What's the Difference Between Greek Yogurt and Regular Yogurt?

Bowl of Yogurt & Fruit. Andrew Unangst/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

There's been a change in yogurt in the last decade and it's all about going Greek. Greek yogurt, called strained yogurt everywhere else in the world, has gone from one percent of the yogurt market in 2007 to 36 percent in 2013  and is projected to reach over 50% by 2019. With 5% annual growth projected for the foreseeable future, the question is why is Greek yogurt taking over the market while regular yogurt watches idly by? 

Unlike regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is strained. Straining removes liquid whey, along with some of the salts and sugars dissolved in it. The result is a yogurt that is denser, thicker, creamier, and higher in protein than conventional American-style yogurt. This makes it more filling and satisfying over a longer period after a meal.

More About Greek Yogurt

While full-fat Greek yogurt is especially rich, straining yogurt made from low-fat or non-fat milk still yields a thick, creamy product. Greek-style yogurt has been very successfully marketed in the U.S. in recent years by companies touting its low-fat, probiotic-rich, high-protein nutritional profile along with its indulgent texture. Popular Greek yogurt brands in the U.S. include Fage, Chobani, and Stonyfield Farm's Oikos line.

What's Wrong With Regular Yogurt?

One reason for the rise in popularity of Greek yogurt is the focus on high protein diets. Because regular yogurt has less protein and more sugar than Greek yogurt in general, some people looking to follow a high protein may see the need to cut out as much sugar as possible, while boosting protein. This is an easy switch by choosing Greek yogurt over regular yogurt on the grocery store shelf.  

Greek vs. Regular? Which Type of Yogurt Is Better?

While Greek yogurt is becoming more readily available in grocery stores, not all of it is created equal. In its purest form, yogurt, both regular and Greek should only contain two ingredients: live cultures and milk. However, the addition of sugar and thickening agents may blur the lines between the rule of more protein and less sugar than we mentioned earlier as a good way to differentiate regular yogurt and Greek yogurt from each other. To ensure you're getting the right stuff, check the ingredient list, if there are more than two ingredients, you may want to steer clear.

For many, the whole purpose behind going with Greek yogurt was to lower carb counts and have higher protein in meals. If thickening agents, such as is found in "Greek style" yogurt are added, the sugar content may be higher than regular yogurt. These include maltodextrin, pectin, locust bean gum, guar gum, carob bean gum, xanthan gum, and gelatin. 

When it comes to regular yogurt, even if the yogurt is labeled as sugar-free, it could contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives to enhance its taste. For the record, when choosing between the two, go with the purest form of yogurt. You can sweeten either yourself with natural sweeteners such as maple syrup. The most minimally processed food is the best, so go with that when all else fails.  

Make Your Own: Greek Yogurt Recipes

Here are just a few items to make with Greek Yogurt. There are some you can change to use regular yogurt as well if that's your preference.