Greek Yogurt: Benefits, Nutrition, and Facts

Greek Yogurt: Benefits, Nutrition, and Facts

Greek yogurt, or strained yogurt, has grown in popularity in the U.S. over the past decade, but it’s been a staple food in countries such as Turkey and Greece since ancient times.

This popular dairy product has a thicker texture and tangier taste than regular yogurt. It provides a variety of essential nutrients, including B12, calcium, and vitamin A, and is higher in protein and lower in carbs than unstrained yogurt. 

Not only is Greek yogurt a nutritious and satisfying food, but research studies show that regularly consuming it may benefit health in a number of ways, from enhancing satiety to strengthening bones.

Here’s how eating Greek yogurt can benefit your health.

Greek yogurt is much higher in protein compared to regular, unstrained yogurt. In fact, Greek yogurt provides more than twice the amount of protein found in regular yogurt. A 6-ounce container of Greek yogurt contains 17 grams (g) of protein, while the same serving of regular yogurt contains just 6 g.

Protein is essential to health because amino acids, often referred to as the “building blocks” of protein, are needed for hormone and neurotransmitter synthesis, immune function, and many other vital processes. Higher-protein diets have been linked to a number of health benefits, including weight management, improved bone density and body composition, and better blood sugar regulation.

Protein needs depend on factors like activity levels and body size, but most experts agree that physically active people require between 0.54 to 0.9 g of protein per pound of body weight per day, which is significantly more than the current RDA for protein, which sits at 0.8 grams of protein per kilograms of body weight or 0.36 g per pound.

Adding Greek yogurt to your diet is an effective way to boost your intake of this essential macronutrient. 

In addition to protein, Greek yogurt is high in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. For example, a 7-ounce serving of Greek yogurt covers over 40% of your needs for both B12, a nutrient essential to neurological function, and selenium, a mineral required for thyroid health that has powerful antioxidant properties. It’s also a good source of calcium, zinc, and several other vitamins and minerals.

A 2020 study that included data on over 65,000 children and adults found that yogurt consumers had better overall diet quality as well as higher intakes of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin D. The study also found that yogurt consumers were more likely to meet nutrient intake recommendations for calcium, magnesium, and potassium compared to non-consumers.

Your skeletal system depends on a steady intake of nutrients in order to maintain its strength and density. Greek yogurt provides protein, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, all of which play important roles in maintaining the health of your bones. 

Studies have shown that yogurt consumption can help support bone mineral density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in older adults.

A 2020 review of nine studies found that postmenopausal women who regularly consumed yogurt had a reduced risk of hip fractures compared to women who didn’t eat yogurt or who had low yogurt consumption.

Additionally, eating Greek yogurt may help support the growth of new bone and decrease bone breakdown in younger people. A small 2020 study in 30 men aged 18–25 years found that the participants who were randomized to consume 200 g of Greek yogurt three times per day on training days while participating in a resistance/plyometric training program, and twice per day on non-training days for 12 weeks experienced increased bone formation and decreased bone breakdown compared to a placebo group.

In addition to supporting bone health, protein is important for muscle growth and muscle recovery after workouts. After intense training, muscle protein synthesis rates are elevated for several hours, so consuming protein after workouts helps supply the body with the protein it needs to build and repair muscle.

Studies show that high-protein foods, such as Greek yogurt, can help improve muscle growth and strength during training, which is why Greek yogurt is often used as a recovery food after workouts. 

Even in non-athletes, regularly eating protein-rich foods is essential for maintaining a healthy body composition and supporting muscle growth and strength. 

Incorporating protein-rich foods into your diet is one of the best ways to support satiety and maintain a healthy body weight. This is because protein is the most filling macronutrient, meaning protein-rich foods, like Greek yogurt, can help you feel satisfied after eating, which may help you regulate your calorie intake.

A 2019 study of 60 adults demonstrated that a serving of Greek yogurt reduced post-meal appetite more than skim and whole milk by 9% and 7%, respectively.

Because Greek yogurt supports satiety, including it regularly in your diet may help you lose excess body fat or maintain a healthy weight.

A 2020 study that included data on over 65,000 children and adults found that yogurt consumption was associated with lower body mass index (BMI) and body weight. What’s more, the study showed that, compared to non-consumers, adults who regularly consumed yogurt were 23% less likely to be overweight or obese and 29% less likely to have an elevated waist circumference.

Some kinds of Greek yogurt are a good source of probiotics, or live microorganisms that support gut health.

Some research suggests that eating yogurt containing live and active probiotic bacteria could encourage a healthy gut environment by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

A 2022 study that included over 1,000 predominantly female twins found that those who consumed yogurt regularly had a higher abundance of probiotic species used as yogurt starters, including Streptococcus thermophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis in their guts compared to the participants who didn’t consume yogurt. These bacterial strains may reduce inflammation in the GI tract and support overall gut function.

Other studies have shown that yogurt consumption can help improve bacteria diversity in the large intestine, which is a sign of a healthy gut.

If you’re hoping to reap the gut health benefits of Greek yogurt, purchase Greek yogurt with a Live & Active Cultures (LAC) seal. This seal ensures that the yogurt product contains at least 100 million cultures per gram of yogurt at the time of manufacture.

In addition to its gut health benefits, unsweetened Greek yogurt could also support healthy blood sugar regulation. The high protein content of Greek yogurt helps slow digestion, which blunts the rise in blood sugar that occurs after eating. Greek yogurt with live and active cultures may also promote healthy blood sugar management by encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria and enhancing insulin sensitivity.  

A 2023 study that included 72 people with type 2 diabetes found that participants who were randomized to consume 200 grams of probiotic yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis probiotics for twelve weeks experienced significant reductions in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a long-term marker of blood sugar control.

For healthy blood sugar regulation, it’s best to choose unsweetened Greek yogurt. Sweetened and flavored Greek yogurts can contain a large amount of added sugar, which can significantly increase your blood sugar levels after eating.

Greek yogurt is a good source of protein and several vitamins and minerals.

Here is the nutrition breakdown for a seven-ounce serving of low-fat, plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt:

  • Calories: 146
  • Protein: 19.9 g
  • Fat: 3.8 g
  • Carbs: 7.8 g
  • Sugars: 7.1 g
  • Vitamin A: 180 micrograms (mcg) or 20% of the DV
  • B12: 1.04 mcg or 43% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Riboflavin (B2): 0.466 mg or 36% of the DV
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 0.94 mg or 19% of the DV
  • Calcium: 230 mg or 18% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 274 mg or 22% of the DV
  • Selenium: 24.8 mcg or 45% of the DV
  • Zinc: 1.2 mg or 11% of the DV

Greek yogurt contains a variety of nutrients, but is particularly rich in protein, vitamins B2, B5, and B12, as well as the minerals selenium, phosphorus, calcium, and zinc, all of which play important roles in health.

For example, zinc is needed for immune function, cell division, and protein and DNA synthesis, while calcium is required for skeletal health, muscle function, nerve transmission, and more.

It also contains smaller amounts of some nutrients, including potassium, a mineral that’s considered a “nutrient of public health concern” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services because it’s commonly underconsumed by Americans. According to research findings, fewer than 3% of US adults have potassium intakes greater than the set adequate intake (AI) for potassium of 4,700 mg per day.

Potassium is required for essential functions such as blood pressure regulation, so including foods and drinks that contain potassium in your diet is a smart way to support and protect your health.

Unsweetened Greek yogurt is lower in carbs than regular yogurt, which makes it a better choice for people who have trouble regulating their blood sugar. However, sweetened Greek yogurt products can be very high in added sugar, which is an ingredient that should be limited in any healthy diet. 

Greek yogurt is available in different fat percentages, such as skim, low-fat, and full-fat, all of which can fit into a well-rounded diet. 

Greek yogurt is a healthy choice, but isn’t appropriate for everyone.

While some people with lactose intolerance can consume small amounts of fermented dairy products without incident, others who are particularly sensitive to lactose may experience symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products, including yogurt.

Because it’s an animal product, Greek yogurt isn’t appropriate for those following vegan diets. It should also be avoided by people following dietary patterns that exclude dairy products, such as paleo diets. 

Greek yogurt is a versatile ingredient that can be enjoyed in both sweet and savory meals and snacks.

Here are a few ways to consume Greek yogurt:

  • Pair Greek yogurt with berries, chia seeds, and chopped nuts for a filling breakfast or hearty snack
  • Use Greek yogurt to add protein and a creamy texture to soups and sauces
  • Mix Greek yogurt into dips and spreads to increase their protein content 
  • Make Greek yogurt bark or Greek yogurt pops by mixing Greek yogurt with berries and freezing the mixture on a sheet tray or in ice pop molds for a tasty, naturally sweet treat
  • Add Greek yogurt to smoothies to make them more filling and nutritious
  • Add a dollop of Greek yogurt to savory dishes like tacos and burrito bowls
  • Mix Greek yogurt into chia pudding and oatmeal
  • Use Greek yogurt in place of mayo to make tuna, egg, or chicken salad

There are many other ways to use Greek yogurt in your kitchen, so don’t be afraid to experiment with this nutritious, easy-to-use ingredient.

Greek yogurt is a nutritious dairy product that’s high in essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamin A, B12, calcium, and selenium.

It’s higher in protein than regular yogurt, making it a more satiating option. Plus, Greek yogurt intake has been linked to several health benefits, such as protecting against fracture risk, improving overall diet quality, and supporting a healthy body weight.

Greek yogurt is a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated into sweet and savory recipes, including smoothies, chia pudding, soups, and more. Try keeping a container of Greek yogurt in your fridge so you always have a healthy source of protein on hand. 

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