Of all sections in the grocery store, the yogurt aisle seems to have grown the most in recent years. It can be confusing to know which type of yogurt to choose with so many types, flavors, and varieties. While all yogurts start with similar ingredients, we recommend Greek yogurt (or skyr, a strained Icelandic-style yogurt similar to Greek yogurt) for most people. Greek yogurt differs from traditional yogurt because of the straining process used to remove some of the residual liquid, or whey. Whey is the component in dairy that contains lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk products. Removing whey from Greek yogurt helps produce a lower sugar, thicker, creamier yogurt with a tart taste and high protein content. These qualities make Greek yogurt an ideal medium to use in a variety of cooking methods, while also providing helpful nutrients. In this article, SHIFT Dietitians review the benefits of Greek yogurt, provide brand recommendations, and suggest creative ways to use Greek Yogurt.
Benefits of Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a versatile, convenient source of nutrients that support overall health. Greek yogurt is a good source of:
Greek yogurt has approximately 60% more protein than regular yogurt, providing around 16 grams per 6-ounce serving. This makes Greek yogurt an ideal option for a balanced meal or snack. In addition, protein from dairy products is both complete (containing all essential amino acids) and highly bioavailable (easily absorbed by the body). Protein promotes satiety, muscle recovery, and bone health – key factors contributing to overall health.
As a fermented food, Greek yogurt contains live probiotic cultures. These “good” bacteria consume some of the lactose sugars present in the yogurt, resulting in a lower sugar, low-lactose product. This serves a two-fold benefit for those consuming Greek yogurt. Consuming live cultures promotes gut health by feeding the gut with good bacteria. The lower lactose content also makes this dairy product easier to digest and useful for those with a lactose-intolerance. Emerging research suggests possible salutary benefits of probiotics in yogurt for both mental health and heart health.
Calcium is a mineral that promotes bone strength and health. Calcium also aids in muscle and blood vessel contraction. Studies show that the calcium found in dairy and yogurt specifically promotes bone and muscle health, making Greek yogurt a valuable contributor to healthy aging.
Due to the increased popularity of Greek yogurt and a deeper understanding of its health benefits, many yogurt brands and types have entered the market. While there is a plethora of options (including store brands), some of our favorite low-sugar brands/types include Chobani® Less Sugar, Fage®, Oikos® Triple Zero, and Siggi’s® Icelandic Skyr. Chobani® and Oikos® also offer completely lactose-free and added-protein options.
10 Creative Ways to Use Greek Yogurt
Eating Greek yogurt alone can be satisfying, but there are several ways to use yogurt to boost nutrients and add flavor to your daily meals and snacks.
- Protein Smoothies
Smoothies provide an opportunity to get creative with the fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and proteins you combine. By adding Greek yogurt to smoothies, you gain high-quality protein, tart flavor, and a creamy texture.. Try this Mango Ginger Turmeric Smoothie for a change.
- Sour Cream Replacement
Greek yogurt has a similar texture and consistency to sour cream but contains less calories and more protein. Try this Slow Cooker Turkey, Bean & Veggie Chili and add a dollop of Greek yogurt to complement this spicy dish.
Swap the cream cheese and mayo for Greek yogurt in your favorite dip recipes. Dips can often contain a significant number of calories and saturated fat, so Greek yogurt is an ideal protein-rich alternative. Try this Buffalo Dip recipe this March Madness season.
Baking with Greek yogurt helps keep baked goods moist, light, and fluffy in texture (its acidity helps activate the baking soda), while also adding a boost of protein. This Zucchini Bread is a great example.
Greek yogurt, as an alternative to oil in a marinade, helps to keep your meat tender and flavorful. Try this Lemon Yogurt Marinated Chicken for an easy way to switch up a weeknight meal.
- Mayonnaise Replacement
Adding Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise to your chicken salad recipe will bump up the protein for your next lunch. This also goes for tuna, chickpea, or egg salads. Try this Yogurt Chicken Salad as an easy make-ahead lunch.
- Salad Dressing
While Caesar dressing is delicious, it is typically high in calories and saturated fat. Try this Yogurt Caesar Dressing alternative for a light and tangy option.
Why not get some probiotics and protein with your dessert? Try this intriguing homemade Chocolate Avocado Frozen Yogurt as a treat.
- Creamy Soups
Swap the cream cheese and sour cream in soups and white chicken chilis with Greek yogurt for a lighter, higher protein alternative. This Corn Chowder recipe is a perfect example.
- Pasta Sauces
Keep those creamy pasta sauces but use Greek yogurt as your base to add nutrient density. Try this Penne Alla Vodka with Greek Yogurt this week for dinner.
Greek yogurt is a versatile and convenient product with many nutritional benefits that make it a tremendously useful substitute in various recipes. The next time you are grocery shopping, consider adding some Greek yogurt to your cart. For more information about this protein-rich food, reach out to your SHIFT Dietitian.
In Real Health,
Lauren & Rachel
SHIFT Registered Dietitians