Buying Greek Yogurt for Max Benefit

Yogurt-a-FreeDigitalPhotosThere are a number of myths about Greek yogurt and which ingredients make it a healthy choice, and which are not.  Before you head out to the grocery store, check out this these facts and our handy shopper’s checklist below.

Fact #1:  All Greek yogurts are not the same.

Every brand uses a different recipe to make their yogurt.  Meaning, the protein, sugar and added ingredients can widely vary.  Shoppers need to read the labels and understand the different ingredients and what they are to make wise choices.

Fact #2:  How is Greek yogurt made?

Greek yogurt is made by straining plain yogurt to remove the whey, or the liquid that remains after the milk is curdled, that results in a more-solid texture with less sugar and carbohydrates and more protein as compared to regular yogurt  According to Maria Bella, MS, RD, CDN in a recent MSN article, there are no regulations on what manufacturers can, or cannot, call a “Greek yogurt.”  And, the FDA only has regulations on the manufacture of regular yogurt.

Fact #3:  So, if there are no regulations on Greek yogurt, how do I know what to buy?

To buy good quality Greek yogurt read the label.  The main ingredients should be milk and live active cultures.  Avoid buying products with whey concentrates and thickeners such as modified corn starch or milk protein concentrate (MPC).

Fact #4:  Greek yogurt contains protein.

All yogurts contain protein, but most Greek yogurts contain twice the amount.  But, that does not mean that all brands are the same.  The variations in the straining process will make a difference in the number of grams of protein per carton.  Some brands will have 10 grams per 5.3 ounce containers while others will offer 18 grams per 6 ounce container which is 50% more protein after you adjust for the difference in serving sizes.  A true Greek yogurt gets its thickened consistency from the straining process.

Fact #5:  Greek yogurt contains artificial thickening agents.

But some manufacturers will skip the extra straining process and add thickening agents, such as modified corn starch, carrageenan, guar gum or gelatin instead.  There is nothing inherently wrong with these ingredients, but they are not ingredients in a true Greek yogurt.  If you are vegan or vegetarian, gelatin quite often contains animal products and products with gelatin may be something you wish to avoid.

Fact #6:  Greek yogurts may contain dyes or food coloring.

This is true. Some brands use a substance called carmine to give strawberry yogurts a pink hue.  This is a natural dye that is derived from the body of beetles that makes the food look like it contains more fruit than it actually does.  Look for both carmine and gelatin on the label if you wish to avoid them.

Fact #7:  Greek yogurts contain artificial sweeteners.

This may be true so you need to be familiar with the sweeteners such as “grape juice concentrate” or “evaporated cane juice.”

If you are choosing your yogurt based upon its ingredients then the first three ingredients on the list should be milk, live and active cultures and fruit.  Sugar should be near the end of the list.

If you prefer a more natural approach to sweetening your yogurt consider a drizzle of honey or even a serving of fresh fruit, such as cranberries, to liven things up.  Click here for a Cranberry Greek Yogurt recipe that is delicious!


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