It’s All Greek To Me



New diet and health crazes are a common occurrence these days.  One of the latest trends to enter the market within the past five years is Greek yogurt.  Referred to by the Greeks as “στραγγιστό γιαούρτι” or “strained yogurt,” this thickened yogurt has been a staple of the Mediterranean diet for hundreds of years.  It is created much like regular yogurt but is re-strained to remove additional water and sugars thus giving it its creamier, thicker consistency.

Recent figures by MSNBC and the New Jersey Star Ledger showed that this portion of the yogurt industry, which was a 35.4 million dollar sector constituting 2% of all of yogurt sales in 2008, is now projected to reach over 2 billion by the end of this year making it nearly one fifth of the industry’s total sales. With so many companies including Fage, Chobani, and Oikos leading the Greek yogurt market, it can be hard to keep track of them all. So what exactly has caused this mini market boom? It is in large part due to increased awareness of the benefits of Greek yogurt versus standard yogurt.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of this creamy goodness is the amount of protein packed into such a pint size package.  A single serving cup of Fage 0% plain Greek yogurt has a whopping 18 grams of protein.  The same 6 ounce serving of a strawberry Yoplait only has a mere 5 grams of protein.

“It has all the benefits of a high-quality protein without the fat and without the calories,” points out Assistant Director Susan Bowerman of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition points out

Similarly to protein content, Greek yogurt also gives you more bang for your buck in the calorie department. That same single serving of Fage 0% only has 100 calories compared to 170 in the Yoplait cup.  This large gap is caused by substantial amounts of excess sugar in regular yogurt.  A standard cup of Yoplait holds 25 grams of sugar.  Greek yogurt? It only has 7 grams, which leaves you plenty of wiggle room to add a couple teaspoons of honey and a handful of blueberries to top it with.  Protein and fiber nestle together in this simple snack to become a nutrition powerhouse.

Perhaps the only downside to Greek yogurt is its slightly lower calcium level as a result of the additional straining. However if you are already eating a well balanced diet, this slight decrease should not have any negative impact on your health.  You should also expect a marginally higher price tag on this yogurt, sometimes up to 50% more.

“It’s a calcium source,” says Boston University Nutrition Professor Joan Salge Blake does not think price will slow down production.  “It’s higher in protein. The number one motivator of food choice is taste, so if people love it they will eat it.”

Also be sure when choosing a Greek yogurt to get one with either a 0% or 2% milk fat.  Full fat Greek yogurt can pack 7 grams of saturated fat into one serving, 35% of the daily recommended value!

Within the past year, Greek yogurt has expanded its horizons into other markets.  The ever so famous ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s recently released frozen Greek yogurt as a healthier alternative to their rich ice creams.  Available in 4 different flavors including raspberry fudge chunk, peanut butter banana, strawberry shortcake, and blueberry vanilla graham, the product has been flying off the shelves because of its lower fat content and protein boost.

As Ben and Jerry’s spokesperson Sean Greenwood said, “Greek yogurt is just going crazy.” The yogurt is also taking shelf stable snacks by storm.  A new all natural Greek yogurt granola bar was recently created by the company Rickland Orchards and should be hitting local super markets soon.

Whether or not you are a believer of this super creamy and delicious snack, switch things up in your normal dairy routine the next time you go to the grocery store and try one.  You might just find yourself pleasantly surprised.


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