What is Greek Yogurt?
The term “Greek yogurt” refers to yogurt that has been strained, with the whey removed. Is it actually Greek? Well, just because it’s called Greek yogurt doesn’t meant that it only comes from Greece. In fact, the term “Greek yogurt,” as it is used today, appears to have been coined by the Greek dairy company Fage when they started importing their strained yogurt to the U.S. They called it Greek because, at that point, it was Greek. A few years later, several companies (including Fage) started making this strained type of yogurt in the US. The term “Greek yogurt,” therefore, has come to mean only strained yogurt, not yogurt that physically comes from Greece.
What to Look for When Buying Greek Yogurt:
- All types of yogurt should only contain milk and yogurt cultures.
- In many cases, yogurt will also contain cream. This is not a bad thing; it is added so that the yogurt achieves a specific fat percentage. For example, a low-fat yogurt may start out with nonfat milk and then have a bit of cream added in order to create a low-fat version.
- Avoid yogurts that contain milk protein concentrate, added sugars, thickeners, gelatin, sugar substitutes, syrups, fruit, grains etc. They are not real yogurts. In fact, in Greece, these yogurts cannot even be labeled as yogurt. Instead, they are required to be called “yogurt desserts.”
- Choose low-fat and nonfat yogurts to avoid most of the saturated fat that’s found in other kinds of yogurt. Low-fat works better in some recipes, but nonfat is just fine when enjoyed plain and will save you about 50 calories per serving.
How Does Greek Yogurt Compare to Other Yogurts?
Greek yogurt is an attractive snack due to its creaminess, high protein, and lower carbohydrate content. It contains almost double the amount of protein than regular yogurt due to the straining process that makes it Greek. However, the removal of the whey from Greek yogurt makes it lower in some minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It is also important to note that the yogurt consumed as part of a traditional Mediterranean diet in the 1950’s and 60’s was regular yogurt (not strained) from sheep’s milk, which was also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
With that in mind, all types of yogurt can be part of a healthy diet. What’s more important is what you add to them. Keep things lean and healthful!
By Elena Paravantes, RD
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.