It’s the protein-packed snack that’s a favourite for most — but do you know what you’re actually eating when you buy Greek yoghurt?
Here in Australia, you’re likely to find two varieties on the shelves — Greek yoghurt, and “Greek-style” yoghurt.
Despite the similar names (and similar branding), it’s important to realise they’re not the same. One contains more kilojoules but is more natural, and the other has less kilojoules but more preservatives — so, which is better for you?
Short answer: Traditional Greek yoghurt, and it all comes down to how it’s made.
Yoghurt made with love
Yoghurt has been sustaining humans for almost 5000 years. It’s theorised yoghurt was discovered by chance almost 7000 years ago when Turkish herdsmen stored their milk in goatskin bags slung across the backs of their camels.
After trekking across the desert, the combination of intestinal juices from the bag and the warmth of the desert sun was enough to ferment the milk — producing a tart, thick substance we now know as yoghurt.
Thankfully, the breakfast favourite you pick up in the supermarket isn’t made this way — but it’s not far off.
Katrina Mills, accredited practising dietitian, says making traditional yoghurt involves a time-honoured mix of straining and fermentation.
“Greek yoghurt is made by fermenting milk with live bacteria cultures. The yoghurt mixture is then strained, sometimes multiple times,” says Mills.
“This straining process is what gives the yoghurt a rich velvety texture because the liquid whey is removed.”
Greek-style yoghurt, on the other hand, has not been strained and often contains artificial thickeners such as gelatin and gum, which are added to produce the same creamy texture, but with a longer shelf life.
If you have the choice, go with traditional Greek yoghurt
Mills argues that traditional Greek yoghurt should be your top pick because of its high amount of protein and low amount of preservatives.
“Traditional Greek yoghurt has no other ingredients apart from milk, sometimes cream and live cultures,” Mills tells 9Honey Coach.
“Greek-style yoghurt can contain a number of ingredients including thickeners, stabilisers, gelatin, gum blends, preservatives and milk solids.”
The high amount of protein in traditional Greek yoghurt (almost 20g per cup) makes it an excellent choice because of its satiety value, which means you’re likely to stay fuller for longer after eating.
“Although traditional Greek yoghurt may have more kilojoules (energy) than the same amount of Greek-style yoghurt, it is still a better choice because it is free of any additives and boasts an all-natural ingredients list,” says Mills.
The benefits of eating yoghurt
A cursory look down any supermarket dairy aisle will tell you just how big the yoghurt market has become — there are flavoured varieties, fat-free varieties and even varieties that promise to reduce bloating.
Despite all the confusion, yoghurt is an important and healthy food to eat — if it includes as little ingredients as possible. This is because part of it is made with live bacteria that helps our stomach digest carbohydrates easier.
“Yoghurt is known as a probiotic, because it contains microorganisms. These living bacteria can aid in digestion and help build the numbers of healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tracts,” says Mills.
“In addition, yoghurt is low in salt and is wonderful for people trying to maintain or lose weight because it often keeps you feeling full, preventing the likelihood of reaching for high salty, fatty and sugary snacks.”