America's preference for Greek yogurt is growing, and fast. In 2008 Greek yogurt sales accounted for three percent of total yogurt sales in the U.S. Just four years later in 2012, that number had already grown to 19 percent. And an interesting fact: Canadians consume 33% more yogurt per capita than Americans. According to Business Insider, Greek yogurt is "one of the hottest-growing food categories of all time."
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Is all the hoopla about Greek yogurt justified? Just what is the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt? And is Greek Yogurt more nutritious? Read on, for some answers.
Both types of yogurt come from milk that has had healthy bacteria added, causing it to ferment. During this process, yogurt thickens and takes on a slightly tangy taste. Yogurt is then strained with a cheesecloth, which allows the liquid whey part of milk to drain off. Regular yogurt is strained twice, while Greek yogurt is strained three times to remove more whey (resulting in a thicker consistency at the end of this process).
This additional third straining step is what makes Greek yogurt different from regular yogurt in several important ways. Greek yogurt contains less whey, lactose, calcium, sodium and sugar than regular yogurt. A single serving of Greek yogurt averages around 50 milligrams of sodium -- that's about half the sodium contained in most brands of regular yogurt. Greek yogurt also contains roughly half the carbs as regular yogurt -- 5 to 8 grams per serving compared with 13 to 17 grams in regular yogurt.
Because more liquid gets eliminated in the additional straining, producers need more milk to produce one cup of Greek yogurt than they require to produce one cup of regular yogurt. Consequently, Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt, because it is more concentrated. Greek yogurt actually contains almost double the protein of regular yogurt. Eight ounces (one cup) of Greek yogurt has about 17 grams of protein, compared to the 11 grams that regular yogurt provides. That's almost about one-third of the USDA's recommended daily intake of protein for women and one-fourth of the daily recommended protein intake for men, This makes Greek yogurt a great option for anyone trying to sneak in a little more protein into their diet. Also, because of its high protein content, Greek yogurt will help you stay full longer, which is key if you are trying to lose weight or maintain it.
Whether you eat it alone, with fruit or enjoy it as a treat or dessert instead of ice cream, Greek yogurt is most definitely a healthful choice - and for me, one that always wins over regular yogurt.