If you regularly eat Greek yogurt, then you go and buy Greek ‘style’ yogurt, the difference in taste and texture is immediately obvious. When cash is a bit tight, sometimes you can easily be swayed by the cheaper price of the Greek style versions. Full-fat yogurt contains a good nutrient base needed by humans. However, there are various types of yogurt and their nutritional value can vary substantially. The nutritional value of yogurt may depend largely on the types of bacteria used in the fermentation process.
Here are some key nutrients found in natural full fat yogurt:
- Vitamin B12: found in foods of animal origin. An essential nutrient for our red blood cells, nerve function, and is integral for DNA synthesis in our bodies' cells.
- Calcium: milk products are excellent sources of calcium. Calcium is required for vascular health, muscle function, nerve transmission, internal cell signalling and hormonal secretion, it’s not just for healthy bones and teeth.
- Phosphorus: an essential mineral that plays an important role in biological processes. Your body needs phosphorus for many functions, such as filtering waste and repairing tissue and cells.
- Riboflavin: also called vitamin B2. Milk products are the main source of riboflavin in the modern diet. Vitamin B2 is involved in energy metabolism and recycles important antioxidants. It has also recently been found to affect the metabolism of iron in important ways.
Yogurt is a rich source of protein, yogurt made from whole milk contains about 8.5 grams of protein in each cup (245 g). The protein content of commercial yogurt is sometimes higher than in milk, because dry milk is sometimes added to yogurt during processing. The proteins in yogurt can be divided into two families, whey and casein, depending on their solubility in water. Water-soluble milk proteins are called whey proteins, whereas insoluble milk proteins are called caseins. Both casein and whey are rich in essential amino acids. The majority (80%) of proteins in yogurt are in the casein family, the most abundant of which is alpha-casein. Whey is the smaller family of proteins found in milk products, accounting for 20% of the protein content in yogurt. It is very high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), such as valine, leucine and isoleucine.
Real Greek yogurt is made using only natural ingredients, with the best Greek yogurts only containing milk and live cultures. A costly straining process filters out excess water, concentrating the yoghurt into a thick, creamy consistency.
So are there any health benefits over its cheaper rival?
- It is very high in protein; with typically 10g of protein per 100g tub.
- It’s low in sodium, so is good news for blood pressure and cardiovascular health.
- It contains probiotics; live micro-organisms. These live bacteria are the backbone of your immune system, keeping the bad out and helping to digest your food, synthesising and releasing vital nutrients to be used by the body. If you have digestive problems, it is very likely you suffer with some form of ‘dysbiosis’, an imbalance of the natural gut bacteria. This can lead to all sorts of issues from inflammation of the gut, to the uncomfortable pain and experience of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is also well known that the gut bacteria of individuals with a high sugar and high carbohydrate diet have a different balance. Why this happens is not entirely clear, but what we do know is that excess yeast and bad bacteria grow their colonies by feeding off sugar.
- Greek yoghurt is very low in carbohydrates, which is very beneficial for people who have a sensitivity to carbohydrates or have type 2 diabetes. Typically brands have less than 4g of carbs per serving.
- It’s also lower in lactose (the sugar found in milk) than most other yogurts, and can even be tolerated by some people who suffer with lactose intolerance.
So what about Greek ‘style’ yoghurt?
Greek “style” yoghurt contains one or more of the following ingredients:
- gum blends
- non-fat milk solids
- milk solids
These are what gives the yogurt its thick texture to replicate actual Greek yogurt. They are thickeners, which detract from the nutritional benefits, whereas real Greek yogurt doesn’t contain any processed ingredients; it’s completely natural.
Greek “style” yogurt is not Greek yogurt; it’s simply something that imitates it, but it doesn’t have the same health benefits. Greek “style” yogurt isn’t known to be particularly bad for you, although the carb content is much higher. It’s not the best option in comparison to actual Greek yogurt; especially when you consider the added ingredients used to thicken it.
Is it worth the extra cost? Absolutely.
If you’re looking for a great breakfast option, or adding to curries or sauces this is a winner through and through. It has an unrivalled amount of protein, lower levels of sodium and low carbohydrate with no added sugar.
Nutritional Therapist & Health Coach