Yogurt can be made through hundreds of processes, dependent on a grand spectrum of things. Anything from the type of milk used, to the length of time it’s been strained, to how long it’s been cooled, to what country’s methods are being utilised can make a big difference to the yogurt’s taste, texture, and price.
Change up any of the above, and you’ll end up with a different yogurt every time – some of these changes are, however, not for the better.
Whilst there are hundreds of yogurts out there, there are a few which particularly take the nation’s fancy and lord our supermarket shelves: Greek & Greek-style yogurts.
Greek and Greek-style yogurts are worth £170m in the UK market, with over 80% of that market being Greek-style and only 20% the ‘authentic’ Greek yogurt. What UK consumers run the risk of is blurring the lines between the two – ‘style’ means an imitation of the real thing. So, like with any imitation, what are the authentic parts which have been stripped out, and what is the difference nutritionally?
I recent looked at how unhealthy most supermarket yogurts actually are and it was quite shocking. The high levels of sugar and misleading packaging showed me that not all yogurts are healthy in the way that they should be – yogurt is after all just pasteurised milk and should remain that way.
And this got me thinking… Are the different yogurt varieties on the shelves all as simple as they seem? Are we choosing one over the other because it “sounds healthier” but not actually doing any investigating? And are some yogurt varieties more likely to be given unhealthy “boosts” by manufacturers than others?
The milk for Greek yogurt has firstly the water removed by straining the whey from the plain yogurt. This straining is done three times instead of twice (which is the traditional way), which means you get a thicker product. Removing the water means you get a thick, creamy yogurt which is more protein-dense than other yogurts.
Greek yogurts are also low in sugar, with the majority of the sugar taken out in the whey. But one of the best bits about Greek is that it’s lower in lactose than other yogurts because of the gradual straining which retains all the good yogurt cultures. Superbly, this means even some lactose intolerance sufferers can eat this with no problems. Other dairy alternatives to cow’s milk are soy milk and nut milks which are much more digestion friendly than full-lactose cow’s milk.
If you struggle with dairy, Greek yogurt is a great milk substitute in baking or if you want something to dampen your fave cereal.
Yogurt sales have skyrocketed in the past ~10 years whereas breakfast cereal sales have remained flat.
I use low-fat Greek yogurt in my healthy banana loaf recipe which gives the loaf extra moistness and a more buttery texture.
The best Greek yogurt should, in theory, only contain milk and live cultures, and it is these which provide all the health benefits mentioned above. No other ingredients are necessary for a fine tasting Greek yogurt. However, the triple straining process takes time, effort and is largely expensive, which has led to a lot of short-cutting by manufacturers. This is why you’ll find thickening agents like corn starch and milk-protein concentrate added to mimic the rich, creamy texture of traditional strained yogurt.
Another point which was brought up in the media in 2013 was how tight the restrictions are for calling a yogurt ‘Greek’ if in fact it wasn’t produced in Greece. Chobani, a US leading brand of natural yogurt, faced a UK High Court injunction for claiming to be Greek, but with none of their products produced in Greece.
If you’re opting for Greek yogurt because of its incredible health benefits, then do not choose a “Greek-style” yogurt thinking it’s the same thing. These usually contain cream, gelatine, gum blends, stabilisers, preservatives, milk solids and more, to thicken the yogurt and quicken the straining process.
They also detract from the natural Greek yogurt’s nutritional benefits and can be problematic especially for lactose intolerance sufferers who may believe that they can eat Greek-style because it’s the same as Greek. Simply put, a Greek-style yogurt gets its name because there is some straining going on, like they do in Greece. But that’s where the comparison begins and ends.