By: Aly Bouzek, MS, RDN
Edited and updated by Sandra Gentleman, RD
Greek vs Regular Yogurt: Which is Better for You?
Chances are, if you’ve ever walked past the refrigerated section in a grocery store, that you have noticed the yogurt section. Looking a little closer, you likely saw that there were not only different flavors of yogurt, but also different types of yogurt.
Greek yogurt and regular yogurt have many similarities. But they also have many differences from nutrient content, to texture, to health benefits, to use as substitutes in recipes.
Follow along as we dive deeper into these two protein-laden dairy products.
What is Yogurt?
Yogurt is a popular dairy food that is produced by fermenting milk with bacteria. It has become so popular, in fact, that the United States’s yogurt sales rose to more than 7.2 billion dollars in 2021 (up from almost 5.6 billion in 2011).
Why is yogurt so popular? Its popularity stems from its versatility in dishes, as well as being known by the general public as a “healthy food.” The two main types of yogurt that you will see in a grocery store’s refrigerated section are Greek yogurt and regular (cow’s milk) yogurt.
Note that you will likely see more variety in yogurt types when visiting a health food store, a health market, a specialized grocery store, etc.
(For more specifics on yogurt as a general topic, visit our Soy Yogurt article).
Nutrient Profiles: Greek vs Regular Yogurt
Yogurt is a good source of calcium, protein, and other nutrients. When comparing Greek vs regular yogurt, their nutrient profiles are slightly different. This is due to the way each type of yogurt is made.
While regular yogurt is made by fermenting milk with bacteria, Greek yogurt is actually made by straining out whey with a cheesecloth. Let’s learn more below.
Calcium found in yogurt is contained in the whey (the watery part) of the yogurt. Have you ever opened a yogurt container and seen the watery layer on top of the yogurt? That actually contains a great deal of calcium, and it’s intended for you to mix the watery yogurt before eating so that you are getting all the calcium provided.
Now, with Greek yogurt, by removing more of the whey (the watery part), some of the calcium is also removed. This is why Greek yogurt actually has less calcium than regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is still a good source of calcium, but if you are really needing to increase your calcium intake, then regular yogurt would be a better choice.
As far as protein is concerned, Greek yogurt has more protein vs regular yogurt as the yogurt is less watery/more dense, and thus more concentrated when it comes to protein. 6 oz of Greek yogurt provides about 17 grams of protein.
Greek yogurt is also lower in carbs when compared to regular yogurt. Additionally, Greek yogurt has about ½ the amount of sodium as compared to regular yogurt, and has less sugar.
Regular yogurt contains more whey than Greek yogurt (remember that the whey is not strained away here, as it is for Greek yogurt). Because of this, regular yogurt can have up to 2-3x more calcium than Greek yogurt.
And since regular yogurt is not as “concentrated” as Greek yogurt, it has about 9 grams of protein per 6 oz, and has fewer calories.
The amount of fat of both types of yogurt will vary depending on how much milk fat remains after processing. Both Greek and regular yogurt come in fat content options of: non-fat, low-fat (1-2%), and whole milk fat.
Comparing nutritional content of 6 oz of plain, low-fat Greek vs regular yogurt:
Which is Right for Me?
The first thing you should consider when deciding on a type of yogurt, is your personal preferences and any health needs you may have. If you are on the hunt for a yogurt that is high in protein and also low in sugar, then Greek yogurt is a great choice.
On the other hand, if you want a yogurt that is high in calcium, low in calories, and mild-tasting, then regular yogurt may be a better choice for you.
Note that flavored yogurts may have different nutrient profiles, such as:
- More calories
- More sugar
- More carbs
- More sodium
Be sure to read all food nutrition labels before making your decision. Additionally, feel free to grab some smaller single-serving containers and do an at home taste test! Try to have a few different brands, flavors, and types of yogurt in your line-up.
Both Greek yogurt and regular yogurt are probiotics. This means that they are produced with “good/healthy” live bacteria cultures. These bacteria help to balance your gut, improve digestion, regulate bowel movements, and help improve bone health.
Nutrition benefits of Greek and regular yogurt include nutrients such as:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
Taste & Consistency
Taste and consistency are known to make or break a relationship with yogurt. Some like their yogurt thin and smooth, while others may like their yogurt to be thick, tangy, and creamy. The good news is that with so many different kinds of yogurt, you’re bound to find one you like!
Greek yogurt is thicker, creamier, and more tangy than regular yogurt. This is because of the whey that is strained out. Removing the whey makes the yogurt more concentrated (thicker and creamier), and also plays a hand in the tangy-taste left behind.
Yogurt is such a versatile food that can be enjoyed plain or added to many different dishes. Greek yogurt is actually a great substitute for mayonnaise, sour cream, and can be used in smoothies, savory dishes, baked goods, popsicles, marinades, and more. The options are endless!
Here are some of our favorite ways to use yogurt as a flavor- and nutrient-boost:
- Top baked or fried fish and chicken
- Add to Alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, or toss with pasta
- Use to help fill stuffed veggies
- Top your spicy soup with a dollop of Greek yogurt
- Dips, dressings, and marinades
- Add to avocado toast
- Use as a substitute for sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, oil, butter, eggs
- Mix with jam and add to toast
- Make overnight oats or overnight muesli
- Smoothies, smoothie bowls, popsicles
- Add to baked goods such as cakes, pancakes, breads, muffins, cinnamon rolls, brownies, etc.
- Use Greek yogurt to make homemade tzatziki
- On its own, or layer with fruit and nuts to make a parfait
When preparing dips or sauces, opt for Greek yogurt as it’s thicker, and thus, not as runny. Additionally, Greek yogurt is used more in cooking because it doesn’t curdle as much as regular yogurt.
Greek vs Regular Yogurt Wrap-up
Greek yogurt and regular yogurt are both great options when it comes to choosing a healthy snack and when substituting/adding healthy ingredients to your meals. Look for yogurt with live active cultures, as they are beneficial for gut health.
As a recap, Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in sugar than regular yogurt, but it’s also lower in calcium. It has a strong and tangy taste, and is thicker in consistency.
Remember that the best yogurt for you takes into account both your health needs and your individual preferences. Don’t be shy to try a few different varieties of yogurt. After all, you may find more than one that you enjoy!