The Difference Between Greek Yogurt and Regular Yogurt

Way They're Made, Ingredients, and Taste

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 about half of the market today. With 5 percent annual growth projected for the foreseeable future, the question is, why is Greek yogurt taking over the market while regular yogurt watches idly by? 

The answer may lie in how Greek yogurt is made, as well as what ingredients are included. Greek yogurt's popularity is also due to its unique taste and its health benefits.

What Is Greek Yogurt?

Unlike regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is strained, which removes the liquid whey, along with some of the salts and sugars dissolved in it. The result is a yogurt that has a denser, thicker, and creamier texture; it is also higher in protein than conventional American-style yogurt. Both of these factors make it more filling and satisfying and keep you fuller longer. Full-fat Greek yogurt is especially rich; low-fat or non-fat milk is also used to make Greek yogurt, which 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 result of the promotion and popularity of Greek yogurt has been the negative impact on regular yogurt. Because regular yogurt has less protein and more sugar than Greek yogurt in general, regular yogurt has fallen out of favor by some looking to follow a high protein/low sugar diet, or simply eat healthier in general. Since choosing Greek over regular is an easy switch, the Greek yogurt boom began.

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 in both types may blur these high protein/low sugar lines that usually differentiate regular yogurt from Greek yogurt. 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. (A label such as "Greek-style" is a good indicator that additives are present.)

For many, the whole purpose behind going with Greek yogurt was to lower carb counts and have higher protein in meals. If thickening agents 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. The best strategy when choosing between the two is to go with the purest form of yogurt. (As a general rule, the most minimally processed food is the best.) If you like, you can sweeten either yourself with natural sweeteners such as maple syrup.