What Are the Benefits of Greek Yogurt?
Greek yogurt is a popular dairy product with a thick, creamy texture and a delicious tangy taste. But how does it differ from regular yogurt, and what are the health benefits of Greek yogurt? Read on for our complete guide.
What is Greek Yogurt?
Many different cultures around the world consume some kind of yogurt but Greek yogurt is one of the best-known varieties. Its texture is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt because it is strained during the manufacturing process.
Regular yogurt is made by heating milk and then adding streptococcus thermophilus and lactobacillus bulgaricus bacterial cultures. It is then allowed to ferment until it becomes slightly acidic, which is what gives yogurt its distinctive sour flavor.
The process of making Greek yogurt is similar, but the milk is strained first to remove the liquid portion, known as whey. This means that making Greek yogurt uses more milk than regular yogurt. It is the reason why Greek yogurt is so much thicker (and more expensive) than other yogurts.
The straining process also means that Greek yogurt contains almost twice as much protein as regular yogurt, and because the whey portion contains most of milk’s naturally-occurring sugar (lactose), Greek yogurt is lower in carbohydrates too.
People have been eating yogurt for its health benefits for thousands of years. It is a good source of nutrition and can even help to stave off certain medical conditions. Let’s take a closer look at some of the top benefits of Greek yogurt.
Top 8 Health Benefits of Greek Yogurt
1. Great Source of Nutrition
Dairy products, in general, are fantastic sources of nutrition. They are rich in many essential vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A.
- B vitamins.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that around 90% of Americans would benefit from eating more dairy products. It recommends that most adults consume around 3 cups each day. Greek yogurt is one of the healthiest ways to meet this target and makes a useful addition to a balanced diet.
2. High Protein Content
As we already mentioned, Greek yogurt contains far more protein than regular yogurt. In fact, a 100-gram serving contains a generous 9.95 grams.
Protein is crucial for muscle growth and repair, and people with active lifestyles may require more of than average. Our hormones, neurotransmitters and enzymes are also proteins, making this nutrient necessary for almost every chemical reaction in the body.
Greek yogurt is a simple and delicious way to add more protein to your diet and ensure you get enough each day.
3. Supports Weight Loss
Eating plenty of protein can keep hunger at bay and reduce overall calorie intake. Therefore, consuming high-protein Greek yogurt regularly can help to support weight loss as part of a balanced diet.
Try replacing high-sugar, high-calorie snacks with a portion of Greek yogurt or adding it to meals to boost their protein content.
However, anyone hoping to lose weight should avoid yogurt with added sugar as this can really drive up the calorie count. It is also important to note that low-fat options will contain far fewer calories than full-fat Greek yogurt.
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4. Supports Bone Health
Yogurt is a good source of calcium and other minerals that are essential for maintaining healthy bones.
However, Greek yogurt contains less calcium than regular yogurt due to the straining process. Some manufacturers add extra calcium back into the yogurt after straining, so check the label if this is a concern.
5. Probiotic Effects
The bacterial cultures in yogurt give it probiotic effects, meaning it supports the population of helpful microorganisms living in our guts.
Probiotics can increase the number and diversity of these microorganisms and have been associated with many benefits. Improved digestion, immunity, metabolism and mental health are just a few examples.
To ensure that your Greek yogurt has probiotic effects, look for a product that has the “Live and Active Cultures” seal. This guarantees a significant number of colony-forming units (CFU), the standard measurement for probiotics.
6. Supports Heart Health
The consumption of fermented dairy products, like Greek yogurt, has been associated with improved cardiovascular health. It seems that they can help to reduce cholesterol buildup in the arteries to counteract stiffening and control blood pressure.
Greek yogurt is also a good source of potassium, a mineral that plays a vital role in maintaining blood pressure and heart health.
7. May Reduce the Risk of Diabetes
There appears to be a link between consuming yogurt and a decreased risk of diabetes. The precise reasons for this are not yet clear but a combination of factors is likely to be involved. Supporting weight loss, metabolism and immune health could all play a significant role.
8. Low-Lactose Content
Some people are lactose intolerant and cannot consume dairy products without experiencing bloating, abdominal pain and bowel problems.
Greek yogurt has a lower lactose content than other dairy because much of it gets strained off with the whey. Therefore, Greek yogurt can offer a way for lactose-intolerant individuals to enjoy the benefits of dairy without side effects.
How to Consume Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is tasty, versatile and works well in both sweet and savory dishes. Some of the most popular ways of incorporating Greek yogurt into your diet include:
- Eating it as a snack with berries or fruit.
- Adding it to smoothies or shakes.
- Serving it as an alternative to cream or ice cream with desserts.
- Using it as a base for savory dips or salad dressings.
- Adding it to soups, curries, or creamy pasta sauces.
Both low-fat and full-fat options can be beneficial, although low-fat may be better for people who are counting calories. Just remember to choose products with no added sugar as these are the healthiest options.