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Greek yogurt vs. regular yogurt

What's the difference?

Greek yogurt may be all the rage, but regular yogurt is tasty, too. This article explains the differences between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt.

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Last updated on September 24, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on July 19, 2022.

Yogurt is a fermented dairy product that’s popular worldwide.

In recent years, a specific type called Greek yogurt has taken off among health enthusiasts.

Both Greek and regular yogurt are packed with high-quality nutrients and offer multiple health benefits, but you may wonder what sets them apart.

This article explains the differences between Greek and regular yogurt to help you determine which to choose.

How they’re made

Regular and Greek yogurt are cultured (or fermented) dairy products, along with sour cream, buttermilk, and kefir.

Fermented dairy products are made by converting lactose — milk’s naturally occurring sugar — into lactic acid by using certain bacteria, also called starter cultures.

In fact, both regular and Greek yogurt is made with the same main ingredients — fresh milk, plus Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus as starter cultures.

Yet, their taste and nutrients differ due to how they’re made.

Regular yogurt

Regular yogurt is made by heating milk, adding bacteria, and leaving it to ferment until it reaches an acidic pH of about 4.5. After it cools, other ingredients like fruit may be added.

The final product has a smooth consistency but may vary in thickness. Most yogurts are either drinkable or can be eaten with a spoon.

Due to its acidic nature, plain yogurt may taste slightly sour. Still, it’s generally sweeter than Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt, also known as concentrated or strained yogurt, is made by eliminating whey and other liquids from regular yogurt.

Because the straining process reduces the total volume, Greek yogurt takes significantly more milk than regular yogurt to make a batch of the same size.

Traditionally, the yogurt is strained in cloth bags up to three times until it reaches the desired texture. Modern production methods use centrifuges to achieve the same effect.

Some companies may use thickening agents or other dry ingredients, in which case the final product is referred to as fortified or Greek-style yogurt.

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Because most of the liquid is removed, Greek yogurt is much thicker and tangier than regular yogurt. It’s also generally more expensive since it requires more milk.

Summary: Regular and Greek yogurt are both fermented dairy products, but Greek yogurt is strained to make it much thicker and tangier than regular yogurt.

Nutrient comparison

Regular and Greek yogurt have very different nutritional profiles. Below is the comparison of 8 ounces (245 grams) of a low-fat variety of each:

Regular yogurt (low-fat)

Greek yogurt (low-fat)

Both yogurts are also an excellent source of magnesium, vitamin B12, and iodine.

As you can see, Greek yogurt contains about half the carbs and sugar as regular yogurt while packing almost twice as much protein. It also has less calcium and sodium.

These differences are a result of the yogurt’s straining process.

On the one hand, eliminating the whey from Greek yogurt removes some of its lactose, reducing its overall carb and sugar content. On the other hand, protein remains intact throughout the straining process, so Greek yogurt’s density provides much more protein.

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Keep in mind that the comparison above is based on low-fat versions of both products. Those made with whole milk provide much more fat and calories.

For example, the same serving of regular yogurt made with whole milk provides 8 grams of fat, while the same serving of whole milk Greek yogurt packs 12.25 grams — doubling and nearly tripling their fat contents, respectively.

Summary: Greek yogurt packs twice as much protein and about half the amount of carbs and sugar as regular yogurt.

Similar health benefits

Greek and regular yogurt share numerous health benefits due to their probiotics and protein.

Rich in probiotics

Probiotics are friendly bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt.

They aid digestive health by balancing your gut microbiome — the friendly bacteria in your digestive system — which may reduce your risk of inflammation and various illnesses.

Several studies suggest that a balanced gut microbiome may stimulate and/or modulate your immune system and protect against allergies, diarrhea, depression, and type 2 diabetes.

Suitable for people with lactose intolerance

People with lactose intolerance usually experience uncomfortable digestive symptoms, including bloating and diarrhea, if they eat dairy products.

However, they may tolerate yogurt because its probiotics support lactose digestion.

Moreover, Greek yogurt’s naturally lower lactose content may make it especially suitable for people with this condition.

May protect heart health

Yogurt may improve heart disease risk factors, including high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Fermented dairy intake is associated with a lower risk of plaque buildup and artery stiffness, which are linked to high blood pressure.

A study in 73,882 adults with high blood pressure determined that eating 2 or more servings of yogurt per week was associated with a 21% lower risk of stroke in men and 17% in women, compared with those who ate less than 1 serving per month.

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Similarly, in a study of 1,981 healthy men, those with higher intakes of fermented dairy products had a 27% lower risk of heart disease than those with lower intakes. The study also found that non-fermented dairy was associated with a greater risk.

Probiotics may likewise help lower cholesterol levels by inhibiting certain enzymes.

A study in 60 people with type 2 diabetes showed that a daily intake of 10.5 ounces (300 grams) of yogurt with probiotics caused a 4.5% and 7.5% decrease in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, respectively, compared with a control group.

May aid weight loss

Research links yogurt to less body weight, body fat, and weight gain.

Its probiotics boost the proportion of healthy bacteria in your gut, which may contribute to weight management, fat distribution, and sugar and fat metabolism.

What’s more, both regular and Greek yogurt are excellent sources of protein.

High protein intake leads to prolonged feelings of fullness, which may decrease your calorie intake. In turn, this may promote weight loss.

For example, one small study of 15 healthy women determined that a Greek yogurt snack containing 24 grams of protein reduced hunger and delayed the timing of the subsequent meal, compared with a low protein snack.

Nonetheless, many commercial brands pack significant amounts of added sugar, which may hinder your weight loss goals.

Summary: Both regular and Greek yogurt may aid digestion, heart health, and weight loss.

Different uses in the kitchen

Regular and Greek yogurt are particularly versatile. While both can be enjoyed alone or mixed with fruit, nuts, or granola, they’re used differently in recipes.

For instance, due to its thickness, Greek yogurt is a common ingredient in dips and sauces like tzatziki, which is a staple in Greek cuisine.

Additionally, you can use it to replace mayonnaise, sour cream, and buttermilk in most recipes, though it may curdle at high temperatures. Its texture also makes it great for baking, especially if you want a moist, dense texture.

In contrast, regular yogurt is commonly used in smoothies (Greek yogurt is still a good option too), dressings, and other viscous dishes. For example, you can make a scrumptious marinade for the chicken by mixing it with lemon juice and spices.

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Summary: When cooking, Greek yogurt is best for dips, sauces, and baked goods, while regular yogurt is preferable for smoothies, dressings, and marinades.

Which one should you choose?

Regular and Greek yogurt are both nutrient-dense foods that make an excellent snack and healthy addition to your diet.

Nevertheless, sweetened yogurts of either variety are packed with added sugar. Chronic high sugar intake may lead to unwanted weight gain, as well as cavities, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

As such, it’s best to choose plain yogurts to moderate your intake of added sugar. If you prefer, you can add a drizzle of honey or a bit of fruit to sweeten it on your own.

If you’re looking to boost your protein intake, Greek yogurt is ideal. Regular, low-fat yogurt may be best for anyone looking to keep their calorie and protein intake in check.

As both are healthy, you should choose the one that fits your dietary needs.

Summary: Both regular and Greek yogurt are highly nutritious, though you should be mindful of added sugars. It’s best to buy a plain variety of whichever kind you prefer, then sweeten it on your own if you desire.

Summary

Regular and Greek yogurt is made from the same ingredients but differ in nutrients. While regular yogurt tends to have fewer calories and more calcium, Greek yogurt has more protein and less sugar — and a much thicker consistency.

Both types pack probiotics and support digestion, weight loss, and heart health.

Given that each is healthy, you should simply choose whichever type you prefer — though it’s best to avoid products with lots of added sugar.

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