Jul 28, 2014

What Makes Greek Yogurt 'Greek'?

Greek yogurt doesn't get its name because it's made in Greece. And did you know that February is Lactose Intolerance Awareness month?

What Makes Greek Yogurt 'Greek'? What Makes Greek Yogurt 'Greek'? What Makes Greek Yogurt 'Greek'?

After reading this article, you will not have to say the traditional retort:  "It's Greek to me!" when asked about Greek yogurt.

Laura Frese, RD, LDN, program manager of health and wellness for the Midwest Dairy Council, tells Patch many people want to know this same answer about the yogurt's name. "It's not clear why it was called that in the beginning, but the yogurt is really trendy. People want to buy it, but they don't know why."

Frese, who previously worked as an in-store dietitian with Hy-Vee Food Stores, said she gave grocery store tours. She said Greek yogurt was the subject of frequent questions.

"It's a style of yogurt, something like choosing to have drinkable yogurt instead of solid. It appears to have originated in the Middle East, and traditionally was called Greek yogurt," she said. "It's a newer product to the United States, but is not called that because it's shipped in from Greece."

Frese said Greek yogurt is processed in a different way than the yogurts American consumers are more used to, and there is no one standard way to make and manufacture this type of yogurt.

She said Greek yogurt is a more sticky product, with a tangy and sometimes tart taste.

Typically, for making Greek-style yogurt, the milk is concentrated and the water evaporates. Next, the liquid whey would be separated or strained off, resulting in a thicker product, Frese said. "Some other brand manufacturers add protein powders or use stabilizers to the yogurt to get to the same end result," she said.

Greek yogurts typically have higher protein contents, and sometimes are lower in carbohydrates or lactose. Increased protein make them a great choice for lunches or other meals compared to just breakfasts.

Frese encourages shoppers to check labels of Greek yogurts carefully. "Some may not use as many sweeteners, and the Greek plain yogurt could be a good choice for diabetics, for example. And some Greek yogurts end up with more calcium and vitamin D," she said.

"But ultimately it comes down to personal opinions regarding whichever textures and flavors people prefer for yogurt."

She said Greek yogurts have helped to extend the application of yogurt parfaits and smoothies into additional consumer uses, such as cooking and dips. Here are links to two recipes from the Midwest Dairy Association that use Greek yogurt:

Cashew Chicken Dip

Sausage, Peppers & Polenta with Basil Greek Yogurt Sauce

"Most people seem to be a fan of a certain brand of yogurt, so they should look at the nutritional content that works best for them and then try a variety of Greek yogurts to see," said Frese. "These yogurts are still coming from local dairy farmers and local cows' milk. They just are thicker, tangier and typically higher in protein."

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