Is Greek yogurt really the pinnacle of healthy eating like so many people claim? Greek yogurt is constantly used to make all kinds of meals healthier—even as frosting on cupcakes. But we had to ask ourselves—is yogurt really that healthy? And what happens to your body when you eat Greek yogurt regularly?
In order to learn the health benefits—and risks—we turned to a few dietitians to learn the truth about what happens to your body when you eat Greek yogurt. Here’s what they had to say, and for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
“Greek yogurt is a great portable protein and it can also help you quell hunger,” says Katherine Brooking, MS, RD. “What’s more, Greek yogurt may also help fight belly fat, according to a recent study presented at the annual Society for Endocrinology conference. Researchers found that when protein is digested and broken down, one of the resulting amino acids, phenylalanine, triggers hormones that help reduce appetite, which can lead to weight loss.”
Not sure which Greek yogurt to buy? Here are The 20 Best and Worst Greek Yogurts, According to Nutritionists.
“All yogurts are excellent sources of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12,” says Brooking. “What distinguishes Greek yogurt is its thicker, creamier texture because the liquid whey is strained out. Greek yogurt also contains probiotic cultures and is lower in lactose.”
Not sure what to cook with it? Here are 26 Things You Can Make with Yogurt.
Brooking points out that Greek yogurt has almost twice the amount of protein. A 3/4 cup serving of low-fat Greek yogurt contains around 17 grams of protein, compared to a normal low-fat yogurt which only contains around 8 grams per 3/4 cup. To put this in perspective, that serving of Greek yogurt provides even more protein than two large eggs, which only has 10 grams.
For more non-meat proteins to stock up on, check out our list of 13 Great Protein Alternatives If You Can’t Find Meat at the Grocery Store.
“Eating Greek yogurt on a regular basis can provide your gut with a healthy influx of probiotic bacteria, as Greek yogurt can contain live active cultures,” says Leah Silberman, RD from Tovita Nutrition. “It is important, however, that you eat greek yogurt from reputable brands that use milk from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows to ensure you’re eating a quality product.”
“There are really not any risks when you eat Greek yogurt every day limiting it to two servings a day. However, you may not get the benefits if you choose the wrong Greek yogurt,” says Elena Paravantes, RDN and creator of OliveTomato.com. “Greek yogurt should only contain milk and or cream and live cultures. You should not be consuming Greek yogurts that contain gelatin, stabilizers, protein, sweeteners, flavorings, or other additives.
Paravantes also points out the importance of watching your calories. “Another factor that may reduce the benefits of Greek yogurt is what you add to it. Very often we add fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, honey to Greek yogurt and even though these are healthy additions, they can add up the calories. Traditionally Greek yogurt in Greece is consumed either plain or adding a few walnuts and a bit of honey. Yogurt in itself is a complete meal combining protein, carbs, and a bit of fat, so it does not necessarily need anything else nutrition-wise.”
Be sure to also look out for the Greek yogurts that are full of added sugars, which can be sneakily advertised as healthy for you. Aim for Greek yogurt that is lower in sugar—or doesn’t have any at all—and add your own sweetness to it like berries or honey.
“Good things happen when you consume Greek yogurt every day,” says Parvanates. “In fact, studies have shown that Greek yogurt appears to be one of the foods that contribute to longevity associated with the Mediterranean Diet. Yogurt is consumed daily instead of milk, twice a day, every day. The health benefits of Greek yogurt are associated mainly with the probiotics it contains which play an important role in the immune system.”
Want to give the Mediterranean Diet a try? Here are 9 Things to Know Before Starting the Mediterranean Diet.