It's Time to Get Cultured!
Taylor Lucas, Mary Rutan Hospital Dietetic Intern
Yogurt is often labeled and recognized as healthy food and is popular among health-conscious individuals, and rightly so! Yogurt is a great way to get in your daily serving of dairy and is an excellent source of calcium, protein, vitamin B-2, B-12, phosphorus, and probiotics. The amount of these nutrients your yogurt provides depends on the type of yogurt you buy.
What are the differences between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt?
Regular yogurt is made from milk that has been exposed to a controlled, warm environment with bacterial cultures to allow for fermentation. During the process of fermentation, the bacteria convert the lactose in the milk to lactic acid. These bacteria are known as probiotics, which are excellent for aiding in our gut health. The initial product from this fermentation process is what we refer to as regular yogurt.
To make it into Greek yogurt, the whey and excess liquid are strained until the desired thickness is obtained. This liquid whey is primarily composed of the lactose from the milk and water, making Greek yogurt relatively higher in protein content and lower in carbohydrates and natural sugar than regular yogurt.
What else should you look for on the nutrition label? An often-overlooked component of flavored yogurt is the added sugar. Both regular and Greek yogurt can be loaded with excessive amounts of sugar that can easily be avoided. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends less than 50 grams of added sugar per day based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. An easy way to decide on yogurt is to compare the added sugar on the nutrition labels between brands and go for the least amount of added sugar. Another useful approach is to choose one with a Daily Value (DV) of less than 20%. According to the USDA guidelines, a food with a DV greater than 20% is considered a high source of added sugar.
But what if you don’t like the bitter taste of plain or less sweetened yogurts? Try adding in non-nutritive sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit sweetener. These natural sweeteners contain virtually zero calories and can help make your yogurt more enjoyable. You can also try adding some fresh or frozen fruit, coconut flakes, seeds, or nuts for some additional flavor. Have fun and experiment with different combinations!