Prepare to see photos of pretty yogurt parfaits on your Instagram feed today, because believe it or not, it's National Greek Yogurt Day. While some might say that Greek yogurt is, you know, "clinging to relevancy" or overrated, the truth is that the tangy food has some serious staying power, especially when it comes to the health benefits.
Around 2011, Greek yogurt really popped off in the United States, mainly because it was more refined than the sugar-laden versions of yogurt that many of us grew up with, like Go-Gurt or Trix. Greek yogurt is technically made the same way as regular yogurt, but it's strained a few more times to remove extra liquid, explains Courtney Dunn, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian in San Diego. The result is a "more concentrated product" with a thicker texture and higher protein count, she says.
For the record, Dunn does not think that Greek yogurt is overrated. "It's a very versatile food," she says, adding that she eats it every morning, and often uses it as a substitute for dips and sauces. Given its high protein (17 grams per serving) and fat content, 2% Greek yogurt can be a substantial snack or breakfast food that will keep you full throughout the day, she says. Greek yogurt is also made with live and active cultures (like regular yogurt), so it's a great probiotic food, she says.
Nowadays, you can find all kinds of Greek yogurt flavors in the supermarket — from chipotle pineapple to pumpkin — but Dunn says you should be mindful about the amount of added sugar in some packaged products. The additional sugar could come from the added fruit inside, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because that's what provides the tasty flavors. But she typically recommends that clients choose a plain yogurt and add their own fresh fruit for sweetness, and ground flaxseed for prebiotics and fiber.
As great as Greek yogurt is, you might have Fage fatigue. Luckily, there are lots of different yogurts on the market, like ones made with almond and coconut milk, which might be good substitutions for people with lactose allergies, Dunn says. (Although, Greek yogurt tends to be a safe bet for people who are lactose intolerant because it's strained so many times, she says.) "Goat's milk has slightly less lactose than cow's milk, so goat's milk yogurt could be an option for someone with lactose intolerance," she says. "Usually the flavor of goat's milk is a bit more tart." And then there's Icelandic Skyr, which is another strained yogurt that usually has a milder flavor than Greek yogurt, but is also protein-rich, she says.
So, whether or not you're team Greek yogurt for life, there's a tart, protein-packed, smooth, delicious yogurt option for when you're ready to say, "thank u, next."