Saturday 24 February 2018

Which is best – Greek or whole natural yoghurt?

Greek yoghurt is strained multiple times, resulting in a higher protein content.
Greek yoghurt is strained multiple times, resulting in a higher protein content.

Daniel Davey, performance nutritionist BSc MSc, CSCS, NEHS

A Greek yoghurt has become popular in recent times partly due to its creamier texture but most probably also because people have become more aware that all fats, including dairy fats, are not unhealthy, whereas some of the low-fat varieties of dairy products like yoghurt are full of added sugars for taste, and chemicals to improve texture. The recent increase in popularity of full-fat dairy often results in a question of whether Greek yoghurt or whole natural yoghurt is better?

Greek yoghurt and natural yoghurt have essentially the same ingredients (milk and bacterial cultures), but are processed differently, resulting in different taste, energy and nutrient profiles. The main difference in processing is that Greek yoghurt is strained multiple times, with each straining cycle removing more liquid and more of the whey protein.

This straining process results in a more concentrated form of yoghurt compared with natural yoghurt, meaning that because there is less liquid, the solids are more concentrated and there is more energy from fat and a higher protein (mostly casein) content on a per 100g basis. As the international obsession with protein grows, Greek yoghurt's slightly higher protein content is also a reason for its sudden popularity.

So which is better? There is no clear winner really as both can be used, but from a culinary point of view, you may chose one over the other depending on your needs, the recipe that you are making and your taste preference. Both whole natural yoghurt and Greek yoghurt are excellent for making desserts, dips and salad dressings.

It is important not to confuse Greek yoghurt with Greek "style" yoghurt, which is more often a clever sales ploy where companies add a range of thickening agents and other ingredients to natural yoghurt in order to bump up the thickness and texture. These kinds of products are best avoided.

Another consideration should be around overall energy intake and appetite control. The higher concentrations of casein protein and total fat in Greek yoghurt would be likely to help curb your appetite after a meal or snack due to greater effects on satiety, but obviously then, for the same amount of yoghurt, you would be taking on more energy with Greek yoghurt.

My advice is this: both can be used as part of a balanced diet, but like many things neither should be overconsumed in large amounts.

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