Greek Yogurt: Twice The Protein

Posted on 26 Mar 2010 17:47

Strength and bodybuilding trainees may have a new friend in the dairy industry. Well it's not new but it has only begun to be widely marketed in the US in the last few years. Greek Yogurt, introduced into the U.S. market in 2005. As of August, 2012 it has reached 30% of the U.S. refrigerated yogurt market.

It's thicker and creamier than the yogurt we're used to. Greek yogurt made in Greece and Europe is traditionally made with whole milk and even added cream, but most of the products sold in the U.S are nonfat. It has twice, if not more than twice the amount of protein of regular yogurt. For instance, a 5.3 ounce container of Stonyfield Farms "Oikos" Greek Yogurt has 15 grams of protein. Yeah, dude, that is a lot. Compare that to 6 ounces of their regular yogurt which is eight grams of protein. But Stonyfield's regular yogurt is high on the protein scale. Typical yogurt products contain 6 grams or less per serving.

However consider the carbohydrates in Stonyfield Smooth and Creamy versus Oikos. All of the carbohydrates, in the case of yogurt, are considered also "sugars" on food labels since the sugars are all "simple sugars" whether added or the native carbohydrate in milk, which is lactose.

Stonyfield Plain Yogurt Creamy and Smooth Versus Oikos Greek

Yogurt Type Total Carbohydrate Total Protein
Oikos Plain 6g 15g
Smooth and Creamy Plain 11g 8g
Yogurt Total Carbs Total Prot.
Oikos Plain 6g 15g
Smooth and Creamy Plain 11g 8g

The Greek is tipped toward the protein end. This is just the kind of thing strength and bodybuilding trainees love. It is difficult to ensure enough protein intake without supplementing with protein powders sometimes. But this Greek yogurt is a bit tastier than cottage cheese, I tell ya. Let's not worry about the whole casein, whey nonsense for once, okay? It's milk protein from a product made from nonfat milk. Cottage cheese contains a higher proportion of casein although some whey remains (the liquid part) since cottage cheese is drained but not pressed.

Proteins in Greek Yogurt

Traditionally, the method for producing Greek yogurt includes straining the yogurt through cheesecloth after fermentation, at a temperature of 39°F (4°C), overnight. This increases the total solids in the yogurt and results in a much more creamy and viscous mixture. The liquid portion that runs off, contains whey protein. So, although Greek yogurt has the full complement of milk proteins, both whey and casein, it is highly tilted toward casein as much of the whey will run off during straining. However, some will have more than others because some "Greek" yogurts use a protein concentrate to up the protein content.

There seems to be a greater protein digestibility of yogurt protein than of milk which may be due to the finer coagulation of casein protein during fermentation. The digestibility of the whey portion (which varies) could hardly be improved as whey protein is one of the most digestible proteins of all. The proteins share the same attributes as that of milk proteins being great sources of all the essential amino acids and these proteins are well preserved during fermentation. Also, many lactose sensitive people can handle yogurt quite well, including yours truly.

The traditional methods for making Greek yogurt do not meet the sanitation requirements for modern processed foods, and the resultant yogurt would not have a very long shelf life. So in modern facilities, the straining has been replaced by ultrafiltration or passing the ferment through a centrifuge.

Most of the brands don't have ingredients that are any different than the yogurt you're used to. But watch out for some that may be padding the protein with additives rather than using an authentic Greek straining method, albeit more modern in application. Yoplait Greek for example which adds milk protein concentrate (casein and whey) and additional thickeners yet still comes up short on the protein compared to other brands. For these types, MPC (milk protein concentrate) and/or WPC (whey protein concentrate) is added to milk which is then fermented. This is not as easy as you might think, because the wrong amount or proportions of protein concentrate will produce a chalky or grainy mouthfeel, instead of a pleasing creamy one. However, this method allows producers to make a "Greek yogurt" in an existing yogurt making facility without having to purchase expensive straining equipment.

Yoplait and other products that use this method, therefore, may be a bit cheaper. The point is something like milk protein concentrate is probably cheaper to add than to produce a more concentrated product which would require simply more milk to create a given amount. Nutritionally there is probably little difference though so let's not make a federal case out of it.

Chobani Greek Yogurt containers plain pomegranate rasberry blueberry
Chobani Greek Yogurt containers plain pomegranate rasberry blueberry

You will pay more for it. You are getting more from it. While a cheap store brand might cost as little as 50 cents a carton you will pay at least a dollar or more for a carton of Greek. I haven't done an in-depth price comparison, though. I'm not a shopper, I'm a strength trainer. Sorry.

Some of the brands I've seen available are Chobani, Fage (both strained I think) Stonyfield's Oikos (straining unknown), Yoplait Greek (straining questionable). Trader Joe has a Greek yogurt as well that comes in whole and low-fat varieties. I've heard less than stellar reports of its texture though. Chobani has been my favorite so far although it is not as sweet as the yogurts you are used to. Oikos is very good as well, and sweeter and creamier than Chobani. Increasingly, store brands are appearing.

Update: Since writing this I have found that I don't like the Chobani because of the fruit in the bottom, which is quite runny so that when it is mixed in it thins out the yogurt too much. The best is Oikos Traditional, which is made with whole milk (that is what makes it traditional), but Oikos, in general, is good. Fage is very good and very thick, with the thickened fruit mixture on the side, so that you can adjust to your liking. Many of the store brands are good as well. I generally buy whatever is on sale for about a buck per container.

Obviously, the flavored varieties will have more sugar. Plain Greek yogurt mixed with berries and healthy nuts would be perfect strength training food. So much is made of drinking milk for bodybuilders and strength trainees yet yogurt has many advantageous over milk. Even regular yogurt contains more protein, pound for pound than milk.

Some trainees like to buy overpriced so-called "predigested" whey protein or casein. We find "amino acid" pills which are basically whey or protein casein put in a pill. Sometimes these products claim to be pancreatic (enzymatic) digests and some, like Twinlab even go so far to call it "pharmaceutical grade" pancreatic (enzymatic) digests. Well, yogurt contains predigested proteins along with the live cultures that made it so. As a matter of fact, it is not unheard of for those with casein allergies to tolerate yogurt well. Greek yogurt, hopefully, should end the stigma of yogurt as "diet food".

This page created 26 Mar 2010 17:47
Last updated 19 Mar 2018 04:29

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