Whether it’s folded into a potato salad, whipped with berries and maple syrup to serve as a dessert or mixed into a smoothie for an extra protein boost, Greek yogurt is a versatile ingredient. It also offers some unique health benefits. Adding it to your diet can help you feel full after meals and increase levels of appetite-suppressing hormones, which may lead to weight loss, according to some studies. It’s also rich in calcium, a mineral associated with bone strength and decreased risk of osteoporosis.
Yogurt is made by heating milk and then adding friendly bacteria that transform some of the lactose into lactic acid, which thickens the milk. Once the milk has cooled, it’s ready to eat or store. Most regular yogurt has a consistency that’s drinkable or thick enough to scoop with a spoon, while other varieties have a runny consistency. When strained, Greek yogurt becomes thick and creamy.
This process can be done in a food processor, by hand or using an electric strainer. Depending on the method, it can take anywhere from 8 to 24 hours for the milk to separate into yogurt and whey. Manufacturers of commercially produced Greek yogurt may skip this step and use rapid straining methods to produce their product more quickly, but this can result in a pasty texture and less of the protein-rich whey.
When you’re buying Greek yogurt, look for options that are low in added sugar and artificial sweeteners or flavorings. You’ll also want to choose full fat (made from whole milk), rather than skim, which typically has fewer total and saturated fat grams.
The whey in Greek yogurt contains gut-healthy bacteria, or probiotics, that can aid digestion and boost immunity. These bacteria can also improve the function of your intestines and colon. When choosing a Greek yogurt, check the label for a listing of live and active cultures and probiotic strains.
A cup of plain Greek yogurt provides about 9% of your daily needs for calcium, which is important for healthy bones and teeth. It’s also a good source of vitamin B12, which is necessary for producing red blood cells and maintaining proper nervous system function.
When it comes to workout recovery, researchers have found that consuming a post-workout protein snack like Greek yogurt can help your body repair and build muscle. Including this dairy product in your diet can also prevent the spikes and crashes in blood sugar that sometimes occur after exercise, and help you feel satisfied longer.
The high protein content of Greek yogurt makes it a solid choice for anyone looking to lose weight. One serving has more than double the amount of protein than regular yogurt, which can help you control hunger and cravings to support weight loss. And the dietary fiber in Greek yogurt can help keep you feeling full and energized.