Is Greek Yogurt Good for You? Here's What a Dietitian Has to Say

The breakfast and snack staple provides protein for muscles, calcium for bones and probiotics for your gut health. Here’s how to get the most out of your bowl.

Greek yogurt is an easy, filling and high-protein snack or breakfast option that's typically considered to be healthier than regular yogurt. Is this true, though? Should you always go for Greek yogurt, and what's the best way to eat it to maximize its health benefits? Here, a registered dietitian breaks down what you need to know.

Pictured Recipe: Strawberry-Chocolate Greek Yogurt Bark

What Is Greek Yogurt?

Greek yogurt is similar to regular yogurt but contains less liquid and has a denser texture. "Greek yogurt is the result of straining regular yogurt, where the straining removes liquid whey and leaves the yogurt with a thicker consistency," says registered dietitian Kelly Jones, M.S., RD, CSSD, LDN, of Kelly Jones Nutrition.

Nutrition Information

Here is the nutrition breakdown for one 7-ounce container of plain, low-fat Greek yogurt, according to the USDA:

  • Calories: 146
  • Protein: 20 g
  • Total Fat: 4 g
  • Total Carbohydrates: 8 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugars: 7 g
  • Calcium: 230 mg
  • Iron: 0 mg
  • Potassium: 282 mg
  • Selenium: 35 mcg

This nutrition information may vary depending on the manufacturer.

Strawberry-Chocolate Greek Yogurt Bark

Health Benefits of Greek Yogurt

In general, Greek yogurt is healthy. However, the healthiness of Greek yogurt also depends on what it's paired with, the quantity you're eating and the type you choose. It's possible to turn your good-for-you Greek yogurt bowl into a sugary one, which can spike blood sugar as a result. Combining Greek yogurt with nutritious foods and toppings can boost a bowl's nutritional value and flavor without adding sugar, refined carbohydrates and saturated fat.

Provides Muscle-Building Protein

Protein is a macronutrient necessary for building and maintaining muscle mass as you age. This is especially important for people struggling to get enough protein daily. Despite its lack of whey, Greek yogurt is more protein-rich than regular yogurt. "Although straining removes whey, the reduction in fluid actually increases protein content per ounce," Jones says.

"Regular yogurt has on average 1.5 grams per ounce while Greek has roughly 2.5 grams per ounce," Jones says. She recommends consuming protein throughout the day to keep your brain sharp and your energy and hunger levels stable. Greek yogurt is a great way to help meet your body's protein needs.

Contains Skeleton-Supporting Calcium

A container of Greek yogurt packs about 230 milligrams of calcium, making it a good-to-excellent source of the bone-maintaining mineral (depending on your age; females over 50 have higher calcium needs, and so do both males and females over 70, per the National Institutes of Health). "Calcium is important for bone health, muscle contractions and blood pressure," Jones says.

If you're looking to get more calcium into your diet, though, you may want to consider regular yogurt. When comparing equal amounts of low-fat Greek yogurt with low-fat plain (regular) yogurt, Greek varieties contain about 60% less calcium compared to regular. That's because some of the calcium is in the liquid, which is strained off in Greek varieties, Jones says.

Overall, here's what that means for you: "Individuals with health goals tied to bone health may desire to eat regular yogurt instead, and to then increase protein intake by getting it in their diet in other ways," Jones suggests.

May Help Stabilize Blood Sugar

Greek yogurt is rich in protein and low in sugar and carbohydrates. The aforementioned protein benefits are a boon to your health in ways beyond maintaining and building muscle mass.

"The thick texture of Greek yogurt means a more concentrated source of protein and possibly fat, both of which promote satiety and help keep you fuller for longer to prevent getting distracted by hunger shortly after," explains Jones.

This can come in handy in the morning if you regularly skip breakfast or grab something like a pastry, and also if you typically reach for snacks that are higher in carbohydrates (like crackers or chips) in the afternoon. Making a small Greek yogurt bowl instead can give you more staying power.

Contains Gut-Healthy Probiotics

Greek yogurt also provides a source of gut-healthy bacteria, or probiotics. Eating foods with probiotics can help keep your microbiome (or the community of microorganisms in your gut) healthy, aid in digestion and support your immune system, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

"When it comes to probiotic content of Greek yogurt, pay attention to the label and look for 'live and active cultures' with probiotics from varied dietary sources," Jones recommends.

How to Enjoy It

Always check labels when shopping for Greek yogurt at the grocery store. "As with any yogurt on the market, many products have high amounts of added sugar, so it's important to choose what best fits your lifestyle, personal wellness and health goals and taste preferences," explains Jones. You can also make your own Greek yogurt at home.

You'll also benefit from a little fat, so don't go fat-free. "I encourage my clients to choose yogurt, whether Greek or regular, containing fat, as fat is crucial for release of satiety hormones and is needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E and K, which may be present in foods you often pair with yogurt," Jones says.

Some ideas for enjoying it and keeping it healthy? "Add seasonings to plain Greek yogurt and use it as a savory dip for peppers and carrots, which contain vitamin A, or top with mango and kiwi, which contain vitamin E," says Jones. This Feta, Kale & Pear Salad is another idea, as it's packed with vitamin K and you can dress it with a Greek yogurt dressing. Greek yogurt also makes these Greek-Inspired Burgers with Herb-Feta Sauce really sing.

Other ideas? Pair Greek yogurt with popular combinations and foods—nuts and seeds work well as toppings, while yogurt dip or sauce tastes great with eggs, avocado, smoked or grilled salmon and green vegetables like broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts.

The Bottom Line

Greek yogurt contains more protein compared to regular yogurt. It's also a good source of calcium and provides probiotics that are good for your gut health. Choose plain Greek yogurt when you can and add yummy toppings on your own, such as nuts and seeds, fruit or even a few chocolate chips.

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