Greek yogurt is a protein-rich dairy product with a variety of culinary uses.
It’s an excellent source of several nutrients and may even offer a few health benefits. However, it’s important to choose the right type of Greek yogurt, as many can be packed with additives like added sugar.
This article explains what makes Greek yogurt a healthy choice and what to look for when shopping for this popular dairy product.
What is Greek yogurt?
Yogurt is a dairy product that has been consumed since ancient times. The Greeks were the first to document the use of yogurt in 100 BC.
The word “yogurt” is believed to have come from the Turkish word “yoğurmak,” which means to thicken, curdle, or coagulate.
Many types of yogurt are available, including Greek-style, which has a higher protein content than other yogurt products.
Greek yogurt often referred to as “strained” yogurt, is made by fermenting yogurt in tanks and then straining whey and other liquids during the final processing steps. The process results in a thicker product with higher protein content.
Additionally, some food manufacturers produce Greek-style yogurt by adding milk proteins to the yogurt at the beginning or end of processing.
Greek yogurt comes in many varieties, including full fat, reduced fat, and fat-free, as well as flavored and unflavored.
Greek yogurt nutrition facts
Greek yogurt is high in many nutrients and a good source of protein, fat, and carbs, depending on the brand you choose.
Here’s the nutrition breakdown of a 7-ounce (200-gram) serving of low fat, plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt:
- Calories: 146
- Protein: 20 grams
- Fat: 3.8 grams
- Carbs: 7.8 grams
- B12: 43% of the daily value
- Riboflavin (B2): 35% of the daily value
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 19% of the daily value
- Vitamin A: 20% of the daily value
- Calcium: 18% of the daily value
- Phosphorus: 22% of the daily value
- Potassium: 6% of the daily value
- Zinc: 11% of the daily value
- Selenium: 45% of the daily value
As you can see, Greek yogurt provides several nutrients and is particularly rich in protein, vitamin B12, riboflavin (B2), and selenium.
It’s also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, and potassium. Additionally, Greek yogurt contains smaller amounts of nutrients like magnesium, choline, and copper.
Compared with regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in carbs.
Keep in mind that its nutritional content will vary depending on the type of Greek yogurt. For example, full-fat Greek yogurt will be higher in fat and calories than lower-fat options, while sweetened and flavored options will be higher in carbs and added sugar.
Greek yogurt health benefits
Given Greek yogurt’s impressive nutrient profile, it has been linked to several health benefits.
1. Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and other nutrients
One of the main benefits of Greek yogurt is that it’s rich in protein, a macronutrient needed for virtually all chemical reactions in the body, healthy immune function, tissue repair, and more.
Protein needs vary, but a protein intake of 0.54–0.9 grams per pound (1.2–2 grams per kg) of body weight is likely optimal for physically active people.
A 7-ounce (200-gram) serving of Greek yogurt provides 20 grams of protein, which makes it a high-protein food.
In addition to protein, Greek yogurt is rich in essential vitamins and minerals including B12, selenium, and zinc — all of which play important roles in supporting your health.
For example, both zinc and selenium are required for optimal immune function, while B12 is needed for red blood cell formation, nervous system function, and energy production.
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2. Greek yogurt may benefit bone health
Greek yogurt contains several nutrients that are necessary for maintaining the health of the skeletal system, including protein, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Not only are the nutrients found in Greek yogurt required for bone health maintenance, but eating Greek yogurt may even help increase bone formation.
A small study among young men found that consuming Greek yogurt daily while participating in a resistance-training program for 12 weeks helped increase bone formation and decrease bone breakdown compared with a placebo.
Yogurt intake has also been linked to greater bone mineral density and a lower risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis among older adults.
3. Greek yogurt may support gut health
Research suggests that eating yogurt regularly may help support a healthy digestive system by increasing bacterial diversity in the guts of some people.
However, the type of Greek yogurt consumed matters. Purchasing yogurt with a “Live & Active Cultures (LAC) seal” ensures that the yogurt contains a significant amount of beneficial bacteria or probiotics, which may help support gut health.
Also, it’s important to only choose unsweetened Greek yogurt, as research shows that added sugar can harm gut health and contribute to dysbiosis or bacterial imbalance.
4. Greek yogurt may support muscle recovery and healthy body composition
Consuming enough protein is essential for promoting overall health and muscle recovery.
Greek yogurt is a great post-workout snack option for athletes. Its high protein content may promote muscle protein synthesis and recovery.
A study of young men found that consuming yogurt daily for 12 weeks while participating in a resistance-training program led to greater gains in muscle strength, muscle thickness, and fat-free mass compared with a placebo.
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5. Greek yogurt may help keep you full and support a healthy body weight
Protein is the most filling macronutrient, and adding sources of protein — such as dairy — to meals and snacks is a smart way to help you feel satisfied between meals.
Because yogurt is a filling, protein-rich food, choosing yogurt and other high protein foods over less filling foods can help support healthy body weight.
A review of 22 studies concluded that yogurt consumption is associated with lower body fat, less weight gain, and smaller waist circumference.
However, remember that your overall diet and lifestyle matter most when it comes to reaching and maintaining healthy body weight.
6. Greek yogurt is versatile and delicious
In addition to providing several nutrients and being linked to a few potential health benefits, Greek yogurt is a versatile ingredient that tastes great in both sweet and savory recipes alike.
Here are a few ways to use Greek yogurt in your kitchen:
- Top Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen berries, chopped nuts like almonds or walnuts, unsweetened coconut, and chia seeds for a filling breakfast.
- Use it as a base for sweet and savory dips.
- Add Greek yogurt to soups and curries for a creamy texture.
- Top oatmeal, pancakes, baked potatoes, and chili with a dollop of Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
- Use it to make homemade salad dressings.
- Try out Greek yogurt in chicken, tuna, and pasta salads.
- Make frozen desserts like yogurt pops out of Greek yogurt.
- Add it to smoothies for a punch of protein.
These are just a few ways to use Greek yogurt. Don’t be afraid to experiment with Greek yogurt in recipes of your own!
What to look for when shopping for Greek yogurt
When shopping for Greek yogurt, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Most yogurts on the market are flavored and sweetened, and they can contain a significant amount of added sugar.
For example, some flavored, sweetened varieties can contain upwards of 16 grams of added sugar per serving. That’s about 4 teaspoons of added sugar.
While you don’t have to avoid sugar at all costs for optimal health, it’s important to limit your intake of added sugar.
That’s because consuming too much added sugar can contribute to health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, depression, and obesity.
As such, it’s a smart choice to purchase unsweetened Greek yogurt and add your toppings, such as fruit, for natural sweetness.
In terms of fat content, keep in mind that Greek yogurt made with whole milk contains more fat and calories than low-fat or fat-free yogurt, but that doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy.
Full-fat dairy may have more health benefits than reduced-fat or skim dairy.
If you prefer full-fat Greek yogurt, that’s perfectly OK. The same goes for fat-free Greek yogurt.
Greek yogurt is a type of yogurt that’s high in protein and other nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, and selenium.
It’s linked to a few health benefits, such as supporting muscle and bone health, and certain types may help contribute to a healthy gut.
Plus, it’s a filling and nutritious kitchen staple that can be used in a variety of both sweet and savory recipes.
Try this today: If you’re a fan of yogurt in the morning, try jazzing up your breakfast by making a layered parfait. Simply add layers of Greek yogurt, almond or peanut butter, mixed berries, and chia seeds in a jar and enjoy. This can also be a filling snack!