I ran into the grocery store the other day to grab a few things, including some Greek yogurt. As I searched, I realized that a few short years ago, Greek yogurt was sometimes hard to find, but today it takes up half the section. There are a number of different brands and options, including a new squeezable version (no spoon required). Alongside regular and Greek yogurts are a variety of other yogurts and fermented milk products, influenced by different parts of the world; for example, skyr and kefir. With so many options, it can be hard to figure out what to choose. Here’s the latest about these products and some answers to your common yogurt questions.
The popular Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is traditionally made by straining regular yogurt to remove liquid whey. This process leaves it with a higher protein content than regular yogurt, a thick texture and a tangy taste, all reasons for its increased popularity. It is sometimes labelled as “Mediterranean or Greek style.”
Using Greek yogurt is an easy way to add protein, especially at breakfast where it can be challenging to get the recommended 20-30 g at mealtime. Greek yogurt has double the protein of regular yogurt. Most contains 15-20 g per ¾ cup or 175 g serving. However, some unstrained varieties mimic only the thick texture and do not contain the higher protein content.
Greek yogurt is versatile. I like to use it in smoothies, dressings, dips and as a substitute for sour cream. Savoury yogurt is a hot trend this year. DIY by adding ingredients such as tomatoes, basil, or olive oil to plain Greek yogurt.
Skyr, the next Greek yogurt
The first time I tried skyr (pronounced SKEER) was when writing this blog. Skyr originated in Iceland and is now available in Canada. It is made the same way as Greek yogurt but is strained further. Therefore, it is thicker and has a higher protein content. Because of this, it might be the next big thing in the yogurt aisle. My kids love it with frozen berries. Use it in smoothies, eat it with granola or mix it with porridge, the traditional way in Iceland.
Kefir is not a yogurt, but rather, a fermented drink made by adding yeast and lactic acid bacteria to milk. It has a sour taste similar to yogurt and is a bit bubbly. Kefir contains about the same amount of protein and calcium as milk with a higher number of live active cultures than yogurt.
You can drink kefir, add it to a smoothie or use it to replace milk in recipes, for example, in pancakes.
Answers to common questions about yogurt
Now that you know what’s in the yogurt aisle, here are the answers to a few common questions to help you choose the yogurt that is right for you.
Does yogurt contain a lot of sugar? -Milk and yogurt contain a natural sugar called lactose. Lactose and any added sugars are listed together as sugar on the Nutrition Facts table. To reduce your intake of added sugar, choose a plain variety of yogurt and add your own flavourings, such as fruit, or a small amount of honey or maple syrup. Flavoured products can have quite a few teaspoons of added sugar per serving. Look for varieties with a lower amount.
Why do some yogurts contain more or less calcium? – Yogurt is an excellent source of easily absorbed calcium. It contains between 15% and 30% of the Daily Value per 175 g or ¾ cup serving. Different added ingredients and processing affect the calcium content. For example, some manufacturers use skim milk powder as a thickener and this increases the amount of calcium in the yogurt.
Is organic yogurt healthier than regular yogurt? – There is not enough evidence that shows whether organic yogurt is healthier than regular yogurt. Both are great options.
Does all yogurt contain vitamin D? – In Canada, milk is fortified with vitamin D. Certain brands of yogurt are made with milk that has vitamin D added. Others are not. Check the Nutrition Facts table to see if the yogurt you are choosing has Vitamin D.
Should I choose yogurt made with 0% milk fat (M.F.)? – The milk fat content of yogurts range from 0% to much higher levels. Many are around 2-4%. Choose the one you like that best fits your needs.
Do drinkable yogurts have the same nutritional value as regular yogurt? – Drinkable yogurts, which are different than kefir, are popular for their on-the-go convenience. If you are choosing the small containers, which are usually around 100mL, keep in mind that you would have to drink two or three to get the equivalent amount of calcium and protein in a ¾-cup serving of yogurt.
Are all yogurts a source of probiotics? – Yogurt and other fermented foods, such as kefir, contain live active cultures, but these are not always probiotics. Read Probiotics: Healthy from the Inside Out to find out more.
Yogurt in its many varieties is packed with nutrients. It is an excellent source of calcium and contains many other nutrients. It is a versatile food that can be used in many ways. Try some of the different versions and enjoy the growing world of yogurt!