You may have noticed a new dairy product in the aisle of your local supermarket: Greek yogurt. It has become increasingly popular over the last few years. The term ‘yogurt’ is in the name but how is it different from the regular type? For starters, outside of North America, most places in the world know Greek yogurt as strained yogurt. This more accurate name explains why it is different than the traditional type. Through a straining process, whey is removed and the yogurt becomes thicker. The final consistency is mid-way between yogurt and cheese, similar to sour cream or mayonnaise. Aside from the texture there are a few key features which set this new product apart.
High Protein Content
During the straining process, the liquid whey passes through the cloth or filter leaving behind a protein dense mixture. This is one of the major nutritional benefits that puts Greek yogurt ahead. For comparison, a typical 170g container of yogurt contains about 9 grams of protein. Greek yogurt on the other hand has roughly 15g. As a result of this increased protein content people generally feel fuller for longer periods of time after consuming.
Greek yogurt has roughly half the number of carbohydrates in regular yogurt. In fact, unless sugar is listed in the ingredients, these carbohydrates are from lactose, the natural milk sugar that occurs in all dairy products. If there is fruit at the bottom of the container this advantage can be lost, so be mindful.
More lactose-intolerant friendly
Both forms of this dairy product are made with the use of bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria break down the milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. Once again, as a result of the straining process, the whey (which is largely comprised of lactose) is removed. The overall effect is that Greek yogurt has less lactose than regular yogurt and will be easier to digest for those who are lactose-intolerant.
Is Greek yogurt gluten free? Yes. Similar to most dairy products, Greek Yogurt is gluten-free and can be enjoyed by anyone with gluten sensitivity.
Another advantage of the fermentation process is that probiotic bacteria are used. These organisms are the beneficial ones and help to restore the healthy bacteria already living in our digestive tract. An adequate population of the bacteria improves digestion and boosts our immune system. Most regular yogurt and Greek yogurt contain probiotics but look for the terms live or active cultures to be 100% sure.
One drawback is the fat content. A regular 170g serving could have up to 16g of fat. This disadvantage was quickly overcome by most brands by offering low fat and fat free versions of this healthy snack. Chobani for example offers 2% low fat versions and 0% fat free versions.
All the nutritional facts are wonderful and the health benefits compelling but, how does it taste? Amazing! It has a rich creamy taste with a slight hint of sourness. Although tasty on its own, my brands add honey or fruit to give it a sweeter taste. It has a stronger taste and thicker consistency than the regular yogurt. For a different variation you can actually freeze it and have frozen Greek yogurt. The texture will be a bit different but it makes for a good dessert treat on a hot day. Despite freezing, the bacteria cultures will not be destroyed but instead become dormant until thawed out.
It is definitely worth trying if you have never tasted it before.