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Sunday, April 20, 2014

What’s the Buzz About Greek Yogurt?

Go to the dairy aisle in grocery stores and more and more space is being allotted to Greek yogurt.  Certainly a popular food item, but is it really healthier?   One healthy habit I discuss in the nutrition course I teach is to eat yogurt.  Daily is good but at least a few times a week.  Yogurt is definitely a healthy food and one that promotes good health in many ways.
What is Greek yogurt?  It really isn’t imported yogurt from Greece.  It is called “Greek yogurt” because it is a thicker yogurt that is preferred in the Mediterranean.  It starts out the same as all yogurts but then they strain it to remove as much liquid (whey and lactose) as possible, which makes it a thicker yogurt.
So what are the pros and cons of Greek yogurt? 
More Protein – yes, Greek yogurt has more protein per serving than other yogurt.  6 ounces of Greek yogurt usually supplies 17 grams of protein compared to 6-8 grams in regular yogurt.  Sounds great but most Americans get more than enough protein in their diet.  But if you are looking for a healthy addition to your lunch that has some protein staying power, this would be a good choice.
Less Carbs – yogurt has naturally occurring lactose in it, or milk sugar.  When making Greek yogurt, when the liquid is removed,  some  of the lactose is removed too.  This lowers the carb content of Greek yogurt.  For those who are lactose intolerant, they may tolerate Greek yogurt better than other yogurts since so much of the lactose has been removed.  But many yogurts are flavored with added sugar so one needs to read the label and choose the lower sugar or no sugar added varieties.
Probiotics – all yogurts have probiotics and Greek yogurt has the same probiotic benefits of other yogurts. As with all yogurts, read the label to look for “live cultures”, “active cultures” as these are the most beneficial.   Dr. Oz recommends 2 yogurts for probiotics: 
  • Chobani 2% strawberry banana: Cultures contained include S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei
  • Oikos traditional plain: Cultures contained include L. Bulgaricus and S. Thermophilus
 Less Sodium – Although yogurt is not a high sodium food, Greek yogurt has about half the sodium as other yogurts.   Greek yogurts has 50 mg sodium per 5.3 ounces to 120 mg in a 6 ounce regular yogurt. 
More Saturated fat – when they remove the liquid, not only is protein content increased but saturated fat content as well.  Greek yogurt has 16 grams of saturated fat in 7 ounces which is more fat than in 3 snicker’s bars (Greek Yogurt Vs. Regular Yogurt:  Which is More Healthful?).     Thus, choose lower fat versions of Greek yogurt to cut back on the saturated fat.
Less Calcium – when they removed the liquid whey, they also remove some of the calcium.  Most yogurts supply 300 grams of calcium per 6 ounces while Greek yogurt supplies half this amount or about 150 mg per serving.  So for building strong bones, Greek yogurt is not the best choice.  Women should use regular yogurt to get more calcium or if they prefer Greek yogurt, to plan on adding an extra serving of dairy to ensure they are getting the calcium they need. 
Vitamin D -  Maybe – check the label as some add vitamin D and some don’t.  You want to choose the brand that has vitamin D. 
And if you don’t like Greek yogurt?  Enjoy the many other varieties of yogurt.  Eating yogurt is a good, healthy habit.  If you prefer Greek yogurt, that's great.   If not, enjoy the kind of yogurt you like.  It is eating yogurt that is important. 

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