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Superfood status: Why Greek yogurt is good for your bones, heart and gut

The protein in Greek yogurt makes it great for weight loss, while the probiotics and calcium improve gut health and reduce risk of osteoporosis.

Greek yogurt is a thick and creamy wholesome snack with tons of protein and calcium. Not to mention that it contains live active cultures that are good for the gut.

Due to its high calcium and B vitamin content, Greek yogurt has been linked to bone health and cardiovascular health, as well as many other health conditions. In fact, the important nutrients it contains and the health benefits it boasts earns it a spot on the top superfoods list.

Greek yogurt is commonly used in breakfast bowls and smoothies, but it also makes a healthier stand-in for sour cream and serves as the base for luscious dressings and dips.

Learn more about the health benefits of Greek yogurt and healthy recipes to include in your diet.

Greek yogurt nutrition facts

One container (5.3-ounces) of non-fat plain Greek yogurt has:

  • 80 calories
  • 15 grams protein
  • 6 grams carbohydrates
  • 0 grams fat
  • 150 milligrams calcium (15 % daily value)

Low-fat and whole-milk Greek yogurt have more calories and fat per serving than non-fat Greek yogurt.

The health benefits of Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is known for its calcium and protein, both of which link it to many positive health outcomes. One serving of yogurt serves up 15% of your daily dose of calcium, which is necessary for bone health. Many studies have looked at the correlation between yogurt consumption and bones, especially in older women who are prone to osteoporosis. 

One meta-analysis found a link between higher yogurt consumption and reduced risk of hip fracture, likely due to the calcium content. Another study of over 4,000 older adults concluded that eating more yogurt correlated with a 3% higher bone mineral density in the hip and neck, as compared to people who ate yogurt less frequently.

But this research isn’t exclusive to seniors. A study of 30 healthy college aged males showed that eating yogurt in conjunction with an exercise routine increased bone formation over a 12-week period. This is particularly relevant for athletes who are prone to stress fractures.

What’s more, a meta-analysis that looked at a range of studies concluded that there is an association between eating fermented milk products, like Greek yogurt, and a reduced risk of breast and colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes, improved weight maintenance, and improved cardiovascular, bone and gastrointestinal health. The authors attribute these findings to the probiotics in the yogurt, as well as the vitamins and minerals.

Are there drawbacks to eating Greek yogurt?

According to a lab test comparing different forms of dairy, Greek yogurt has more lactose than most cheese and cottage cheese. As a result, it may not be tolerable for those who are lactose intolerant. That said, some manufacturers, like Fage, make lactose-free Greek yogurt.

In addition, many people opt for flavored Greek yogurt to neutralize the sour flavor. Unfortunately, many flavored yogurts are loaded with added sugar. Even though they are masked as healthy with fruit flavors, many flavored Greek yogurts have upwards of 10 grams of added sugar, which is a little less than half of the amount you should have per day. The best way to limit added sugar from yogurt is to buy plain Greek yogurt and mix your own bowl. Add fresh fruit and a dash of honey or maple syrup to sweeten it.

Fun facts about Greek yogurt

Here are a few things you may not know about Greek yogurt:

Greek yogurt has a lot more protein than regular yogurt

What makes Greek yogurt different than regular yogurt? It’s the straining process. Greek yogurt is made by heating milk, adding live active cultures and straining out the liquid (whey). The remaining thick and creamy yogurt contains the majority of the protein. Regular yogurt is not strained, so it also includes the liquid and has less protein than Greek yogurt. A 5-ounce serving of traditional yogurt has about 4-5 grams of protein, as compared to the 15 grams in Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt is not from Greece

Contrary to the name, Greek yogurt is not usually made in the Mediterranean. As a matter of fact, Greek yogurt has nothing to do with Greece. The name originated by Fage, a yogurt company based in Athens, Greece. They used the title “Greek yogurt” to describe their strained thick yogurt variety. Several other companies, like Chobani, adopted the name for the yogurt variety and it stuck. In actuality, Greek yogurt is just a strained thick yogurt.

Use Greek yogurt in recipes to cut down on fat

Greek yogurt is naturally low in fat and calories and high in protein. And with its thick and smooth consistency, it’s a natural swap for several higher-fat ingredients in recipes. For example, you can cut down on fat and calories by using Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, heavy cream or mayo in a 1:1 ratio, although it’s slightly more tart than the latter two ingredients. You can also use Greek yogurt to reduce some of the butter in cooking. Instead of one cup of butter, use ¼ cup of Greek yogurt and ½ cup butter.

Healthy Greek yogurt recipes

Add more Greek yogurt to your diet with these sweet and savory recipes.

Spanakopita Stuffed Peppers
Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Cups
Crispy Lamb Flatbreads