Yogurt comes from milk that has had healthy bacteria added, causing it to ferment. During this process, yogurt thickens and takes on a slightly tangy taste. Yogurt is then strained through a cheesecloth, which allows the liquid whey part of milk to drain off. Regular yogurt is strained twice, while Greek yogurt is strained three times to remove more whey (leaving a thicker consistency).
While all yogurt provides numerous health benefits (including probiotics), the nutritional stats for Greek yogurt and regular yogurt do differ. Here's how the two stack up:
Protein - Greek yogurt has almost double the protein of regular yogurt. Eight ounces of Greek yogurt has about 20 grams of protein, whereas regular yogurt provides around 11-13 grams. Greek yogurt's high protein content makes it a favorite among people trying to manage their weight as it helps ward off hunger.
Carbohydrates - Greek yogurt has fewer carbohydrates than regular yogurt. This could be beneficial to diabetics, who have to watch their carbohydrate intake.
Calcium - Regular yogurt has about three times the calcium of Greek yogurt. Both are still considered good sources of calcium, but women who don't get enough calcium from other foods may want to stick to regular yogurt for its bone-building benefits.
Sodium - Greek yogurt has half the sodium of regular yogurt.
Calories - Plain, nonfat versions of Greek and regular yogurt have a similar calorie count per serving, but added sugars can significantly increase the calories of either variety.
Texture - Greek yogurt is much thicker and creamier than regular yogurt because it's strained more. Greek yogurt can also be used in cooking as it does not curdle when heated like regular yogurt.
Cost - Unfortunately, you'll likely spend twice the money on Greek yogurt. This is largely due to escalating customer demand, as Greek yogurt's taste, texture, and great nutritional profile keep consumers coming back in droves. Greek yogurt also costs more because the extra straining requires much more milk, so it's a more concentrated source of protein.
Although most people snack on yogurt, don't underestimate its versatility. Both types of yogurt can be used as lower-calorie substitutes for fatty ingredients. Swap out eggs and oil in baked goods for Greek yogurt, or use either yogurt type in place of full-fat sour cream, heavy cream, mayonnaise, or cream cheese in recipes. Both types can also be used in place of other high-calorie ingredients in dips, sauces, salad dressings, smoothies, and desserts.
Yogurt is often touted as an ideal health food, and it can be if you choose the right kind. As with both Greek and regular yogurts, be sure to choose low-fat or nonfat varieties, and opt for those with little to no added sugar, as this ups the calorie count.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.