Move over, regular yogurt. Going Greek is in, and this
exotic option has elbowed its way onto refrigerator shelves everywhere. Most
give a big thumbs up to its taste—tangier and less sweet, as well as
creamier—but is it healthier than its conventional counterpart?
First, to be clear: Both Greek and regular yogurt, in their
plain, nonfat or low-fat forms, can be part of a healthful diet. They're low in
calories and packed with calcium and live bacterial cultures. But our
Mediterranean friend—which is strained extensively to remove much of the liquid
whey, lactose, and sugar, giving it its thick consistency—does have an
undeniable edge. In roughly the same amount of calories, it can pack up to
double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half. Those are "two
things dietitians love," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian
and author of The Flexitarian Diet. "For someone who wants the creamier
texture, a little bit of a protein edge, and a sugar decrease, going Greek is
definitely not all hype." And it's really got a following: In the past
five years, Greek yogurt sales nationwide have skyrocketed, likely because it
satisfies consumers' needs for health, convenience, and taste, according to
Nielsen, a global marketing and advertising research company.
Here's a closer look at how the two stack up nutrition-wise.
Greek yogurt is high in protein, which helps
promote fullness. A typical 6-ounce serving contains 15 to 20 grams, the amount
in 2 to 3 ounces of lean meat. That makes it particularly appealing to
vegetarians, who sometimes struggle to get enough of the nutrient. An identical
serving of regular yogurt, on the other hand, provides just 9 grams, meaning
you may feel hunger pangs sooner.
Going Greek is a smart choice for low-carb
dieters. It contains roughly half the carbs as the regular kind—5 to 8 grams
per serving compared with 13 to 17. Plus, the straining process removes some of
the milk sugar, lactose, making Greek yogurt less likely to upset the
lactose-intolerant. Remember, however, that "both types of yogurt can
contain high amounts of carbs if they're sweetened with sugar or another
sweetening agent," says Kari Hartel, a Missouri-based registered
dietitian. "No matter which type you choose, opt for yogurt with less
Be wary of Greek yogurt's fat content. In just 7
ounces, Fage's full-fat Greek yogurt packs 16 grams of saturated fat—or 80
percent of your total daily allowance if you're on a 2,000-calorie diet.
(That's more than in three Snickers bars.) Dannon's regular full-fat yogurt has
5 grams of saturated fat in an 8-ounce serving. Saturated fat raises total and
"bad" LDL cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart disease.
Read nutrition labels carefully. If you're going Greek, stick to low-fat and
A serving of Greek yogurt averages 50 milligrams of
sodium—about half the amount in most brands of the regular kind. (Low-sodium
versions of regular yogurt are available.) Too much salt can boost blood
pressure and increase the risk of other heart problems. The federal
government's 2010 Dietary Guidelines urge Americans to cap sodium at 2,300
milligrams a day, or 1,500 milligrams if they're older than 50,
African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
Regular yogurt provides 30 percent of the federal
government's recommended daily amount. Greek yogurt loses some of its calcium
through the straining process, but still packs a wallop. A 6-ounce cup
typically supplies about 20 percent of the daily recommendation. If you're
still worried about calcium intake, load up on milk, seeds, and almonds, says
Sarah Krieger, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic
Association.Still undecided on which team to join? Compare the labels of Dannon's regular and Greek varieties. (Other popular brands of Greek yogurt include Chobani, and Stonyfield Farm's Oikos.)