Greek, or strained, yogurt isn’t just a fad. This dairy product, which is different from regular, sweeter yogurt, has quadrupled in production from 2008 to 2013. Greek yogurt makers add an extra step to their process so that excess water, lactose, and minerals drain out. What’s left is a creamy, rich yogurt with less sugar, more carbs, and a tart taste. The acidity also makes it easier for your body to absorb other nutrients.
Plain Greek yogurt is a nutrient-packed snack that has many health benefits. Read on to discover the benefits of adding Greek yogurt to your diet.
One serving is packed with nutrients
Check the nutrition chart below to see which vitamins and nutrients a plain cup of nonfat Greek yogurt has.
An average serving, depending on the brand, can have 12 to 17.3 grams of protein.
A cup of plain Greek yogurt can help you meet the recommended dietary guideline of three daily servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products. People who have lactose intolerance may also find Greek yogurt easier to digest because of the bacterial breakdown of the milk’s sugars.
Yogurt has a much higher amount of protein than milk. Your body uses protein to build:
Protein is also one of the three nutrients that provide energy. It also transfers substances, such as oxygen, across cell membranes. Getting the right amount of protein for yourself is important for your immune system, nerves, and fluid balance.
You’ll need more protein to maintain muscle mass as you age. For adults 65 years old or older, the amount of protein needed increases to between 1 and 1.2 grams per kilogram a day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, especially if you need to avoid meat. If you enjoy chia seeds, add 2 tablespoons of them for a protein and fiber boost. For an anti-inflammatory Greek yogurt and spinach dip that’ll benefit your skin and hair, try this recipe from Dr. Perricone via The Beauty Gypsy.
Probiotics keep you regular and happy
Greek yogurt is packed with probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can help boost your immune system and decrease stomach issues, such as diarrhea and pain.
“These normally live in your intestines, and having good microorganisms in your intestines helps keep you healthy, says Shane Griffin, a certified nutritional practitioner and founder of Whole Life Balance. “Without a healthy balance of good bacteria from probiotics, too much bad bacteria can build up and cause damage to our immune systems.”
And just as stress and emotions can trigger stomach issues, your gut can send signals the other way around, too. One study found that probiotics could also affect the brain, according to UCLA Newsroom. Another study found that probiotic supplements reduced the participant’s tendency for distress and thoughts about sadness, and thoughts about hurting others or themselves.
Calcium is key to keeping healthy
Another benefit of Greek yogurt is that it’s high in calcium. Calcium is key to building strong muscles and helping your vital organs function. Your body also doesn’t produce calcium on its own. Without enough calcium, children may not grow as tall as possible and adults can be at risk for osteoporosis.
A serving of Greek yogurt has 18.7 percent of your daily value for calcium.
Greek yogurt is an excellent option for older adults who want to maintain their bone health. It’s also ideal because it’s convenient and easy to eat, especially for those who have trouble chewing.
Your body needs vitamin B-12 for red blood cells to form, brain functions, and DNA synthesis. “Many choose to supplement vitamin B-12 into their diet, but Greek yogurt offers a powerful, natural alternative,” Griffin says. One serving of Greek yogurt can have up to 21.3 percent of your daily value.
People who are vegetarian usually lack vitamin B-12 because the vitamin is naturally found in animal products, such as fish, meat, and eggs. Greek yogurt is an excellent, meat-free way to add more to your diet.
Potassium balances out sodium
One serving of Greek yogurt can have up to 6.8 percent of your daily potassium intake value.
Potassium helps lower blood pressure and balance out the sodium levels in your body. If you have high sodium levels or a diet high in sodium, you may want to eat foods high in potassium so that your body can pass the excess sodium when you go to the bathroom.
Greek yogurt can be a healthy and satisfying treat after a tough workout. Not only will it tide you over until your next meal, but it contains protein that can repair damage done by exercise.
“Greek yogurt is rich in the amino acids which make up proteins, and proteins are the building blocks for regenerating muscle tissue and repairing fiber damage,” explains Griffin.
You can try adding a banana or some berries to your yogurt for a nutritious post-workout snack.
Keeping your waist in check
Greek yogurt is also an excellent source of iodine. Your body doesn’t naturally make iodine, so it’s important to get enough through the foods you eat. Iodine is important for proper thyroid function, and the thyroid is essential for healthy metabolism.
“People today tend to be iodine deficient, which can cause serious problems, including rapid fluctuations in weight,” Griffin says. “For people with weight problems, increasing iodine levels in their diet increases the thyroid’s activity and, in turn, increases their metabolism promoting weight loss.”
The combination of protein and texture of Greek yogurt may help you feel more full than other snacks. This is great for people looking to control their portion sizes. According to Tufts Now, a yearlong study in 2014 found that people who ate more than three servings of yogurt per week gained less weight than those who ate less than one serving.
The texture makes it a great food substitution
Greek yogurt’s thicker consistency lends itself to adaptations, such as chia seed puddings, smoothies, and popsicles. You could also make popsicles at home by freezing Greek yogurt with fresh fruit.
Alternately, you can use it as a topping on other foods. “Use it as a substitute for sour cream on top of chili or baked potatoes,” suggests Rumsey. Some people even enjoy substituting butter and mayo with Greek yogurt. Check out this two-ingredient banana pancake recipe from fitness blogger Remi Ishizuka that uses Greek yogurt, instead of cream, as a topping.
How to buy the right Greek yogurt
While we commonly refer to this product as Greek yogurt, no federal standard for Greek yogurt exists in the United States. Companies may label strained or unstrained yogurt “Greek” based on the consistency and taste.
But in places such as North Africa, Southern Europe, and Greece, strained yogurt typically won’t contain:
- thickening agents, such as starches or gelatin
- whey protein concentrate
- milk protein concentrate
- modified food starch
Old-fashioned Greek yogurt is made with goat’s milk. No matter what type of milk is used, it’s the ingredients that matter. Labels on some food products, such as cereals and sweets, may say they include Greek yogurt, but the additional sugars and other ingredients may counteract the benefits.
The best yogurt is the plain, unsweetened, low-fat, kind with the least amount of additives. Add fresh berries and granola to sweeten up your serving. This way you can know what’s in your food and keep your choices as healthy as possible.