There’s a funny thing about Greek yogurt…it’s not Greek! A more appropriate term for this smooth, rich yogurt would be Strained Yogurt. In Greece, strained yogurt is known as ‘straggisto’ and is used throughout Greece as a popular ingredient in many ethnic dishes.
Yogurt in general is a nutritious and healthy food: an excellent source of protein, calcium and potassium, and it is also a good source of vitamins and minerals. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt per day for individuals aged nine or older, children four to eight years old should consume two and half servings. Eight ounces of yogurt is considered one serving.
What really makes yogurt such a shining star is probiotics. Because yogurt is a cultured or fermented product made with the starter cultures Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Steptococcus thermophiles, it contains probiotics. Probiotics (think Pro versus anti, as in antibiotics) are good and necessary bacteria that help to maintain a healthy digestive system.
What makes it different?
Now, back to Greek yogurt. As yogurt is strained, the watery substance of whey is separated from the yogurt, leaving a thicker, creamier and more tart product that we call Greek yogurt. When the whey is removed, there is less sugar, fewer carbohydrates and more protein than in regular yogurt.
A little something extra
If you don’t care to eat yogurt plain, try adding your own fruit pieces and /or granola for a healthful way to enjoy it. Usually when the yogurt is sweetened up by the manufacturer, it will be higher in calories and sugar than if you put in your own fresh or frozen berries or fruit. I often use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream or mayonnaise in recipes.
What to watch for
Remember to read labels when shopping in order to avoid purchasing imposters. The term “Greek” is not regulated and thickening agents like corn starch can be used to create the thick and rich texture of truly strained yogurt. Also, not all yogurts really carry the healthful probiotics I mentioned earlier, so if probiotics are important to you, make sure the label says “live active cultures.”
Below is a comparison of the labels from Dannon’s Greek and a regular non-fat yogurt (note the difference in serving sizes):
So you make the choice and enjoy yogurt – Greek or Regular – for its great taste and healthful benefits. Just remember to read those labels so you know for sure that you are getting the real deal!
Coborn’s Natural Foods Manager – Clearwater, MN
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