Updated 3rd November 2022

Greek yogurt vs. regular yogurt: Which is better?

Yogurt is a fermented dairy product that people enjoy around the world. It’s a delicious option for breakfast, snack time, or dessert, and it can be a key ingredient in many other meals.

Different types of yogurt vary in terms of how they’re made, how they taste, and their nutrition content.

Greek yogurt is a popular type, but what exactly makes it different?

In this article, learn how regular and Greek yogurt are made, how they might impact your health, and how much they cost.

With the ZOE at-home test, we can analyze your unique blood sugar and blood fat responses, as well as the “good” and “bad” bugs living in your gut. 

With this information, we can give you personalized nutrition advice tailored to your body and your long-term health and weight goals.

To get started, take our free quiz.

How are they made?

Both Greek and regular yogurt are fermented, but the manufacturing differs slightly.

The process starts out the same. Bacteria called Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are added to warm milk, and the mixture sits at approximately 110°F (about 43°C) for a few hours. 

During this time, these bacteria convert lactose, the naturally-occurring sugar in milk, into lactic acid. This gives the mixture a thick, creamy texture and slightly tart flavor. For regular yogurt, this is where the process stops. Some manufacturers might add flavorings, like fruit.

For Greek yogurt, there’s one more step. The makers then strain the regular yogurt to remove whey and other liquids. This leaves it slightly thicker and more tart. 

Nutrition

Both regular and Greek yogurt are packed with beneficial nutrients, but their nutrition profiles are a little different.

Two hundred grams, or about 7 ounces, of plain, whole milk yogurt contain:

  • Protein: 7.5 g 

  • Fat: 9 g

  • Carbohydrates: 11.1 g

  • Calcium: 254 milligrams

  • Potassium: 328 mg

The same amount of plain, whole milk Greek yogurt has:

  • Protein: 17.5 g

  • Fat: 8.8 g

  • Carbohydrates: 9.5 g

  • Calcium: 222 mg

  • Potassium: 294 mg

So, compared with regular yogurt, Greek yogurt has more than twice as much protein and slightly fewer carbohydrates.

But regular yogurt has more calcium and potassium. 

It’s important to note: Some yogurts have added sugar, so be careful to check the nutrition labels.

Probiotics

Fermented foods like yogurt can be good sources of probiotics — living microbes that benefit your health. 

Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are the most common strains in yogurt products.

Manufacturers must use these two strains for the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to classify a product as yogurt. Manufacturers may also add other strains.

Some yogurt products are heated after fermentation, which kills the probiotics. 

To tell whether yogurt still contains live probiotics, look for a “live and active cultures” seal. A product needs to have at least 100 million live cultures per gram at the time of manufacturing to earn this certification. 

There’s no difference in regulations for Greek yogurt and regular yogurt. But preliminary research suggests that Greek yogurt has more probiotics than regular yogurt.

Lactose content

Dairy products are generally off-limits for people who are lactose intolerant. But, interestingly, people who are lactose intolerant may still be able to eat yogurt. 

Some evidence suggests that the probiotics involved may make digesting yogurt easier than other dairy products, like milk.

And Greek yogurt has slightly less lactose than regular yogurt. The average full-fat Greek yogurt contains about 5 g of lactose per 200 g, while full-fat regular yogurt can have more than 8 g of lactose. 

Cost

Greek yogurt is usually slightly more expensive than regular yogurt. However, the cost can vary widely, depending on the brand, retailer, and where you live. 

In the U.S., a 32-ounce container of plain Greek yogurt can cost anywhere between $3.50 and almost $7.00, while you can find the same amount of regular yogurt for about $2.00 to $4.50.  

Suggested benefits

Research suggests that regular yogurt may have health benefits. Not many studies have looked at Greek yogurt specifically.

Digestion

A 2021 systematic review explored the potential health benefits of yogurt. Most of the studies involved suggest that eating yogurt may help with common digestive issues, like diarrhea and constipation. 

Two studies explored the benefits of yogurt with Bifidobacterium lactis. Both found that yogurts with this strain improved digestive symptoms in general. 

And while there’s some evidence that yogurt may benefit symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, other studies have found no effect.

Heart health

One long-term observational study that included 2,363 adults found a link between yogurt consumption and reduced blood pressure.

The researchers determined that each weekly serving of yogurt was associated with a 6% reduced risk of high blood pressure. 

And multiple studies suggest that fermented milk products in general can significantly reduce blood pressure. While yogurt is a type of fermented milk product, these studies didn’t look at yogurt specifically. 

However, another study considered yogurt consumption in 74,000 adults with high blood pressure. The researchers found that women who ate at least 2 servings of yogurt per week were 17% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, compared with women who ate less than 1 serving per week.

And they saw a slightly more significant effect in men, with a 21% lower risk.

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Bone health

Yogurt is full of bone health-promoting nutrients, like calcium and potassium. And studies from across the world have shown that eating yogurt can increase bone density. 

In one study, researchers gave a food questionnaire to more than 2,500 people. They found an association between yogurt and milk consumption and bone density. Interestingly, they didn’t find this association with other dairy products.

One review combined evidence from three large studies to include more than 102,000 total participants. These researchers found a link between high yogurt intake and an almost 25% lower risk of hip fractures among women after menopause.

Weight loss

It’s possible that yogurt may benefit weight loss, although the research is mixed. 

A 2021 meta-analysis found one study that suggested that yogurt may help with weight loss, but other studies found no differences between participants who ate yogurt and those who didn’t.

Some evidence suggests that eating yogurt could help curb your appetite, which may aid weight loss. The researchers suggested that this is because the proteins in dairy — whey and casein — impact your hunger-regulating hormones. Another hypothesis is that the probiotics in yogurt help with weight loss.

Still, there isn’t enough reliable evidence to claim that eating yogurt can support weight loss.

Cancer risk

Some studies have suggested that eating yogurt may help lower your risk of certain cancers. However, the research is very mixed, with very few high-quality studies. 

One study involving over 477,000 participants found a link between yogurt consumption and decreased risk of colorectal cancer. Other studies, however, found no change in colorectal cancer risk, so more research needs to be done.

Some studies have linked yogurt and other fermented milk products to a decrease in breast cancer risk. 

For example, in one large study with over 17,000 women, researchers found that those who consumed fermented milk products, including yogurt, were roughly 10% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn’t.

However, none of the studies were high quality. We need better research to confirm whether yogurt might help reduce cancer risk.

The verdict

At the end of the day, you should opt for a yogurt that’s best for you and your health goals. 

Both Greek and regular yogurt can be a great addition to a healthy diet, as long as you go for the plain versions. If you’re looking to add a little sweetness, mix in some fruit or a touch of honey. 

Summary

Yogurt is a fermented dairy product, and there are many types. When people make Greek yogurt, there’s an extra step — they strain it so it gets thicker and more tart.

Greek yogurt also contains slightly less water than regular yogurt, and it tends to be a bit more expensive.

Ultimately, there isn’t a big difference between the two types. Both may have health benefits as part of a varied, well-balanced diet.

Not much research has looked at Greek yogurt specifically, but some evidence suggests that yogurt in general may improve digestion, heart health, and bone health. 

Also, some research points to weight loss and cancer risk benefits, although these findings aren’t as clear.

What’s best for you will depend on your taste, budget, and health goals.

The best foods for your body are unique to you.

With the ZOE at-home test, we can analyze your blood sugar and blood fat responses, as well as the “good” and “bad” bugs living in your gut. 

With this information, we can give you personalized nutrition advice tailored to your body and your long-term health and weight goals.

To get started, take our free quiz.

Sources

A randomized, double-blind, controlled study and pooled analysis of two identical trials of fermented milk containing probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis CNCM I-2494 in healthy women reporting minor digestive symptoms. Neurogastroenterology & Motility. (2013). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23480238/

Consumption of dairy products and colorectal cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). PLOS One. (2013). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24023767/ 

Effect of Greek-style yoghurt manufacturing processes on starter and probiotic bacteria populations during storage. International Dairy Journal. (2019). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0958694619300317

Effects of dietary yogurt on the healthy human gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome. Microorganisms. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5374383/

Fat from different foods show diverging relations with breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Nutrition and Cancer. (2005). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16573374/ 

Fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 improves gastrointestinal well-being and digestive symptoms in women reporting minor digestive symptoms: A randomised, double-blind, parallel, controlled study. British Journal of Nutrition. (2009). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19622191/ 

Fermented milk products and bone health in postmenopausal women: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials, prospective cohorts, and case-control studies. Advances in Nutrition. (2020). https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/11/2/251/5585623

Live & active cultures seal. (n.d.). https://www.idfa.org/live-active-cultures-seal

Longitudinal association of dairy consumption with the changes in blood pressure and the risk of incident hypertension: The Framingham Heart Study. British Journal of Nutrition. (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4635606/

Milk and yogurt consumption are linked with higher bone mineral density but not with hip fractures: The Framingham offspring study. Archives of Osteoporosis. (2013).
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3641848/

Regular yogurt intake and risk of cardiovascular disease among hypertensive adults. American Journal of Hypertension. (2018). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29462263/

What is Greek yogurt? (2016). https://www.usdairy.com/news-articles/what-is-greek-yogurt

Yogurt. (n.d.). https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/yogurt/

Yogurt and other fermented foods as sources of health-promoting bacteria. Nutrition Reviews. (2018). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30452699/

Yogurt consumption as a signature of a healthy diet and lifestyle. The Journal of Nutrition. (2017). https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/147/7/1476S/4743669

Yogurt, cultured fermented milk, and health: A systematic review. Nutrition Reviews. (2021). https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/79/5/599/5843523

Yogurt, Greek, plain, whole milk. (2022). https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html

Yogurt, plain, whole milk. (2022). https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html

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