Why try Greek? It’s good

Greek yogurt
Photo illustration by Nicholas Draney/Standard-Examiner
Story by Amy K. Stewart
(Standard-Examiner correspondent)
Tue, Nov 15, 2011
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Grocery store shelves are bursting with more and more varieties of Greek yogurt to meet the demands of customers who are hooked on this new twist on a well-known dairy product.

Compared with traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt is thicker, as well as being higher in protein and calcium. At the same time, it is lower in sugar and sodium than mainstream yogurt, according to local nutritionists.

Greek yogurt is “thicker, more concentrated, more dense and more creamy,” said Wayne Askew, University of Utah professor and chairman of the division of nutrition in the College of Health.

Vegetarians may be drawn to Greek yogurt since it is a “high-quality protein alternative to lean meat,” Askew added.

Greek yogurt is strained to remove a good portion of the whey, lactose and sugars — the result being a more nutritious product than regular yogurt.

However, Greek yogurt is also generally more expensive than regular yogurt. Popular Greek yogurt brands include Fage, Dannon Oikos and Chobani, although mainstream yogurt brands are now starting to release Greek versions.

Sarah Sauve, 26, of Roy, got hooked on Greek yogurt last summer after a friend told her about it. She tried Chobani’s strawberry flavor.

“I like the thickness of it,” Sauve said, adding she had no idea there was a nutritional difference between Greek and mainstream yogurts.

Sauve still buys regular yogurt since it’s cheaper, but she says she likes Greek yogurt better since it appears to be more filling. “I get full faster on Greek yogurt,” she said.

Traditional yogurt is a dairy product made from cow’s milk. It is inoculated with bacteria that consumes the milk sugar. The byproduct is lactic acid, which lowers the pH of the milk product and causes the proteins in the milk to denature, which changes the confirmation of the milk protein so as to cause a pudding-type texture, according to Joan Thompson, associate professor of nutrition at Weber State University.

“The nutritional quality of milk is preserved in yogurt,” Thompson said.

Probiotics — or live bacteria — in the yogurt became popular in the 1990s. It provides nourishment for the cells that line the intestine. “Calcium, protein and vitamins come with yogurt, adding nutrition to your body,” Thompson said.

Greek yogurt also has the probiotic bacteria, Askew said.

The texture of Greek yogurt is a lot like sour cream and can be a nutritional alternative when making dips. “If you’re making an onion dip, it’s a great alternative to fattier foods,” Thompson said.

Askew added that Greek yogurt is also a more nutritious substitute for mayonnaise.

Fage brand Greek yogurt, which is on the higher price end of the dairy product, costing around $1.75 for 5.3 ounces, has a separate pocket in the yogurt container for real honey. The consumer can dip a spoon in the honey and then scoop out a spoonful of yogurt.

However, regarding the nutritional value, Thompson points out: “Honey is sugar — and it actually has a higher percentage of fructose than sugar.”

Fage’s honey Greek yogurt, 5.3 ounces, has 210 calories and 50 fat calories, 29 grams of sugar, 6 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbs and 11 grams of protein.

Chobani strawberry fruit-on-the-bottom Greek yogurt, 6 ounces, has 140 calories, 0 fat, 19 grams of sugar, 20 grams of carbs and 14 grams of protein.

Dannon Oikos, blueberry fruit-on-the-bottom Greek yogurt has 130 calories, 0 fat, 19 grams of sugar, 20 grams of carbs and 12 grams of protein.

The long-term future of Greek yogurt is yet to be seen.

“It’s a fad right now, but it could be a lasting thing,” Askew said.

But Sauve is more positive: “I think Greek yogurt is here to stay — because it tastes so good.”

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