How to Buy the Healthiest Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt has become very popular, but not all Greek yogurts are created equal. Yogurt is healthy for you and your digestive system, but some yogurts are far from the healthiest of foods
Why is Greek Yogurt Healthy?
It gives you calcium, protein and live active cultures, otherwise known as probiotics. These live active cultures are the good type of bacteria in our digestive system.
We have good and bad bacteria in our digestive system, when there are more bad bacteria we can have digestive and stomach problems. Taking antibiotics will kill both the bad and the good bacteria, so yogurt can help restore the good.
More good bacteria than bad bacteria in our digestive system can improve the immune system.
It can lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol and raise the good HDL levels rose.
Yogurt contains good amounts of the following vitamins and nutrients. Iodine, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, vitamin B12, tryptophan, potassium, zinc and especially good amounts of protein.
Many people who are lactose intolerance can eat it.
Most if not all are gluten free.
How Greek Yogurt is Made
Yogurt is made by adding certain live bacterial cultures to milk. This causes the milk’s lactose and sugar to turn into lactic acid during the fermentation process. The two friendly and healthy (good) bacterial cultures that are added to the milk are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Some yogurts also add other beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei.
Greek yogurt is made the same way but with an added process. After the fermentation process, the yogurt sits in cheesecloth which will then filter out the whey (the liquid). That gives it the great texture, thickness and creaminess.
What to Look For in Healthy Yogurt
Look for yogurts that say “live active cultures” or “living yogurt cultures” or just “active cultures” and then a list of which cultures it has on their label.
All yogurts can contain as much as 80% of the daily recommended value for fat, so a 2% or fat-free would be healthier.
According to Cynthia Sass, RD and co-author of the best selling book The Flat Belly Diet, a healthy yogurt will have the following per 8 ounce cup.
- No more than 200 calories
- 4 grams of total fat or less
- 30 grams of sugar or less
- At least 6 grams of protein
- At least 20% (2,000 mg) of the daily recommended value of calcium, I have noticed that many yogurts with fruit have about half of this amount of calcium.
Make sure you look at the size of the container and then do the math, since these Greek yogurts come in various sizes.
The ingredients listed in a real and healthy Greek yogurt should look like this: Cultured pasteurized milk, skim or nonfat milk. Some also add cream. They all will say they contain live and active cultures and name which cultures.
Healthy Greek Yogurts
I have tasted a number of Greek yogurts over the years, here is a list of the ones I have found to be the best. Of course a whole-milk yogurt will taste slightly better than a 2%, but not much. So 2% or fat free would be the healthiest to buy and fits all or most of the above criteria, usually calcium is the only criteria that can fall a little below.
- Fage (pronounced Fa-yeh) is my favorite tasting Greek yogurt. It is the thickest and creamiest with a good taste. You can even substitute it for sour cream on a baked potato.
- Greek Gods yogurt is also very good and sometimes cheaper than Fage.
- Oikos made by Stonyfield is good tasting with a more mild taste than the Fage brand.
- Voskos is thick and creamy, the taste is slightly more sour than Fage, a real yogurt taste.
- Chobani is also a very good.
- Dannon Greek yogurt, plain, had an almost sour or bitter taste, some might like that.
There are many other brands coming out all of the time. In the resources of this article I have links to these yogurts and their nutrition and ingredients.
Not So Healthy Greek Yogurts
As I wrote in the first paragraph, not all Greek yogurts are the same. Yoplait (the last I knew) is one Greek yogurt I wouldn’t eat because they use a lot of ingredients which shouldn’t be in any Greek yogurt, like milk protein concentrate, kosher gelatin, and sugar and vitamin A acetate .
I don’t mean to just mention Yoplait since there are other yogurts with odd ingredients in them for a Greek yogurt. Be sure to read the ingredients and nutritional facts.
Greek yogurt is especially good and healthy. If you are used to and expecting a sweet candy like yogurt; that is not what you will get. Greek yogurt has become popular because of its thickness, creaminess and the taste plus the health benefits.
© September 2010 Sam Montana
Picture by Maurice Reeves