Natural vs. Greek: Which yoghurt is better?
Yoghurt is becoming an increasingly popular breakfast choice among the health conscious. Over the past twenty years sales have rocketed and we now spend 1.5 billion every year on the stuff. Due to the growing knowledge that fruit yoghurts contain unhealthy amounts of sugar, more and more of us are now opting for plain old natural yoghurt.
I am often asked which is the best kind of yoghurt; greek or natural, fat or fat-free, so I thought I'd break these options down to help you decide.
I will be referencing two of the heavy weight brands in the world of yoghurt. The first contender being Yeo Valley, widely known to support good bacteria in the gut, although many other yoghurts including Greek yoghurt add probiotics to the ingredients (check labels for L. acidophilus and Bifidus).
Yeo's opponent is Fage the brand responsible for the popular Total Greek Yoghurt. Be aware that only yoghurt actually made in Greece is permitted to call itself Greek yoghurt; 'Greek Style' isn't the real deal and are often just creamy yoghurts or diet desserts which hold little nutritional value.
I'll use 100g as the measure but keep in mind that the portion size pots contain more than this.
Looking at the full-fat versions of both yoghurts, Greek yoghurt contains 5g of fat; 3.6 of that being saturated, with natural yoghurt at 4.2g with 2.7g saturated. Due to the higher fat content in Greek yoghurt this will help to fill you up, however If you are concerned about the fat content in your diet then I would suggest giving the Greek a wide berth. As a large number of people prefer to avoid fat I'll award the yoghurt with the least.
The straining process that assists in the production of Greek yoghurt leaves a denser more condensed product, making it not only higher in fat but also in protein. This offers a double-whammy when it comes to filling you up, and as we know protein offers support in the repair of many tissues of the body. (My sister says that her nails have significantly improved in condition and strength since she started adding high protein yoghurt to her diet) 100g of fat-free Greek yoghurt holds an impressive 10.3 grams of protein and full-fat has 9g. Natural yoghurt lags behind with fat-free at 5.9g and full-fat 4.6g.
Another outcome of straining Greek yoghurt is the removal of some of the milk sugar (lactose). Opinions vary on whether milk sugar has a negative affect on us. It is however understood that limiting our carbohydrate/sugar intake assists in weight management and helps to maintain blood glucose levels and in turn our energy levels. Greek yoghurt has almost half the amount of sugar that natural yoghurt has with 3.8g in comparison to 6.5g. Fat-free natural yoghurt is highest in sugar at 8.5g. Fat-free Greek has 4.3g.
Yoghurt is a great source of calcium, however when yoghurt is strained, like the Greek version, a small amount of the calcium is lost. However 100g of both types of the Greek yoghurt still provides us with around 15% of our recommended daily allowance of Calcium. On the other hand Yeo Valley fat-free yoghurt, contains 172mg supplying us with 32% of our RDA. This is probably because when the fat is removed from natural yoghurt the watery part that is left is where the calcium is found. The full-fat version provides 17%, still a little more than Greek.
Due to the high fat content Total comes in the highest at 96 calories per 100g, however strip that fat away and the calories are almost halved with Total 0% at just 57. The same amount of Yeo Valley has 82 calories with the fat-free at 59 calories. However, a higher number of the calories in Yeo come from the sugar content which gives Greek yoghurt the edge.
Both yoghurts mentioned offer some health benefits so there isn't really a bad choice here. While we are on the subject, fruit yoghurts on the other hand are best avoided. They often contain at least 16g of sugar, that's 4 whole teaspoons! Then there are diet versions containing artificial sweeteners that can do us more harm than good.
Another thing to consider is that a portion size pot of Yeo Valley is 120g and Total Greek is 170g so this will increase the difference in fat, sugar, protein and everything else.
For me, I personally prefer to avoid sugar rather than fat as fat keeps me fuller for longer and does have some health benefits, whereas sugar holds no nutritional value apart from being a source of energy. I also opt for foods higher in protein.
For these reasons my winner is Total. I buy the large 500g tubs and probably have no more than 150g. This is my personal preference. You may have different priorities so use the stats above to determine what suits your needs best.
Louise Appel, Personal Trainer
LLouise Appel Personal Trainer, St John's Wood & Personal Trainer Maida Vale offers customised, individual Personal Training and Pilates at Lords Cricket Ground, St John's Wood. Personal Trainer Harpenden & Personal Trainer St Albans is located at EsTR Fitness.