Yogurt has long been celebrated as a healthy snack and nutritious breakfast item, but in recent years it’s Greek yogurt that is making nutrition headlines. So what’s behind this supposed “super” yogurt and is it worth all the hype? Let’s take a deeper dive.
What Makes It Greek
Yogurt is made from adding healthy bacteria to milk, which then causes the milk to ferment. As the milk ferments, it becomes thicker and yogurt forms. The yogurt is then strained using a cheesecloth to remove the milky liquid (known as whey) and drained. For regular yogurt, the straining process is done twice, but for Greek yogurt straining is done three times, removing more liquid and creating a thicker consistency.
Greek yogurt has a wide range of health benefits. The process of removing more liquid to make the yogurt results in a healthier yogurt with more concentrated protein and calcium and no added sugar. In fact, a six-ounce serving of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt can contain between 15 to 20 grams of protein, nearly two times what you see in regular yogurt. An eight-ounce serving (about one cup) contains 23 grams of protein.
Yogurt’s high calcium content is also a big bonus for yogurt fans. Helping you build strong bones, one six-ounce serving of yogurt provides around 20 percent of daily-recommended values and an eight-ounce serving contains up to 30 percent, nearly the same amount of calcium you find in a glass of milk.1
In addition to its rich protein and calcium content, Greek yogurt also helps keep your intestinal tract healthy. The probiotics in the yogurt improve digestion and promote the good bacteria that fight off harmful bacteria.1
Baking and Cooking Substitute
Want to indulge in creamy dips and sweets without all the guilt and fat? Greek yogurt to the rescue! Greek yogurt, with its thick, creamy consistency, is a wonderful cooking and baking substitute. When recipes call for Greek yogurt’s high-fat look alikes, sour cream or mayonnaise, you can go Greek to reduce the fat and not sacrifice taste.
Following are some quick tips for cooking with Greek yogurt.
- When baking, consider using yogurt instead of eggs, oil or sour cream.
- For chicken or tuna salad, potato salad or coleslaw, use Greek yogurt to replace all or half of the mayonnaise.
- For a tasty and healthy marinade for chicken or fish, combine yogurt with your favorite herbs and spices.
- Add dill to plain yogurt with a squeeze of lemon and use as a sauce over salmon or chicken.
- For brunch entertaining, forgo coffee cake and donuts and satisfy sweet cravings with a Greek yogurt and berry parfait.
- Add Greek yogurt into your next smoothie to up your protein content.
- Add half Greek yogurt to any dip, including guacamole or hummus, to half the calories and fat and double the protein and calcium.
- § Consider stirring in Greek yogurt to oatmeal or mashed potatoes and top potatoes and chili with a dollop.
Though Greek yogurt receives widespread praise among the nutrition community, it’s important to read nutrition labels and be mindful of your choices. Look for yogurt with low sugar (no sugar-added) and low in carbs and high protein content per serving. Choose a yogurt made with just milk and cultures and no additives. Avoid yogurt with added sugary fruit and opt for plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. If you find it’s a bit tart for your liking, try adding in some fresh or frozen berries, cooked fruit or honey for a natural sweet kick.
Check out Chobani.com for more yogurt recipes and inspiration.
For more ideas on healthy eating, healthy snacks and ways to reduce sugar and fat, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia Kostas Nutrition and visit: http://www.georgiakostas.com. Contact me for nutrition coaching by phone to set up an in-person consultation.
This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.
1. National Yogurt Association, AboutYogurt.com
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