Greek Yogurt or Regular Yogurt?

May 8, 2014

Harmons dietitians have started a new series to help you make sense of some of the more confusing categories of food in the store.  We are basing the topics on questions that we commonly get starting with “Which is healthier: Greek yogurt or regular yogurt?”

In the dairy department it seems that there has been an explosion in the amount of Greek yogurt available with many different brands, levels of fat and flavors to choose from.  So what makes Greek yogurt different than regular yogurt?  Traditional Greek yogurt is made by straining the yogurt and removing whey, making it a thicker and often tangier product than regular yogurt.  In the United States the definition of Greek yogurt is not regulated, and sometimes the thicker texture is created with a thickener such as starch, pectin or carrageenan rather than straining.  So considering Greek yogurt’s current popularity, how does it stack up to regular yogurt? 

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Nutrition will vary a little for different brands, but as you can see the plain Greek yogurt has roughly double the protein, about 30% less sugar and a little less sodium than regular yogurt, but it also has less calcium than regular yogurt.  When a whole milk yogurt is chosen, Greek yogurt has more calories, fat, saturated fat but less cholesterol than regular yogurt.   Both types of yogurt offer live bacterial cultures, which are beneficial to the digestive system.  So which is the better choice?  A non-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt wins out over a non-fat or low-fat regular yogurt, but only by a slim margin (mostly due to its lower sugar and sodium content, as most Americans get enough protein from other sources).  However, if you have difficulty meeting your calcium needs, the regular yogurt may be a better choice for you.  In either case, both yogurts do provide beneficial bone health nutrients, so choose the type of yogurt that you prefer and if you purchase a sweetened yogurt, choose a yogurt lower in sugar (for an easy pick, look for a green Dietitians Choice tag).