Greek Yogurt Goodness: Benefits, Uses & FAQs
A registered dietitian‘s deep dive into everything you need to know about Greek Yogurt, including it’s nutrition and health benefits, what to look for when purchasing it, and how to add it to your meals and snacks!
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What Is Greek Yogurt?
Greek yogurt is a type of yogurt that has been strained to remove most of its whey and liquid content. This results in a thicker, more concentrated consistency than normal unstrained yogurt.
Like regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is made from cow’s milk that has bacterial cultures added to it. Those bacteria ferment the sugars naturally present in milk (lactose). This fermentation process takes about 3-4 hours and results in the thick and creamy mixture we are familiar with.
Because it is more concentrated, Greek yogurt has a much higher protein content (twice as much or more) compared to regular yogurt (for the same serving size). It also has less carbohydrates and sugar compared to regular yogurt (so long as you’re choosing a “plain” or unflavoured option).
The standard serving size for Greek yogurt is 3/4 cup to 1 cup. This equates to roughly 200 grams or 7 ounces.
While the nutrition facts will vary depending on the brand of Greek yogurt you purchase, below is a nutrition breakdown of a standard 200-gram serving of plain, low-fat greek yogurt:
- Protein: 20 grams of complete protein
- Fat: 3.8 grams (again, this will vary if you choose higher fat yogurts!)
- Carbs: 7.8 grams (this is from the occurring sugar called lactose – not added sugar. If you choose sweetened yogurts, this number will be much higher)
- vitamin B12 – 43% of Daily Value (DV)
- riboflavin (B2) – 35% DV
- pantothenic acid (B5) – 19% DV
- vitamin A – 20% DV
- selenium – 45% DV
- phosphorus – 22% DV
- calcium – 18% DV
- zinc – 11% DV
- potassium – 6% DV
The high protein content of Greek yogurt provides many health benefits!
- Complete protein provides all of the essential amino acids. These amino acids hep to build and repair our muscles, organs, and body tissues.
- Support of muscle recovery & improved body composition. One study found that Greek yogurt consumption can help to improve strength, muscle thickness, and body composition when coupled with a training program (compared to a carbohydrate-based placebo). (source)
- Increased satiety and fullness. Protein takes the longest to digest out of the macronutrients, meaning you’ll feel fuller for longer. This can help to support a healthy body weight.
- Blood sugar stabilization. Because protein takes longer to digest, this can help stabilize and slow spikes in blood sugar from any sugar or carbohydrates in your meal. Choosing higher fat Greek yogurts and pairing yogurt with fiber can also help with this!
Because Greek yogurt is also a good source of SO many essential vitamins and minerals (see above!), it can help to play a role in so many important and vital functions in the body. For instance:
- both calcium and phosphorus help to build healthy bones and teeth.
- zinc and selenium are critical for optimal immune function.
- B-vitamins are known to help produce energy from the food we eat!
Does Greek Yogurt Have Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms (e.g. bacterial cultures) that have a known health benefit.
Consuming probiotic-rich foods can help to increase bacterial diversity in our large intestine and support a healthy gut microbiome. In turn, this can lead to numerous health benefits like improved digestion, optimal immune function, weight loss, and reduced risk of certain diseases.
While all yogurts are made with bacterial cultures, not every type of bacteria is recognized as a probiotic. Likewise, some yogurt products are heat-treated after fermentation, which can kill the beneficial live bacteria.
That said, there are Greek yogurts out there that have added probiotics and are considered probiotic foods.
To help you identify yogurt products that do contain probiotics, look for the words “Live and Active Cultures” on the label. There is even a LAC seal that manufacturers can apply for (in the US).
In Canada, yogurt must contain at least 1 billion live bacterial cultures per serving added during manufacturing to be approved by Health Canada as a probiotic-containing food.
TIP: Look for the words “live and active cultures” on the label to ensure that the yogurt you’re purchasing contains probiotics!
Is Greek Yogurt Safe For Lactose Intolerance?
While Greek yogurt is a dairy-food that contains lactose, it may be easier to digest for individuals with lactose intolerance.
Because lactose gets fermented during processing, Greek yogurt has a much lower lactose content compared to regular milk.
So if you’re sensitive to lactose, you may be able to enjoy Greek yogurt or at least in smaller amounts! If needed, there are lactose-free varieties available to purchase (these products have lactase – the enzyme that breaks down lactose – added to them).
Which Type Of Greek Yogurt Is Best?
Do note that not all Greek yogurts are created equally. I won’t share my favourite brands of Greek yogurt as there are MANY good ones out there and it always will depend on where you live and what’s available to you!
That said, here are some general things to look out for when at the grocery store:
- Added sugars. Many flavoured Greek yogurts are unfortunately chock-full of added sugar. Many contain upwards of 16 grams of added sugar per serving (that’s 4 teaspoons of sugar!) While a little bit of sugar is not a bad thing, it is important to be mindful of excess sugar intake. You can easily add sweetness and flavour to plain Greek yogurts at home through whole fruits or a small amount of honey or maple syrup (guarantee you won’t be adding 4 teaspoons!)
- Artificial sweeteners. While some flavoured yogurts may be advertised as “no sugar added,” this often means that they contain artificial or non-caloric sweeteners. As a dietitian, I’m even less of a fan of artificial sweeteners – I have a whole blog post about them, if you want to learn more!
- Fat content. Greek yogurt can be sold as fat-free, low-fat, or whole (full) fat. While this may come down to personal preference in terms of taste and consistency, there are actually some benefits to choosing fuller-fat yogurts. Fat can help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins, improve mouthfeel, and promote satiety. The research on fat has change significantly, and emerging science is showing the benefits of full-fat dairy foods in a healthy dietary pattern.
- Ingredient List. Plain Greek yogurt should only have a couple of ingredients – milk and bacterial cultures! If purchasing flavoured yogurts, try to look for ones with the real fruits in them. In general, the shorter the ingredient list the better!
Bottom line: you can’t go wrong with PLAIN, unflavoured and unsweetened Greek yogurt! Fat content may come down to personal preference, but current evidence supports the idea that fuller fat dairy products are nutrient-rich and can fit in a healthy diet.
What To Use It In
I LOVE how versatile Greek yogurt is! You can add it to so many meals and snacks to boost the nutrition content and add a deliciously thick and creamy texture.
Here are some of my favourite ways to use it:
- Yogurt bowls with honey, fruit, granola, berries, nut butters, etc! I love these for breakfast or a snack. My personal go-to is this peanut butter greek yogurt bowl 🙂
- Sauces, dips, salad dressings, and marinades for meat/chicken. I love this herby yogurt salad dressing or this salmon with wasabi-dill yogurt sauce, for instance.
- Smoothies – Greek yogurt is a super easy protein source that makes your smoothies thick and creamy. This kale mango smoothie with greek yogurt is one of my go-to’s!
- Oatmeal porridge – I love adding a dollop to top a warm oatmeal bowl. It gives it the creamiest texture and increases the protein content! Give it a try over this mashed banana tahini oatmeal.
- Overnight oats – mix those oats with Greek yogurt and pop it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, breakfast is ready! These lemon blueberry overnight oats and mango overnight oats are some of my favourites.
- Pancakes – you can either use Greek yogurt in the batter or add a dollop as a topping.
- Homemade frozen greek yogurt – such a delicious snack or dessert. I’ve got instructions for how to make frozen greek yogurt at home using any type of fruit!
- Yogurt bark, bites, or pops – check out this strawberry orange greek yogurt bark recipe for inspiration!
- Added to dessert – I love doing this in place of ice cream sometimes, again to increase the protein content with less added sugar. Pairing Greek yogurt with this strawberry peach crisp is soo good.
- In baking – you can add Greek yogurt to things like banana bread or muffins.
- Use it in place for sour cream or mayo in things like tuna salads, potato salads, or creamy pasta salads.
- As a base for savoury dishes, like eggs!
- Stir it into soups or curries for added creaminess.
I’d love to know what your favourite ways of using Greek yogurt are in the comments!
Recipes With Greek Yogurt
Want more recipes with Greek yogurt? Check out my roundup post of 30+ Easy, Healthy Greek Yogurt Recipes!
More Nutrition Education Articles
- Which Cooking Oil Is Best To Use?
- Nutrition & The Immune System
- Artificial Sweeteners: Are They Safe Or Healthy?
- Cow’s Milk Alternatives Compared
If you found this article helpful or have anymore questions about Greek yogurt – please feel free to let me know in the comments, or tag me on Instagram or Pinterest. You can also subscribe to my email list to never miss a new recipe or nutrition education post!