Greek yogurt, an increasingly popular alternative to standard yogurt, is popping up in grocery aisles across the country and making its way into health-conscious recipes. This trendy alternative is creamier in texture than other yogurts, and is also low in fat, higher in protein and offers all kinds of great active bacterial cultures to help with digestion. However, there are so many different varieties of yogurt out there — probiotic, prebiotic, organic and now Greek — that selecting the right yogurt can be a confusing task.
Fat, calories and protein
Finding a nutritious Greek yogurt boils down to three simple things: Fat, calories and protein. Look for nonfat varieties of Greek yogurt and check the nutritional label for low calories and high protein.
Mary Bamford, a registered dietician and nutritionist based in Toronto, recommends that every 175-gram serving of Greek yogurt should contain at least 18 grams of protein and no more than 100 to 120 calories.
Get more protein with nonfat Greek yogurt
While regular nonfat yogurt has six to eight grams of protein per serving, nonfat Greek-style yogurt has 18 to 20 grams, and the two varieties are (depending on the brand) typically made from the exact same ingredients: Skim milk and active bacterial cultures.
Though there are different ways to produce Greek yogurt, the traditional and common method is to take regular yogurt and strain out the liquid — which is called the whey — using cheesecloth or a similar straining tool. This produces a more condensed, thicker product. Therefore, you would have to use three litres of milk to make Greek yogurt for every one litre that would be needed for regular yogurt. Triple the milk means triple the protein.
Why it’s important to get enough protein
“Protein is important, particularly at breakfast,” says Bamford. “Our protein tissue in our muscles, our liver and our heart turns over 24-7.” Protein acts as a fuel for these different parts of the body, so it’s important to feed that need throughout the entire day, she says.
One of the more severe risks of not getting enough protein is accelerated sarcopenia, the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle, warns Bamford. Sarcopenia is a condition that often strikes when people are older, leaving them without the strength for basic physical tasks, such as climbing stairs or even getting up off the toilet.
“Ultimately it’s a big determinate of whether we end up in a nursing home,” she says. Whether fuelling up for the day or warding off long-term health risks, it’s a good idea to get a lot of protein at breakfast rather than cramming it all in at dinner, says Bamford.