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Diet digest: regular yogurt vs. Greek yogurt

By Perrin Braun, September 8, 2014

 

As an athlete, you want to put the highest-quality fuel into your body to get the best results from your training and competition.  Yogurt is a great food to add to your diet. The active bacteria cultures can strengthen your immune system, and yogurt provides both calcium and protein.image

Greek yogurt has elbowed its way onto grocery store shelves across the country, and is rapidly growing more popular. Many people rave that it’s creamier than conventional yogurt, but is it also healthier? If you’re interested in learning more about how yogurt might fit into your diet, InsideTracker can provide you with the information that you need to make an informed nutritional choice!

Both Greek yogurt and regular yogurt come in plain, nonfat, and low-fat forms. Both Greek and regular yogurt in their non-fat and low-fat form are low in calories and high in calcium, making yogurt a great snack for any athlete concerned about bone strength. So, what’s the difference? Greek yogurt has a much thicker consistency than regular yogurt because it is strained to remove the majority of the liquid whey, lactose, and sugar. Because straining removes some of the milk sugar, Greek yogurt can be easier to digest for people who are sensitive to lactose. However, in roughly the same amount of calories, some types of Greek yogurt can pack up to double the amount of protein while also cutting sugar content in half.

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Specifically, here’s how Greek yogurt measures up to regular yogurt:

Protein - A 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt typically contains 15-20 grams of protein, which is the equivalent amount found in 2-3 ounces of lean meat. Great news for vegetarians who want to boost their protein intake! Conversely, 6-ounces of regular yogurt provides about 9 grams of protein. Because of its high protein content, Greek yogurt is the better choice for athletes who are looking to add some lean protein to their diets. Protein content is also important for athletes who are interested in maintaining or losing weight, since protein helps promote feelings of satiety and helps you feel fuller for longer periods of time.

Carbohydrates - Greek yogurt contains 5-8 carbs per serving and is a good option for a low-carb diet; regular yogurt, which has 13-17 grams of carbs, is a better way to carb-load for a big race. Endurance athletes typically need to have higher carbohydrate intakes than most people, so eating Greek yogurt is a great way to fuel for an event like a marathon. However, keep in mind that the carbohydrate count of your yogurt will increase if it’s sweetened with sugar or any other type of sweetening agent. If you’re counting carbs, choose the yogurt that contains less added sugar.

Fat – The fat content in Greek yogurt can be fairly high. Some full-fat brands of Greek yogurt contain as much as 16 grams of saturated fat, which is roughly 80 percent of the total daily allowance. A full-fat brand of regular yogurt contains about 5 grams of saturated fat in an 8-ounce serving. So, read the labels carefully! If you prefer the taste of Greek yogurt, you might want to stick with the non-fat or low-fat varieties. Many people use Greek yogurt for cooking because you can substitute it for higher-fat ingredients like sour cream, mayonnaise, butter, or oil.

Sodium – one serving of Greek yogurt contains roughly 50 milligrams of sodium, which is about half of the amount found in conventional yogurt. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, or 1,500 if they’re over 50.

Calcium – Greek yogurt loses some calcium through the straining process, but a 6-ounce serving still contains 20 percent of the recommended daily amount. Regular yogurt delivers 30 percent of your calcium needs, though both are considered to be good sources of calcium. However, women who are concerned about not getting enough calcium from other foods may want to stick with conventional yogurt.

Many experts agree that no matter which yogurt you choose, eating yogurt is a great way to feel full and to consume important nutrients with fewer calories. The key is to stick non-fat or low-fat varieties. No matter which brand of yogurt you choose, it pays to be an informed customer. Added sugars and added fat can contribute to the calorie count of your yogurt, so be sure to read the label before you buy. Remember, one product alone cannot serve as a panacea for all your nutrition needs, and InsideTracker can provide you with the information that you need to choose foods that will help you optimize your performance.