Yogurt is essentially milk that has been fermented by bacteria and then strained to remove part of the whey, which is mainly water that contains some lactose, sugar and calcium. Whey is the watery layer that appears on top of your yogurt as it begins to separate out. The bacteria used to make yogurts are Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L.bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophilus (S.thermophilus). Other bacteria that might be included are Bifidobacterium, L. acidophilus, L.casei and more. All of these organisms are part of a larger group of organisms called probiotics.
Greek yogurt is also milk that has been fermented by L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus bacteria and then strained multiple times in order to remove most of the whey in the yogurt. This makes the yogurt thicker and gives it more of a tangy taste.
Greek yogurt contains about 15-20 grams of protein per 6 ounce serving. This is more protein than a 2-3 ounce serving of lean meat. This is a great alternative for vegetarians looking for a good source of protein. Regular yogurt has only 9-10 grams of protein per serving. Some manufacturers of Greek yogurts may cut corners by adding powdered protein to help thicken the yogurt even more.
Greek yogurt contains about half the carbs found in regular yogurt. Greek yogurts generally contain 5-10 grams of carbohydrates whereas regular yogurt contains close to 20 grams per serving. When Greek yogurt is strained, a majority of the lactose and milk sugars are removed, eliminating most of the carbohydrates. As a bonus, Greek yogurt is more lactose friendly than regular yogurt since most of the lactose is removed when yogurt is strained. It still contains some lactose however. It’s best to stay away from yogurts that have added sugar. Even though this makes yogurt tastier, it’s not beneficial for those at risk for diabetes.
Full fat Greek yogurts can have up to 15 grams or more of saturated fat in a 7 ounce serving, which is around 80% of your daily value (DV). Full fat yogurts have only 5 or so grams of saturated fat in 8 ounces, which is less than half of the fat found in Greek yogurt. Going fat free with Greek yogurt is best if you are on a diet or watching your fat intake. However, this can change the texture and taste of Greek yogurt. Regular yogurt tastes great with or without the fat removed since there isn’t much fat to take out.
Regular yogurt wins this one. It has around 30% of your DV whereas Greek yogurts contain around 15% of your DV of calcium. Some of the calcium is lost when Greek yogurts are strained to remove the whey. Calcium is important for keeping bones and teeth healthy and it’s also great for calming your nerves.
Greek yogurt contains about half the sodium as regular yogurt does. However, most regular yogurts do have low sodium versions as well. People who have high blood pressure may want to keep an eye on their salt intakes with yogurt. It’s not a large amount of sodium but many processed foods today are filled with salt. So, it’s best to keep an eye on how much salt you consume daily.
Greek yogurt contains more protein, fewer carbohydrates like lactose and galactose, and less sodium. Regular yogurt has more calcium and less saturated fats than Greek yogurt. On points alone, Greek yogurt wins and most of the differences between plain Greek and plain yogurts are wiped out when you compare their non-fat, low sodium versions against each other. Although Greek yogurt seems to have more health benefits, those who are environmentally conscious may want to consider what goes into making Greek yogurts, and, what comes out.
When Greek yogurts are made they go through a straining process, which removes more whey than the process does for regular yogurt. In fact, a significantly higher amount of whey is removed from the yogurt. It takes about 4 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of Greek yogurt. The remaining 3 pounds or so is mostly whey that gets strained out. This leftover whey is problematic because Greek yogurt manufacturers can produce millions of pounds of whey daily and they do not know what to do with all it. Companies may pay farmers to take some of it off their hands. Some farmers might mix it in with the feed for their cows. They may also use natural bacteria to digest some of the sugars from whey into natural gases like methane, which help power their farms. The problem that arises, however, is that there can be too much whey for farmers to handle and runoffs are bound to occur. Whey is acidic and when it ends up in rivers it can cause a sudden growth in bacteria, which sucks up all the oxygen in the water and eventually kill the fish living there.
The Greek yogurt industry is great for some states and they are turning to researchers to help find other cost effective uses for this type of whey. You can read more about this issue here.
By Sewit Haile