Greek yogurt has powerful health benefits, yet it’s still a mystery to many people. If you’ve ever wondered: “What is greek yogurt and why is it healthy for me?” then check this out! Here’s a simple explanation of the benefits of greek yogurt and what you need to watch for when you’re eating healthy.

All yogurt starts with milk. The milk is separated into skim and cream. The fat content of the yogurt you’ll be eating is determined by how much cream is removed.

Probiotics (good bacteria) are added to the skimmed milk and fermentation begins. That means the liquid is evaporating, milk is thickening and it takes on a “tangy” taste.

The milk needs a little help to get to just the right consistency. At this stage either milk powder (milk that’s been dried and concentrated) or other stabilizers such gelatins (often made with animal by-products), gum, pectin, or starch is added to commercially sold traditional yogurt.

Now the thick milk is ready to be heated. High heat (pasteurization) kills the bad bacteria. Voila - yogurt is born! The yogurt goes through a simple straining process that rids the yogurt of even more excess liquid. Regular yogurt is strained twice; greek yogurt is strained a third time, making it thicker with more protein, less sugar, and fewer carbohydrates.

In this stage of the process, flavor or sweeteners could be added. There’s a wide range of ingredients used to make yogurt tastier. This is where a careful reading of the label helps you make a healthier choice when selecting among the brands. When it comes to ingredients, less is better.

Yogurt is regulated by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), but there are no rules about what can be classified as “Greek” yogurt. A manufacturer can skip the additional steps authentic greek yogurt requires, add other thickeners, and still call it greek yogurt. That’s a problem. When you’re reading the label, check to be sure that the main ingredients in your greek yogurt is always milk and live active cultures.

Your stomach determines which type of yogurt is better for you. The job of your digestive system is to use the good bacteria (probiotics found in yogurt) to kill off bad disease-causing bacteria that naturally live inside of you. There’s protein in yogurt too. The real question is which yogurt is higher in probiotics and protein?

Authentic greek yogurt is a clear winner. More “whey” is removed in the additional straining that takes place and that results in a higher concentration of protein. Don’t be confused by ingredient labels that list “whey concentrates.” That’s an ingredient to avoid. Greek yogurt is lower in carbs and sodium, and tastes better when used in recipes as a substitute for mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream, and cream cheese.

There are some areas where regular yogurt holds it own to the greek variety. There’s no real difference in calories, regular yogurt tends to provide more calcium, and because of the recent surge in popularity of greek yogurt, regular yogurt typically costs less.

Now that you know what greek yogurt is and you understand the health benefits of yogurt in general, add more yogurt to your diet. You’ll probably want to walk past the squeezable, drinkable, and sugary yogurts and head over to the greek yogurt section. Use Greek yogurt when cooking, include it at your breakfast table, and consider it when menu planning. You’ll be glad you did!

Yogurt Fun Facts

  • 28% of Americans now eat yogurt on a daily basis.
  • The earliest yogurts were spontaneously fermented by wild bacteria Lactobacillus.
  • People have been making—and eating—yogurt for at least 5,500 years.
  • Yoghurt, got is name from the Turkish word “yogurur”, which means “long life.”
  • In 1916 packaged yogurt came to the western world by Isaac Carasso who named it Dannon, his son’s nickname.

For more articles and features by Susan Diamond click here.


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