Yogurt can be a great addition to a weight loss diet due to its high protein and calcium content. However, not all yogurts are created equal. Many commercial yogurts are loaded with added sugar and other unhealthy ingredients that can sabotage your weight loss efforts. So is Greek yogurt or regular yogurt better for losing weight? Let’s dive into the details and see which one you should choose.
How Yogurt Is Made
Yogurt is created by fermenting milk with bacteria. This fermentation process is what gives yogurt its tangy flavor and thick, creamy texture. Cow’s milk is most commonly used to make yogurt, especially in North America. But milk from goats, buffalo, and sheep can also be used. The two main bacteria used to ferment yogurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Some yogurt manufacturers add other bacterial strains as well, which we’ll discuss more later. Once the milk is inoculated with these bacterial cultures, it is left to ferment and thicken into yogurt.
The Perceived Health Benefits of Yogurt
There are two main perceived health benefits of yogurt: Yogurt contains probiotics, which are live microorganisms that can confer health benefits when consumed. Eating yogurt and its probiotics can improve gut health, digestion, immunity, and more. However, these potential benefits depend heavily on the specific strains of bacteria used during yogurt production.
Do All Yogurts Contain Probiotics?
Not necessarily. Some commercial yogurts are pasteurized after fermentation to extend shelf life. This heating process kills off any remaining live probiotic bacteria. To legally claim there are active probiotics, yogurt in Canada must contain at least 1 billion CFUs (colony forming units) per serving. So be sure to check the label for statements about live and active cultures. Yogurts sold unrefrigerated likely won’t contain any viable probiotics. Refrigerated yogurts are more likely to retain some of their probiotic content.
Are the Probiotics in Yogurt Beneficial?
Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are used to ferment milk and give yogurt its unique properties. However, these strains are less studied compared to other probiotics in terms of their specific health benefits. Other probiotic strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacteria, and Lactobacillus casei have more research behind their beneficial effects on immunity, gut health, weight loss, and more. But these strains are not naturally present in yogurt. So while yogurt does contain probiotics, they may not be the most beneficial for health. If you want to get specific strains linked to health benefits, you may need to take a probiotic supplement instead of relying on yogurt.
What Is Greek Yogurt?
Greek yogurt has increased in popularity over the past decade. But despite the name, it doesn’t actually come from Greece! Greek yogurt is regular yogurt that has been strained to remove the whey, which is the watery liquid part. This leaves behind a thicker, more concentrated yogurt with higher amounts of protein, fat, and calcium. Since the whey contains some vitamins and minerals, Greek yogurt can be lower in potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium compared to regular yogurt.
Greek Yogurt vs. Regular Yogurt: Which Is Better?
With more protein and less carbs and sugar than regular yogurt, Greek yogurt can be a better option for low carb and high protein diets. The extra protein helps promote satiety and manage hunger. However, regular yogurt can also be an excellent food for weight loss and weight management. It provides a good amount of protein, calcium, and other important nutrients. Many brands add thickeners like starch to non-fat and low-fat Greek yogurts to improve texture. And sugar is often added to fruit flavored varieties. So the assumption that Greek yogurt is always healthier isn’t quite true. When comparing plain, unflavored yogurts, neither Greek nor regular yogurt has a significant advantage over the other for weight loss. The extra protein in Greek yogurt may be beneficial for controlling appetite and building muscle, but regular yogurt has its own unique advantages too.
The Problem With Commercial Yogurts
While plain yogurt can be nutritious, many supermarket brands have a lot of added ingredients: Fruit flavored yogurts can contain up to 30 grams of added sugar per serving, turning yogurt into a high-sugar dessert. Non-fat yogurts often replace the fat with thickeners like starch, artificial sweeteners, and other additives. Low sugar yogurts contain artificial sweeteners, which may negatively impact gut health. Preservatives, stabilizers, and gums are added to enhance texture and shelf life.
Tips for Choosing the Healthiest Yogurt
When shopping for yogurt, read labels carefully and look for: Plain, unsweetened varieties without added flavors or sweeteners. Yogurts with the shortest ingredient lists and no unnecessary additives. Live and active cultures seal to ensure there are probiotics. Options high in protein and calcium for satiety and fat burning. Low sugar with maximum 15 grams per serving. Full fat over non-fat or low-fat yogurts. You can flavor plain yogurt yourself with fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, spices, and other toppings to control calories and boost nutrition. Making homemade yogurt is also an option if you want total control over the ingredients.
The Bottom Line
Both regular and Greek yogurt can fit into a healthy diet and promote weight loss when chosen wisely. Focus more on picking yogurts low in sugar and unnecessary additives versus fat content or Greek versus regular. Plain, unsweetened yogurt provides protein, probiotics, calcium, and other nutrients without unnecessary calories and sugar. Add your own wholesome toppings and flavors to control the nutrition profile. With so many yogurt options lining supermarket shelves, it pays to be a selective shopper if you want to reap the potential weight loss benefits of yogurt. Check those labels and stick to the cleanest ingredient list possible.