If you are like me, you have probably noticed your local grocer's yogurt shelf has suddenly tripled in size with a number of Greek-style yogurt options. Up until about a few months ago, I avoided this new trend like the plague, figuring it was just marketing by the same three or four dairy companies, looking to make more money off me with different packaging. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Greek yogurt is actually just that: a product typically made according to a special process that originated in Greece. It is imported from there or can be made here in the U.S. but is held to stringent guidelines. What exactly is Greek yogurt? It is a wonderfully thick, creamy yogurt with an almost sour-cream like consistency and a satisfying tangy-like taste. Here in the U.S., Greek yogurt is only made from cow's milk, whereas goat or sheep's milk is used as well in Greece.
The main difference between the traditional liquidy yogurt we are familiar with here in the U.S. and Greek-yogurt is that all the whey has been removed through an additional straining process (typically using cheesecloth or muslin) after the milk has been heated and cultured which removes any liquid from the yogurt. Another difference is that Greek yogurt is usually made from whole milk which accounts for the extraordinary creamy texture and taste. This also accounts, of course, to a higher fat content; on the plus side, this also adds more protein. Greek yogurt is not a low-fat food, unless you buy one made from skim-milk. It is important to note that while this style of yogurt is higher in fat, it can be much lower in sugar (read the labels!) than traditional yogurts--definitely a trade-off.
Another major difference between Greek yogurt and traditional yogurt is the types and amounts of live cultures and probiotics added. For example, my personal favorite brand, The Greek Gods, contains five different live and active cultures (L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus, and L. casei) that are not only good for you but that they also believe adds to the creamy and delicious flavor of their products. All I know is they are yummy and my family loves 'em. Click here to read more about the specifics and health benefits of each type of bacteria on the Greek Gods website.
If you are lactose intolerant and have avoided eating yogurt, you need to change your thinking and give Greek yogurt a try. In case you haven't heard, yogurt contains lactase, which is the enzyme your body lacks. Therefore even people who cannot digest any other dairy containing products can more easily digest yogurt. Greek yogurt can be especially helpful for your children if they are feeling left out of the ice cream loop--it's quite thick and creamy, as mentioned above, and can be a great, healthy alternative at parties, etc.
If you want to give The Greek Gods brand a try, our particular favorites are the Pomegranate (17g fat, 12g sugar, 6g protein, 20% calcium); Honey (14g fat, 22g sugar, 6g protein, 20% calcium); and the reduced fat Vanilla (6g fat, 23g sugar, 7g protein, 25% calcium). The Plain is amazing when you add it to dips, pasta sauces, soups, or simply with fruit. You will love it.
(Note: the Greek Gods Pomegranate has only 12g of sugar per serving. This is a rather extraordinarily low amount for a regular yogurt and it tastes really good. Not overly sweet but not too tart. If you only eat half a carton, that's only 8.5g of fat and only 6g of sugar which is well within the guidelines of most diets, especially if you are watching your sugar intake for glucose reasons, as I am. Plus you feel more than satisfied.)
Here in southern Orange County, the only place I have found this particular brand is at the high-end grocery store Gelson's (Dana Point or Newport Beach). To find a store near you that carries it, go to the Greek Gods website here and input your city and state. Trader Joe's also carries several varieties and has their own private label brand that appears to get decent reviews online.
For some fabulous Greek recipes (literally pages and pages), click here. I got hungry just checking them out!
For a great comparison of over eleven different varieties of this new taste sensation, check out this article published last month in the Chicago Tribune.
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