Greek yogurt has taken the health world by storm and has become a worldwide phenomenon, which leads us to the question, “what is Greek yogurt?” Greek yogurt or strained yogurt is a dairy product that is quite different from regular yogurt and it has become so popular that the production of Greek yogurt has quadrupled from 2008 to 2013.
Yogurt comprises two parts, i.e. yogurt and whey. Whey is essentially the milk plasma which contains lactose or milk sugar and diluted whey protein. The yogurt is strained and the whey is drained out leaving behind a thicker, creamier and a protein-filled yogurt, which is known as Greek yogurt that has a tangy taste.
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Now that you know what Greek yogurt is, let’s take a look at how it is made. Traditional old-fashioned Greek yogurt is usually made from goat’s milk, whereas, American yogurt, as well as the American-made Greek-style yogurt, is made with cow's milk. Thickening agents such as gelatin or condensed milk may also be added to the Greek-style yogurt.
The process of making Greek yogurt starts in the same way as regular yogurt. First, the milk is heated and cooled to around 106°F -114°F and live bacteria cultures, Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are added to the milk. The bacteria then ferments the milk to produce lactic acid which produces yogurt. This process of fermentation gives the yogurt its distinct tangy taste.
To make Greek yogurt, the milk is then strained using a filter to remove the whey. Some of the lactose, water and salt also get removed during the straining process and a thicker and creamier product, which is higher in protein, but lower in carbs and sugar is left behind.
For regular yogurt, usually, the ratio of the milk to yogurt is around 1:1; however, for Greek yogurt, the ratio can be as high as 4:1, which means that you need around 4 gallons of milk to make 1 gallon of Greek yogurt.
As you are already aware by now, there is a huge difference between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt, both in terms of texture, as well as the taste. Greek yogurt has a thicker and denser consistency and has a tart flavor, while regular yogurt has a more watery and runny consistency and is not so dense and it has a naturally sweeter flavor. Apart from this, the nutritional profile of both the yogurts are different too.
Creamy, thick and tangy, Greek yogurt is quite popular with health-conscious people craving to satisfy their sweet tooth. It offers delicious taste and nutrition, minus the extra calories. In fact, people choose Greek yogurt as a healthier alternative to sour cream, mayonnaise or crème fraîche.
Greek yogurt is often regarded as a healthy snack because it contains more protein when compared to regular yogurt. Depending on the brand, an average serving of Greek yogurt can have around 12 grams to 17.3 grams of protein. In fact, according to Prevention, 6 oz of Greek yogurt has protein equivalent to 3 oz of lean meat, which makes it an excellent source of protein.
Also, Greek yogurt has fewer carbs and sugar compared to regular yogurt because the whey is strained off. However, you should ensure that your Greek yogurt does not have any added sugar or flavorings, as this will pile the carbs back on quickly.
Greek yogurt is rich in calcium and also has healthy bacteria which can help to improve digestive health and boost immunity. With 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt, you can meet your recommended dietary guideline of 3 daily servings of non-fat or low-fat dairy products. Also, if you suffer from lactose intolerance, you may find that the Greek yogurt is easier to digest because the bacteria breaks down the milk sugars easily.
Compared to milk, yogurt has a higher protein content and the protein helps the body to build your bones, muscles, hair, skin and blood. Protein is also required by the body for energy and is essential to improve your nerves, immune system and fluid balance in the body. And, as you become older, you need more protein in order to maintain your muscle mass. Greek yogurt is an excellent protein source, especially if you do not eat meat.
Greek yogurt contains probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that can restore the balance of bacteria in your gut and help to reduce gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, diarrhea, pain, while also helping to boost the functioning of your immune system.
Research states that consuming yogurt rich in probiotics can be beneficial to your mental health. A study revealed that having probiotics helped to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in the participants. This effect may be because of the relationship between the digestive system and the brain and the gut’s ability to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
Another advantage of Greek yogurt is that it has high calcium content, which is essential to build healthy bones and also helps to keep your vital organs functioning efficiently. Without calcium, adults are at risk of osteoporosis. One serving of Greek yogurt has 18.7% of your DV (daily value) of calcium.
Our body requires vitamin B12 for the formation of red blood cells, DNA synthesis, and brain functions. Greek yogurt is an excellent natural source of vitamin B12 and 1 serving of Greek yogurt can contain up to 21.3% of the daily value of B12. Vegetarians usually are deficient in vitamin B12 because the vitamin is usually found in animal products like meat, eggs, and fish and Greek yogurt is a great way to add more vitamin B12 to your diet.
Potassium helps to balance the sodium levels in the body and also reduces blood pressure. If your diet is high in sodium or your sodium levels are very high, eating foods containing a high level of potassium can help to remove the excess sodium from your body. Greek yogurt is high in potassium and 1 serving has around 6.8% of your daily value.
Greek yogurt can be a filling, as well as a healthy treat, especially after a workout. It keeps you full and satisfied until your next meal and the protein it contains helps to repair fiber and muscle damage and also helps to regenerate muscle tissue. Adding some berries or a banana to your Greek yogurt can make it a nutritious and healthy post-workout snack.
Iodine plays a very important role in the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, which is essential for proper metabolism. Our body does not make iodine and it is very important to get sufficient iodine from the foods we eat. In addition, deficiency in iodine causes weight fluctuations and proper iodine levels can help the thyroid to function properly, which in turn, helps to increase metabolism that promotes weight loss.
The protein in the Greek yogurt and the texture of the yogurt can help you feel full and this can help to control the portion sizes you eat, thus helping in weight loss.
The rich and creamy consistency of Greek yogurt allows you to use it in many recipes. You can use it in smoothies, puddings, and popsicles. You can also use Greek yogurt as a substitute for mayonnaise, sour cream, cream or butter. You can use it instead of oil or sour cream in your baked recipes such as cakes, pancakes, muffins, and bread.
Greek yogurt can be used as a marinade for your meat and it not only tenderizes the meat but also adds loads of flavor.
Greek yogurt is delicious, versatile, filling and it is loaded with good stuff like calcium, protein, probiotics and vitamin D. However, before you go and actually buy Greek yogurt, here are a few things to consider.
While plain may sound boring, it’s always a good idea to avoid flavored yogurt, because most often, flavored Greek yogurt has a lot of sugar that you don’t really need. Moreover, it also contains artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. If you opt for plain Greek yogurt, there is no need for you to eat it plain. You can add your own toppings such as fresh fruit, raw honey, maple syrup or some stevia to sweeten it.
If you’re in the mood for something more indulgent, add a spoonful of cocoa powder and some vanilla extract with a pinch of cinnamon. This will help to boost the nutritional value of the yogurt and will also add flavor without the unhealthy sugar and processed additions.
While Greek yogurt contains a higher amount of protein compared to regular yogurt, nevertheless, all Greek yogurts are made differently. So, choose a brand that has the highest amount of protein. This will help to keep you full for a longer time.
There is no real reason to buy fat-free Greek yogurt. Fat is essential to your body and helps to absorb the nutrients in the yogurt and it also helps you to feel full for a longer time. The fat also helps to balance the lactose in the yogurt and helps to maintain your energy levels and stabilize your blood sugar level. However, the amount of fat you get depends really on your personal choice.
If you’re trying to lose weight, then you could opt for low-fat Greek yogurt as it has fewer calories or you could just have a smaller serving of Greek yogurt made from whole milk.
While organic Greek yogurt may not really be cheap, it is worth the expense. By choosing organic, the milk used in making the Greek yogurt you can be assured that the cows have not been fed with feed that has come into contact with environmental pollutants and toxic chemicals. This also ensures that the cows have not been given growth hormones such as rBST or rBGH, which can increase the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancers.
While it may not be very easy to find Greek yogurt made from grass-fed milk, but it may be worth your while to try. The milk and the Greek yogurt made from milk from grass-fed cows tend to contain higher omega-3 fatty acids compared to the milk and yogurt from grass-fed cows. While buying the Greek yogurt, ensure that the label says “100% grass-fed”.
In conclusion, Greek yogurt can be great for your health and has several benefits. Rich in protein, it can help to build lean muscle, boost metabolism, fill you up and help to reduce your hunger pangs. It is an excellent source of calcium, which is great for your bone health and the probiotics in the Greek yogurt help in improving your digestive health.
So, now that you know what Greek yogurt is and all its pluses, don’t you think that it may be a good idea to make this delicious food a part of your daily diet?