What Makes Greek Yogurt So Healthy?

Different types of yogurt are available in grocery stores, but one that has gained huge popularity in recent years is Greek yogurt.

Yogurt is what you get when you ferment milk with live cultures of beneficial bacteria. The process of making Greek yogurt involves an additional step wherein the whey or the excess liquid is drained out to leave behind a rich, thick, and creamy mass with a nice tart taste.

Whey essentially comprises water, lactose, and certain minerals. The acidic property of this type of yogurt makes it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients.

Greek yogurt’s nutritional worth also supersedes that of regular yogurt on various accounts. The straining process divests the yogurt of its lactose content, the natural sugar found in milk, which accounts for its tangier taste and lower carb count than regular yogurt.

Moreover, Greek yogurt contains almost double the protein than regular varieties; protein is an essential building block of your muscles, skin, bones, hair, and blood.

It is also generously endowed with a host of other nourishing elements such as calcium, probiotics, vitamin B12, and potassium, all of which have an indispensable role to play in several key body functions.

Although traditional Greek yogurt contains three times the saturated fat than regular yogurt, it’s still preferred over low-fat or non-fat variants whose overall nutritional value is comparatively lower.

Note: When buying Greek yogurt, check the label to ensure that it doesn’t contain gum or starch additives, powdered milk protein, and collagen. A lot of store-bought varieties are basically regular yogurts passed off as Greek yogurt after being processed with thickening agents.

Nutritional Value of Greek Yogurt

You can swap your three daily servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products with a cup of plain Greek yogurt to meet the recommended dietary fat intake.

Besides, Greek yogurt is easier for lactose intolerant people to stomach since a substantial amount of sugar is drained out during the straining process. Also, it is packed with probiotics, which help with the breakdown of milk’s sugars, making it easier to digest.

Nutritional content of plain low-fat Greek yogurt per 100 grams:

Water g 83.56
Energy kcal 73
Protein g 9.95
Total lipid g 1.92
Carbohydrate g 3.94
Sugars g 3.56
Calcium, Ca mg 115
Iron, Fe mg 0.04
Magnesium, Mg mg 11
Phosphorus, P mg 137
Potassium, K mg 141
Sodium, Na mg 34
Zinc, Zn mg 0.06
Vitamin C mg 0.8
Thiamin mg 0.044
Riboflavin mg 0.233
Niacin mg 0.197
Vitamin B6 mg 0.055
Folate mcg 12
Vitamin B12 mcg 0.52
Vitamin A mcg 90
Vitamin E mg 0.04
Vitamin K mcg 0.2

How to Enjoy Greek Yogurt

The appetizing flavor and thick, creamy consistency of Greek yogurt make it a great addition to a number of dishes.

  • You can use it as a healthier substitute for mayonnaise or butter on breads and crackers. Cut back on some unwanted calories by topping your bowl of chili or soup as well as baked potatoes with this luscious delight instead of the traditional sour cream.
  • Similarly, top off your waffles and pancakes with low-fat Greek Yogurt instead of the calorie-laden dollops of whipped cream.
  • Unlike regular yogurt, its Greek counterpart does not curdle on light heating and can easily be used to impart depth and thickness to sauces and soups.
  • Plain Greek yogurt can also be savored by itself as a snack.
  • It also makes for delectable breakfast or dessert bowl. Add some crunchy nuts or muesli to Greek yogurt and drizzle a bit of honey on top, and voila – you have yourself a delectable breakfast bowl. Serve it with a side of berries, bananas, or an assortment of chopped fruits.
  • Greek yogurt can also be used to make a mouth-watering dip called tzatziki that is all the rage in Mediterranean cuisine.
  • Greek yogurt can also serve as the base for a low-calorie chocolate pudding, a go-to dessert for anyone on a diet. Whisk some cocoa powder, vanilla essence, and powdered sugar into the yogurt to fix yourself a pudding in a jiffy.
  • Blend it with avocado or any other fruit of your liking to make a smoothie.

You can eat 2 or 3 cups of nonfat Greek yogurt on a daily basis.

Benefits of Greek Yogurt

No matter how you want to eat Greek yogurt, you’ll reap the benefits of its nutritional profile. Here are some health benefits that make Greek yogurt such a sought-after food.

1. Improves Digestive Health

One of the main benefits of Greek yogurt is the probiotics it contains. The digestive tract naturally contains different types of bacteria – some good and some bad. The good bacteria that you get from the probiotics in Greek yogurt help further increase the good bacteria in your gut and promote digestive health.

A high amount of friendly bacteria in the digestive system helps deal with different digestive problems, such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

2. Maintains Bowel Regularity

The probiotics in Greek yogurt help move food through the gut and promote bowel regularity. Moreover, Greek yogurt is an easily digestible food. Also, its nutritional profile helps with the digestion of other foods. This is important for maintaining bowel regularity and preventing problems like constipation.

Irregular bowel movements can make the stools become dry and hard to pass. Also, it will leave behind toxins that may cause damage to both the bowel and the overall body over time.

3. Aids in Weight Loss

Including nonfat Greek yogurt in your diet is a must if you are trying to lose weight. Greek yogurt contains double the amount of protein compared with traditional yogurt.

Because the body takes longer to digest protein than it does with carbohydrates, it can help make you feel and stay full for a longer time. This helps curb your appetite between regular meals, which is important when trying to lose weight.

A 2003 study by the University of Tennessee revealed that eating three servings of yogurt a day can increase fat loss. People who followed a high-calcium diet, which included three servings of yogurt, lost 22 percent more weight and 61 percent more body fat than those who solely reduced calories.

Researchers also have found that an afternoon snack of Greek yogurt, containing 24 grams of protein, led to reduced hunger, increased fullness, and delayed subsequent eating compared with eating lower-protein snacks in healthy women, according to a 2013 study published in Appetite.

Plus, Greek yogurt has a good amount of calcium, which can limit fat production in the body. The iodine in Greek yogurt is important for proper thyroid functioning, which is essential for a healthy metabolism. Better metabolism facilitates weight loss.

4. Controls Blood Pressure

To keep your blood pressure under control, include a few cups of Greek yogurt in your diet. The potassium in it helps control blood pressure. Just 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt contains 240 mg of potassium.

Potassium relaxes and prevents the constriction of blood vessels, which would otherwise cause blood pressure to rise. This mineral also balances out the negative effects of sodium.

The vitamin B12 in yogurt helps your body produce red blood cells to help oxygen reach each and every part of your body, including the heart. Also, Greek yogurt is an important source of calcium and magnesium, which is believed to help lower high blood pressure.

5. Maintains Urogenital Health

Like the digestive tract, the urogenital tract needs a balanced bacterial environment. The probiotics in Greek yogurt may help boost the growth of good bacteria in the urogenital tract, which in turn can prevent or treat several conditions such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

A 2006 study published in Drugs analyzed several studies and concluded that probiotics can be beneficial for preventing recurrent UTIs in women. However, further research is needed to confirm these results.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Mid-Life Health reports that probiotics must not be considered a panacea for treating urogenital infections. However, it can improve and maintain urogenital health.

6. Supports Bone Health

When it comes to bone health, Greek yogurt is very beneficial. Greek yogurt contains a plentiful dose of the topmost bone-building nutrient, including calcium. This vital element helps impart and maintain the tensile strength of your skeletal frame.

An insufficient dietary intake of calcium is one of the primary reasons for gradual loss of bone density, which paves the way for osteoporosis, a progressive disease in which the bones weaken and become vulnerable to fractures.

Just one serving of Greek yogurt meets 18.7 percent of your daily requirement for calcium.

Aside from calcium, it also contains magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and protein, which work together to promote strong, healthy bones.

Additionally, the vitamin D and live active cultures in Greek yogurt strengthen the bones and increase bone density, helping prevent osteoporosis.

7. Keeps the Brain Healthy

Being a fermented food, Greek yogurt is also beneficial for your brain health.

The probiotics play a key role in maintaining a healthy balance between the gut and brain. The gut and brain are linked through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, where there are several neurons that are important for a healthy mind.

In a 2014 animal study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, researchers found that properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods that may be associated with mental health.

Also, the vitamin B12 in Greek yogurt allows the brain cells to form new connections, a process that allows memory formation. Vitamin B12 is a vital component of myelin, the coating that protects many brain cells.

Furthermore, eating fermented foods may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

8. Maintains Oral Health

Greek yogurt can help you keep your beautiful smile by improving your oral health.

The probiotics in Greek yogurt may protect against cavities. It is thought that the good bacteria helps deter the growth of “unfriendly” bacteria in the mouth that can cause several oral problems, including bad breath.

It may also balance your mouth’s pH levels, thus creating a less accommodating environment for bacteria to grow and flourish. More research needs to be conducted in this area to confirm the findings.

Plus, Greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein, two important nutrients that promote oral health.

9. Boosts Immunity

A healthy immunity is a must if you want to live a disease-free life. To boost your immunity, start eating Greek yogurt.

Yogurt with live cultures can lead to higher levels of immunity-boosting cells. The healthy bacteria in the yogurt signal the immune-boosting cells in your body to power up and fight off harmful germs.

The good microbes also help the body absorb nutrients properly and make the digestive system strong. These two factors are important in boosting the immune system.

Also, Greek yogurt provides nutrients, including protein, calcium, iodine, and potassium, that are important in keeping your body healthy.

10. Fights Depression

Good microbes living in your intestines may influence your mood and anxiety level for the better. To that end, eating Greek yogurt on a daily basis gives a boost to the healthy and favorable gut flora and helps you fight depression and improve your mood.

A recent 2017 study published in Scientific Reports found that probiotic bacteria found in yogurt with live cultures can reverse depression symptoms in mice.

Aside from the probiotics, the potassium in Greek yogurt helps maintain the electrical conductivity of the brain and nerve transmissions. It also helps in transporting serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being and happiness.

Resources:

  1. Moore B, Horti A, Fielding BA. Evaluation of the nutrient content of yogurts: a comprehensive survey of yogurt products in the major UK supermarkets. PDF Nutrition and metabolism. . Published August 1, 2018.
  2. Basic Report: 01287, Yogurt, Greek, plain, lowfat . USDA Food Composition Databases. . Published April 2018.
  3. Ritchie ML, Romanuk TN. A meta-analysis of probiotic efficacy for gastrointestinal diseases. PLoS One. . Published 2012.
  4. Dimidi E, Christodoulides S, Fragkos KC. effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. . Published August 6, 2014.
  5. Zemel MB, Richards J, Mathis S, Milstead A, Gebhardt L, Silva E. Dairy augmentation of total and central fat loss in obese subjects. International Journal of Obesity. . Published April 2005.
  6. Douglas SM, Ortinau LC, Hoertel HA. Low, moderate, or high protein yogurt snacks on appetite control and subsequent eating in healthy women. Appetite. . Published September 25, 2012.
  7. Zemel MB, Donnelly JE, Smith BK. Effects of dairy intake on weight maintenance. Nutrition & Metabolism. . Published October 24, 2008.
  8. Low potassium linked to high blood pressure. American Society of Nephrology. . Published November 8, 2008.
  9. Yogurt may protect women from developing high blood pressure. AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS. . Published March 2, 2016.
  10. Falagas ME, Betsi GI, Tokas T, Athanasiou S. Probiotics for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections in women: a review of the evidence from microbiological and clinical studies. Drugs. . Published 2006.
  11. Waigankar SS, Patel V. Role of probiotics in urogenital healthcare. Journal of Mid-life Health. . Published 2011.
  12. Sahni S, Tucker KL, Kiel DP. Milk and yogurt consumption are linked with higher bone mineral density but not with hip fracture: the Framingham Offspring Study. Archives of Osteoporosis. . Published February 1, 2013.
  13. Cerdó T, Ruíz A, Suárez A, Campoy C. Probiotic, Prebiotic, and Brain Development. Nutrients. . Published November 14, 2017.
  14. Selhub EM, Logan AC, Bested AC. Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. Journal of Physiological Anthropology. . Published January 15, 2014.
  15. Miller A, Korem M, Almog R, Galboiz Y. Vitamin B12, demyelination, remyelination and repair in multiple sclerosis. Journal of the Neurological Sciences. . Published June 15, 2005.
  16. Kim B, Hong VM, Yang J. A Review of Fermented Foods with Beneficial Effects on Brain and Cognitive Function. Backentive Nutrition and Food Science. . Published December 31, 2016.
  17. Haukioja A. Probiotics and Oral Health. European Journal of Dentistry. . Published July 2010.
  18. Yan F, Polk DB. Probiotics and immune health. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. . Published October 2011.
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  20. Marin IA, Goertz JE, Ren T, et al. Microbiota alteration is associated with the development of stress-induced despair behavior. Nature News. . Published March 7, 2017.
  21. Huang R, Wang K, Hu J. Effect of Probiotics on Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. . Published August 6, 2016.

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Published by
Vanessa Voltolina, MS, RD, CDN

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