The Lowdown on Nutrient-Rich Yogurt

Is Greek yogurt better than the regular one?

Greek yogurtIs Greek yogurt better for you than regular yogurt? Based on all the press it’s received lately, along with its takeover of the dairy aisle, you might automatically think “yes.” I know I did.

While indeed Greek yogurt has certain benefits that surpass those of regular yogurt, its nutritional profile is not necessarily better. It all depends on your dietary needs.

Since one of my dietary needs is protein, Greek yogurt is better for me. On average, Greek yogurt contains nearly twice as much protein as regular yogurt. One cup of FAGE nonfat Greek yogurt, in fact, provides a whopping 22 grams. Why is the 60-plus me (who is no longer in a growth spurt or running three miles a day) concerned about getting enough protein? According to research, boosting your protein intake or at least getting an adequate supply helps combat the natural loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging.

Greek yogurt, however, is not necessarily better than regular yogurt for my friend who suffers from osteoporosis and seeks calcium. The straining process that creates Greek yogurt — and gives it its thicker, richer texture — unfortunately removes some calcium. On average, regular yogurt provides 30 percent to 40 percent of the daily recommendation, compared to Greek’s 20 percent to 25 percent.

Concerned about carbs and sugar? Lactose? If so, Greek yogurt might be the better choice for you, since the straining process to remove whey reduces all three. Less lactose, the sugar in dairy products that can sometimes upset stomachs, is especially helpful for those who have lactose intolerance. And fewer carbs and sugar hold huge appeal for those looking to lose or maintain weight.

Both Greek and regular yogurts boast the Holy Grail of stomach health: probiotics, aka the “good” bacteria that promote a healthy gut and boost immune health. Eating yogurt with probiotics helps improve digestion and potentially ease conditions like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease and diarrhea. Doctors often suggest eating yogurt while taking antibiotics (which can cause “bad” bacteria to flourish) to help reduce the side affects of this treatment.

Both yogurts are rich in vitamin B-12, an essential nutrient for nerve and brain function and for forming red bloods cells and DNA. This all-important vitamin also helps prevent a type of anemia that makes people tired and weak. One cup of plain, nonfat yogurt provides about half of our daily needs. What’s more, the B-12 in dairy products, such as yogurt, tends to be more readily absorbed by the body.

Avocado Hummus with Yogurt

Adapted from FAGE recipes

2 garlic cloves
½ jalapeno (optional), seeded
2-3 tablespoons fresh cilantro (or 2 teaspoons dried)
15.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 avocados, peeled and cubed
½ cup plain, low-fat yogurt: Greek or regular
2 limes, juiced
Salt and coarse ground pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place garlic, jalapeno and cilantro in food processor; pulse to mince. Add chickpeas and pulse for about 2 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve with toast, tortilla or pita chips, or cut-up veggies.

Helpful Tips

Read yogurt nutrition labels carefully (some have more sugar than you may expect) and look for the words “contains active cultures” to assure the brand you choose has probiotics in it. Use caution when cooking with yogurt, since prolonged high temperatures can kill the beneficial bacteria. Fruit-flavored yogurts tend to be higher in sugar, so opt for plain yogurt and add your own fruit

Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at