Top 10 health benefits of Greek yogurt
From protein to probiotics, registered nutritionist Nicola Shubrook outlines the benefits of this thick, creamy yogurt.
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What is Greek yogurt?
Greek yogurt is made from cow's milk that is strained to remove the whey, this results in a thicker consistency compared to natural yogurt. It also has a tangier flavour and can often be used as a healthier substitute to mayonnaise, sour cream or crème fraîche.
Available as full-fat, reduced fat and fat-free, Greek yogurt may be purchased plain or flavoured with fruit.
Nutritional profile of Greek yogurt
A tablespoon (45g) of plain Greek yogurt (whole) provides:
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• 60 kcals/248 kj
• 2.6g protein
• 4.6g fat
• 2.2g carbs
• 2.0g sugar
• 57mg calcium
• 17.6mcg iodine
Low-fat or fat-free varieties of Greek yogurt will be lower in calories (and of course, fat) but bear in mind that they may also contain more sugar – manufacturers often add sugars or sweeteners to ‘make up’ for the lost flavour when fat is reduced.
Top 10 health benefits of Greek yogurt
1. A good source of protein
Thanks to the straining process used to make regular Greek yogurt it is an especially good source of bio-available protein, with approximately 5.7g of protein per 100g.
You may also be familiar with the product Skyr, this has a similar consistency to Greek yogurt, and is similarly high in protein with around 10g of protein per 100g, but it is low in fat because it's made from skimmed milk. Technically, Skyr is an Icelandic sour milk cheese rather than a yogurt.
2. Useful source of iodine
3. May support bone health
Greek yogurt is a good source of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus – minerals essential for bone health. Indeed, studies suggest that diets which include foods, like yogurt, may support bone mineral density.
When combined with lifestyle factors, like a resistance exercise programme, yogurt may help support bone strength through reducing bone resorption.
4. May support gut health
Greek yogurt that is labelled ‘contains live cultures’, provides beneficial bacteria known as probiotics, which when eaten regularly may support gut health. This is because regular inclusion of fermented foods, including yogurt, appears to increase the microbial diversity of the gut. However, be sure to select unsweetened yogurt because sugar may have a detrimental effect on the bacterial community living in your gut.
Read more about probiotics.
5. May support immunity
The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods, including yogurt, may support immunity. It does this in a number of ways – firstly by increasing the production of immune cells like natural killer cells, strengthening the lining of the gut and inhibiting the growth of harmful strains of bacteria.
Greek yogurt is also a good source of immune-supportive nutrients like zinc and selenium.
6. May support muscle recovery after exercise
The high protein content of Greek yogurt makes it an ideal post-exercise snack or component of a meal. This is because its
bio-available protein may promote muscle repair and recovery especially for those involved in resistance training.
7. May support a healthy body weight
Being rich in protein and calcium, Greek yogurt may help you feel more satisfied after eating. This is because this combination of nutrients helps to increase levels of appetite-suppressing hormones. Including yogurt in your diet is also associated with a lower body weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference.
A versatile ingredient, Greek yogurt can play a useful part in boosting the protein contribution of meals like breakfast, as well as snacks. For more inspiration check out our Greek yogurt recipes.
8. May benefit heart health
9. May reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Eating yogurt regularly appears to be associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although this effect was not seen with other dairy foods.
10. May support mood
Studies suggest that a serving of yogurt (100g) daily may be beneficial for mood and outlook. This is likely to be because of
the relationship between the beneficial bacteria in our gut and the role they play in producing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Is Greek yogurt safe for everyone?
Those with an allergy to dairy milk should avoid Greek yogurt. Speak to your GP if you experience any concerning symptoms, such as a tickly throat or cough, sneezing or an itchy tongue after consuming milk or yogurt.
Less commonly, a severe allergic reaction can occur, known as anaphylaxis. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
Those with an intolerance to the natural milk sugar, lactose, typically find dairy milk and products difficult to digest. If this is relevant to you, and depending on the severity of your intolerance, you may need to avoid or limit your intake of dairy foods.
Healthy Greek yogurt recipes
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Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. Follow Kerry on Instagram at @kerry_torrens_nutrition_
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