If you’re a dairy fan, but don't whip up your parfaits and creamy breakfast bowls with Greek yogurt, it's time to start. Not only is the creamy, versatile stuff delicious in everything from baked goods to potatoes to smoothies, but Greek yogurt is also totally good for you—and for a number of reasons.
“I absolutely love the texture and taste of Greek yogurt,” says nutritionist Maya Feller, RD, CDN. “It’s such a great way to add a ton of nutrients to your diet, and I find that it’s super easy to incorporate into every single meal—not just breakfast.”
Of course, like all yogurts, not every Greek yogurt is created equal. “Ideally, you want your Greek yogurt to have about 200 calories, a minimum of 2 percent fat, less than 10 grams of total sugar, and at least six grams of protein per serving,” says Feller. “The lower the fat content, the more likely they’ll add extra sugar in, so you need to be mindful of that.”
On top of the added sugar, some brands may also use artificial flavors and colors in their yogurts, all of which you want to avoid.
So…what yogurt brands should you buy, then? “I suggest Icelandic-style (a.k.a. skyrr),” says Feller. “I also love Siggi’s and Fage for their rich, creamy taste.” Two other go-to's: Chobani and Greek Gods, recommends nutritionist Marina Savelyeva, RD. They're all high in protein and low in added sugars (as long as you opt for plain, of course).
But why, exactly, is Greek yogurt so good for you—and how is it different than other yogurts in the dairy aisle? Here's the lowdown on how it's made, plus eight legit benefits you should know about.
What is Greek yogurt, exactly?
“Essentially, the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is how it’s been strained,” explains Feller. “Greek yogurt is strained to remove the whey, which makes the yogurt have a thicker consistency. It also reduces its sugar content and increases its protein content.”
For instance, a seven-ounce container of Greek yogurt contains about 18 grams of protein and six grams of sugar, while an eight-ounce container of regular yogurt consists of just six grams of protein and eight grams of sugar.
Like other yogurt, Greek yogurt contains "live strains" of probiotics, Feller says. Some options may also contain vitamin D.
The Benefits Of Greek Yogurt
Together, these nutritional factors make Greek yogurt pretty darn healthy for you. Here are eight specific benefits you absolutely need to have on your radar.
1. It could help with weight loss
“Thanks to its high protein content, Greek yogurt can definitely help with weight loss,” says Feller. “On average, protein keeps you full for longer periods of time, and depending on the [yogurt's] fat content, the combination of the two can keep you satiated for several hours.”
Since Greek yogurt also has a lower sugar content, it can help keep blood sugar levels stable, so you don’t have to deal with a crash (and cravings) after eating it.
2. It’ll keep your gut happy
“Greek yogurt contains a ton of probiotics, which are the healthy bacteria that keep your gut operating at its optimal level,” says Feller. Not only is this good news for your digestion, but having a healthy gut also means better sleep, a well-running immune system, improved mood, and even clearer skin.
3. Greek yogurt helps your bones stay strong
“In general, dairy products are considered an excellent source of easily-absorbable calcium—about 19 percent of your daily requirement,” says Savelyeva. Of course, that includes Greek yogurt. The perks of calcium include strengthening your bones and teeth and even delaying the onset of the common bone condition osteoporosis, she explains.
4. It may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Thanks to its probiotic content, eating Greek yogurt may help you ward off type 2 diabetes, according to one 2017 study published in The Journal of Nutrition.
One important caveat, though: “You have to make sure that the yogurt you’re consuming is free of added sugars, like cane juice, high-fructose corn syrup, or fruit with sugar added to it,” says Feller. The natural sugars found in lactose should only account for a few grams.
Not so into yogurt? Watch Camila Mendes taste test some of the most popular açai bowls:
5. Greek yogurt boasts a ton of other important minerals and vitamins
Calcium isn't the only important nutrient in this stuff. “Greek yogurt contains vitamin B12, which maintains red blood cells and helps keep your nervous system functioning properly,” says Savelyeva. “It also has several other vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus, zinc, iodine, potassium, and riboflavin, which have a ton of important benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, boosting immunity, and improving thyroid function.” Not bad for a single creamy food, huh?
6. You can use it as a healthier alternative in all sorts of recipe
“There’s this misconception that Greek yogurt can only be eaten for breakfast, but that’s not the case at all,” says Feller. "I love using Greek yogurt in pancakes, as a sour cream substitute, or even in my dinner recipes.”
Whether you use it in dips, marinades, or salad dressings, swapping Greek yogurt in for other ingredients in your cooking can boost the nutritional value of whatever you're eating.
7. It’s an affordable way to meet your protein needs
Averaging at about less than 20 cents per ounce, Greek yogurt is an incredibly affordable protein source—especially when compared to seafood or lean meats like chicken or turkey. This means you can get more bang for your buck in every meal of the day.
8. Greek yogurt can support workout recovery
Thanks to its high protein content, Greek yogurt can help in muscle recovery. After all, the amino acids in protein are the building blocks necessary for repairing muscle tears and aiding in the production of new muscle cells. “Having some Greek yogurt, either in a smoothie or on its own, after working out, can be a great way to help recuperate,” says Feller.
The bottom line: Greek yogurt is totally good for you, as long as you pick a variety that is low in sugar. From its impressive nutritional content to its low price point, it's a creamy and delicious food with loads of health benefits to offer.