Saturday, November 12, 2011
Greek Yogurt vs. Regular Yogurt
Greek Yogurt has become much more popular these days, shoving its way onto the most visible of grocery shelves and obviously getting cozy in your fridge as well. But what exactly is this stuff? Why's it so "Greek"? Most people have been eating regular yogurt for years, and it may represent a staple in their diet. Many are wondering how this new, alternative yogurt might fit into their diet, and does it really live up to all the health claims? Let's find out. Here's how Greek yogurt compares to the traditional stuff, in a nutshell of course.
First of all, what is Greek yogurt? Well, it doesn't start out any differently than regular yogurt. It's made by fermenting milk with bacteria cultures (hey, you wanted to know). Greek yogurt, unlike regular yogurt, is then strained to remove the liquid whey and much of the sugary lactose. This makes Greek yogurt much thicker, with a more cheese-like texture. Because so much is strained off the final product, it takes much more milk initially to create the same amount of yogurt. That's why Greek yogurt is usually so expensive.
But how does this process make Greek yogurt the supposedly healthier option? Well, here's the deal. When they strain off all the bad stuff, they make the good stuff have much greater density in the final product. That means you get way more protein, and far more vitamins and minerals from Greek yogurt than you would from its traditional counterpart. Because the whey and lactose is strained off, you get a lot fewer carbs as well, perfect for someone on a low carb diet. Let's compare numbers, shall we?
Protein: In 6oz of non-fat Greek yogurt, you get a whopping 18 grams of dense, usable protein. WOW!!! I love Greek yogurt for its protein content, and it's a food I definitely come back for a post workout snack. In normal yogurt, you get about 10 grams per 6oz. That's just about half. It's still not a bad figure, but can't quite hold a candle to the protein density in the Greek.
Calories: 6 oz of non-fat Greek yogurt contains 100 calories. Definitely not bad, considering 6 oz is a normal container size you might buy at your local grocery store. 6 oz of plain, non fat yogurt is about the same, at 96 calories for 6 oz. Not a huge difference, but again, I like foods with great nutritional density for their calorie figures, and Greek yogurt definitely wins in that category.
Carbohydrates: Again, we'll use our 6 oz figure here for both yogurts. In Greek, you get about 7 grams. In regular? 12 grams. That's a big difference, Greek yogurt representing about half the carbs you'd get in the same amount of plain, regular yogurt. All those carbs in both yogurts are sugar carbs (lactose), so the more you can decrease that figure, the better off you'll be.
Fat: Here we have to change our test subjects slightly, considering I've been using non-fat varieties of each yogurt for the nutritional facts. We'll switch to full fat for each in order to really compare. In 6 oz of regular, plain, whole yogurt, you consume about 5.4 grams of fat total, 3.6 grams of which is saturated fat. That's a pretty low figure, for a whole food. In 6 oz of whole Greek yogurt, you get about 17 grams of fat, 11 grams of which are saturated. This I believe is Greek yogurt's main downfall. Because it is much more dense, you're getting a LOT more of that milkfat per serving size. I'd definitely suggest limiting intake of full fat Greek yogurt, however, as I've said many times before, this fat is not inherently bad for you. Your body does need both saturated and unsaturated fats. You just want to watch your overall daily consumption of each.
Sodium: Much of the salt is strained off of Greek yogurt in the creation process, and therefore you'll get a lot less per serving. This is another huge benefit for Greek yogurt, as modern foods generally are packed with sodium, and your daily dosage of it can add up quite quickly. It's great to have a low sodium snack you can always go back to. You get 12 mg of sodium per ounce of Greek yogurt, and 22 mg per ounce of regular (both plain and fat free.) Another number that's nearly double, and another reason to try Greek ASAP.
Vitamins/Minerals: You're getting a good heaping of these in each variation of yogurt. In Greek, as with most things mentioned, your dosage is a little more-so just because of the density. If you have more of the raw materials in the final product, then obviously you'll get more of the nutrients. In both Greek and regular yogurt, you get a large serving of calcium, vitamin B2, and vitamin D.
So, the bottom line? I'd wholeheartedly recommend Greek yogurt as a staple in a healthy diet. It's packed with tons of nutritional benefit, and it's such an amazing protein source. The texture is nice and creamy, the flavor isn't too sweet, and it provides a refreshing alternative to the same old yogurt that's been sitting in your fridge forever. Try it as a snack, try it in a few recipes, or do both! Whatever floats your boat, or should I say trireme? (Greek humor...If you got it, I'm impressed.)
Have a spoonful, or two. Good Luck!