yogurt better for you? And what are the health benefits of Greek yogurt vs regular yogurt? Well, they are many both in terms of health and taste, after all, if your health food tastes delicious and indulgent, you are more likely to eat it right?

Well, that seems to be the case as people have been scooping up this stuff in a hurry  since the mid 2000’s and this yogurt has surged in popularity because of its tangier taste, creamier consistency, and lower amounts of naturally occurring sugar, it’s a win-win in my book! (fat free yogurt with the taste of full fat deliciousness?! i’m sold!)

Now to be sure…both regular yogurt and Greek yogurt are great for your health, especially the nonfat Greek yogurt varieties, and they’re both relatively low in calories and loaded with calcium and healthy bacterial cultures which are beneficial for digestion. But there is a real edge to this yogurt nutritionally, and ounce for ounce, it is the superior choice. So what makes this style of yogurt so thick without all that fat? When making Greek yogurt, it is strained fairly rigorously to reduce the liquid whey and lactose which is a naturally occurring form of sugar found in dairy. So here are the areas where Greek yogurt excels in favor of itself:

  • Lower in calories
  • Twice the protein
  • Very little to 0% cholesterol
  • Lower Sodium (and often higher in potassium)
  • Less naturally occurring sugar
  • Twice the amount of naturally occurring calcium

This yogurt does has two important things I have found to be some of the most common denominators for improved overall health, weight loss, and weight maintenance, and that is it doubles the protein, and cuts the sugar by 50% or more (sugar is often converted to fat instead of used for energy as it should be when we get too much of it).

So let’s break this down into more detail for you guys with some greek yogurt nutrition facts, as I was very intrigued and came away wonderfully surprised by how awesome this stuff really is, plus I love to get into the nitty gritty on what my food is truly made of, and where it comes from, particularly on one of favorite dietary weapons of choice.  Let’s start with what I think is one of the biggest benefits to this wonderful treat, the protein.

Protein: This yogurt really kicks things into high gear with what I personally feel is the biggest benefit to consuming non fat varieties of Greek yogurt, and that is the fact that all properly made (and most commercially available) forms of Greek yogurt contain roughly TWICE the protein as compared to regular yogurt styles. Usually I find non fat Greek yogurt in 6 oz cups or bigger 16oz (1 lb) tubs, and just one 6oz cup has about 15-20 grams of protein which equals about 2-3 generous ounces of lean meat!

Typical 6oz yogurt cups will only give you about half of that which means you won’t feel satisfied for nearly as long. That is pretty darn impressive when you consider how versatile this yogurt is, and the different ways you can use it in your cooking or smoothies to add extra protein. (I personally love to use non fat greek yogurt for my fruit smoothies to thicken them up and make them more of a meal replacement).

Sugar/Carbohydrates: Ok, so we all know it’s not just about reducing your overall carbs and certainly your bad carbs, but also about making sure you increase your intake of natural, healthy complex carbs. Well this yogurt is great for those of you trying to cut your carbs, which has about half of the naturally occurring carbs found in typical yogurt at about 5-8 grams per serving vs the 13-17 for the traditional yogurt.

Now keep in mind that sugar is a carbohydrate, so while the straining reduces the lactose significantly (sometimes up to 95%), which in turn makes this a more tolerable dairy based yogurt for lactose intolerant eaters, it will become less carb friendly should you buy a non fat variety that comes with additional sugar added, so do try to avoid that if possible.

Fat and Cholesterol: I definitely have been someone that has had to reduce my love affair with non grass fed red meat, and especially full fat non grass fed dairy to reduce my saturated fat and cholesterol intake (grass fed beef and dairy has omega 3 ratios similar to fish, and way less saturated fat and cholesterol). So given the bum rap that typical dairy has for our health, needless to say, I was delighted I did not have to eat watery and tasteless yogurt to get that rich and satisfying creamy texture I love from my yogurt.

That’s because non fat varieties of Greek yogurt have little to no cholesterol, and absolutely no fat at all! Be mindful to avoid full fat Greek yogurt as it has twice the saturated fat compared to regular yogurt, 16 grams per serving for the Greek (that’s more then 3 snickers bars!), and about 8 grams for an equivalent serving of normal yogurt. Stick with the non fat choices!

 Sodium: One area I have been consistently trying to improve in is a responsible and healthy reduction in my sodium intake, which can be dauntingly difficult, truly. Thankfully, yogurt is naturally fairly low in sodium, about 50 milligrams of sodium per serving. The Greek style varieties are particularly low, by about half when using comparing the same serving size.

I was really surprised and pleased to discover this, and it makes it a great choice for sodium conscious eaters out there, which frankly, we all should be. The United State’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines suggest people to cap there sodium intake at 2,300 milligrams a day, or 1,500 milligrams if they are older than 50, African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Calcium: Frankly, I get plenty of calcium in my diet, and as a man, I need to keep my levels in check actually, but for the women in my life, especially those who are getting older and experiencing increased bone loss, this part is absolutely pivotal. Calcium supplements are all well and good, but I have found it is easier to get needed does in food, is more bio available in food form (your body absorbs and uses more of the nutrient), and is certainly easier to remember to take (it’s a food, not a gigantic chalky calcium pill you have to remember to swallow everyday).

Milk, seeds, nuts like almond and non fat Greek yogurt are much better, and more natural and holistic ways of getting your calcium and satisfying your hunger. At 20% of your daily needs in just one 6oz cup, Greek yogurt can certainly do that!

A Comparison of One Very Major and Common Brand’s Varieties of Traditional and Greek Yogurts: 

Now I am not a big fan of Dannon to be honest, but that is what I will use here to compare and contrast as it is such a common brand of yogurt, and I want this to be of assistance to all of you! some other brands of Greek yogurt that are worth your consideration is Chobani Greek yogurt and Fage as well. They also own about 85% of Stoneyfield which makes an organic variety that I love and whole heartily recommend! Just as an aside, I tend to prefer brands that promote ethical framing and production as well as healthy organic principles, and feel the Oiko’s brand from Stoneyfield is one of the best Greek yogurt products currently available.

I recommend you ONLY buy organic Greek yogurt if and whenever possible to avoid the nasty pesticides,  rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin, a hormone known for its ill health effects on humans), and GMO’s (genetically modified organisms ie: man made frankenstein food) found in traditional food, including yogurt.  With that said let’s compare the nutritional values of there Greek yogurt with there traditional style.

Greek Variety (5.3 ounces, nonfat, plain)

  • Greek yogurt Calories: 80
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 10 milligrams
  • Sodium: 50 milligrams
  • Sugar: 6 grams
  • Protein: 15 grams
  • Calcium: 15 percent on a 2,000-calorie diet

Regular Variety (6 ounces, nonfat, plain)

  • Regular yogurt Calories: 80
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol 5 milligrams
  • Sodium: 120 milligrams
  • Sugar: 12 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Calcium: 30 percent on a 2,000-calorie diet.

I think we have a winner! Greek yogurt clearly wins out here. In my research I also found that in a recent study put out by the New England Journal of Medicine, the Harvard researchers found out that just traditional yogurt varieties can keep help keep age-related weight gain in check, so just imagine what the Greek style can do! The folks in the study typically lost about 1 pound every four years or so if they added a just a single daily serving of yogurt to their diet, most likely it was due to the way live bacterial cultures affect our digestive system.

I think that can be further improved by consuming more servings of non fat variety Greek yogurt, and I have found it has helped my friend, family and I have a healthier life, the key is to only eat non fat, unflavored, or lightly flavored varieties. You can also make frozen Greek yogurt for a tasty and guilt free frozen yogurt-like Greek yogurt dessert. Cooking with Greek yogurt is fantastic as well as it also works as a great replacement for things like mayonnaise, cream cheese, and butter, and you can even make your own Greek yogurt dressing or Greek yogurt dip! So eat up!

Have any other suggestions for Greek yogurt uses or health benefits? Let me know!

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