Health Benefits of Greek Yogurt

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on July 26, 2023
7 min read

Yogurt is one of the most common dairy products on the market today, for good reason. Yogurt is a creamy, tasty addition to lots of meals. Greek yogurt is starting to overtake traditional yogurt in popularity, thanks to its rich flavor and thick texture.

Greek yogurt is made by straining regular yogurt to remove extra liquid and whey. The result is a thicker, denser final product with a higher concentration of protein and probiotics.

This thick, protein-rich yogurt offers a wide variety of potential uses in savory and sweet recipes. It can also be eaten plain.

Yogurt vs. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is typically creamier than regular yogurt because of the process used to make it where whey is removed. Greek yogurt can contain twice as much protein per serving as regular yogurt. Protein is an important part of a healthy diet and helps keep you fuller longer. If either type of yogurt has added fruits or toppings, the sugar content can be higher than normal, but typically, Greek yogurt is lower in sugar and carbs.

Types of yogurt

Both types of yogurt, regular and Greek, can be purchased in nonfat versions. Low-fat options are also available. The amount of fat in yogurt is determined by the type of milk used to make it. There are also more and more nondairy options available, which are made from coconut, soy, or almond milk.

The vitamins, minerals, and probiotics in Greek yogurt can provide important health benefits. For example, Greek yogurt can help provide part of your daily probiotics intake.

Potassium is important for maintaining your blood pressure and counteracting sodium. It also plays an important role in keeping your heartbeat regular and helping your muscles contract.

Greek yogurt is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, which helps prevent anemia and keeps your blood cells and nerves healthy.

In addition, Greek yogurt can provide health benefits such as:

Improving bone health

Greek yogurt provides a significant amount of calcium, which is important for healthy bones. Calcium is the most common mineral in your body and most of it is in your skeleton. Getting enough calcium helps prevent osteoporosis by keeping your bones denser and less prone to breaking.

Better digestive health

Greek yogurt is probiotic, meaning it is typically produced from live bacterial cultures. These bacteria can help support the good bacteria that already live in your digestive system. Consuming probiotics like Greek yogurt may improve your digestive system’s ability to handle a wide variety of foods. It may also help regulate bowel movements.

Improving heart health

Greek yogurt has been connected to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which can reduce your risk of heart disease. Cholesterol and triglycerides can harden or block your arteries over time, leading to heart disease or atherosclerosis. By controlling your cholesterol, Greek yogurt may help you avoid heart disease or slow its progression.

Lower risk of diabetes

Consuming Greek yogurt may help reduce your risk of diabetes too. A recent analysis of 11 studies showed that eating yogurt regularly can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 14%. More studies are needed to understand why this happens, but the evidence behind this connection is promising.

May discourage vaginal infections

Candida or “yeast” vaginal infections are a common problem for women with diabetes.

Women and girls of all ages can get vaginal yeast infections. Three-quarters of all women are estimated to have one at some point in their life.

There are a number of things that may raise your risk of yeast infections:

  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes with uncontrolled blood sugar
  • Birth control that uses higher doses of estrogen
  • Use of douche or vaginal sprays
  • Recent use of antibiotics or steroid medicines
  • Weakened immune system, such as from HIV

Research suggests that eating 8 ounces of yogurt with “live cultures” daily could lessen the risk of infection. But more research is needed. Talk to your doctor if you think you have a yeast infection before taking any medicines to treat it.

Greek yogurt is a great source of iodine, which supports healthy thyroid function and a strong immune system.

It’s also an excellent source of:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Iodine
  • Phosphorus

Nutrients per serving

One cup of 2% fat Greek yogurt contains:

  • Calories: 150
  • Protein: 19 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 9 grams
  • Fiber: Less than 1 gram
  • Sugar: 9 grams

Portion sizes 

It’s important to check the fat content of your Greek yogurt when looking at portion sizes. It can be made with nonfat milk, 2% milk, or even whole milk. Depending on the fat content of the yogurt, the calorie content could vary.

Consuming one to two cups of low-fat Greek yogurt daily can be a healthy addition to your diet without making it difficult to maintain your weight.

Greek yogurt has a different flavor profile than other types of yogurt. Because the excess liquid has been removed, the fermented flavor is more noticeable.

The stronger flavor of plain Greek yogurt makes it a great addition to savory foods. The rich taste and creamy texture can help thicken sauces, replace sour cream, or accent other bold and spicy flavors well.

On the other hand, by adding sweeteners like honey or fruit, Greek yogurt can be eaten as a sweet dessert or convenient breakfast.

Here are some ideas for adding Greek yogurt to your diet:

  • Eat Greek yogurt with honey as a simple breakfast.
  • Use unflavored Greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute.
  • Mix Greek yogurt in creamy sauces.
  • Stir Greek yogurt into spinach dip.
  • Make tzatziki with Greek yogurt.

Tips for buying and eating yogurt

Here are 10 things to consider when buying and eating yogurt.

1. Decide between whole-milk, low-fat, or nonfat yogurt

When buying yogurt, your first decision is whether you want a regular-fat, low-fat, or fat-free option. You probably have a favorite brand, with just the right texture or tang for your taste buds. If so, stick with it. But do check the label for sugar content. Some flavors and brands have more sugar than others.

2. Choose your sweetener

The other decision is whether you want artificial sweeteners (which are used in most “light” yogurts) or whether you’re OK with most of the calories coming from sugar. If you are sensitive to aftertaste, you may want to avoid light yogurts. If you don't mind NutraSweet, there are many types of light yogurt to choose from, and all taste pretty good.

3. Look for active cultures and probiotics

To make sure your yogurt contains active cultures, check the label. Most brands will have a graphic that says “live and active cultures.”

If you want to know which specific active cultures your yogurt contains, look at the label again. Under the list of ingredients, many brands list the specific active cultures. For Activia by Dannon, for example, L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, and bifidobacterium are listed. This particular yogurt contains the probiotic culture Bifidus regularis, which works to regulate your digestive system. If constipation is your challenge, this might be the probiotic for you.

4. Pair yogurt with flaxseed

Get in the habit of stirring in a tablespoon of ground flaxseed every time you reach for a yogurt. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed will add almost 3 grams of fiber and approximately 2 grams of healthy plant omega-3s, according to the product label on Premium Gold brand ground golden flaxseed.

5. Look for vitamin D

When enjoying calcium-rich yogurt, why not choose one that also boosts your intake of vitamin D? Some brands list 0% of the daily value for vitamin D; others have 20%.

6. Make yogurt part of the perfect snack

Make the perfect snack by pairing high-protein yogurt with high-fiber foods such as fruits (fresh or frozen) and/or high-fiber breakfast cereals. You can find many lower-sugar breakfast cereals with 4 or more grams of fiber per serving.

7. Whip up a creamier smoothie with yogurt

Make your smoothie creamy and thick by adding yogurt instead of ice cream or frozen yogurt. Light and low-fat yogurts are higher in protein and calcium than light ice cream. They’re also usually lower in fat, saturated fat, and calories.

8. Customize your yogurt

If you want to create your own flavored yogurt, start with your favorite plain yogurt and stir in all sorts of foods and flavors. Here are a few ideas:

  • Add chopped strawberries (1/4 cup) and 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract to 6 ounces of plain yogurt to make Strawberries and Cream Yogurt.
  • Add canned crushed pineapple (1/8 cup) and a tablespoon of flaked or shredded coconut to 6 ounces of plain yogurt to make Pina Colada Yogurt.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of cool espresso or extra-strong coffee and 1 tablespoon of chocolate syrup to 6 ounces of plain yogurt to make Mochaccino Yogurt.
  • Add 1/4 cup chopped orange segments or mandarin oranges and 1 tablespoon reduced-sugar orange marmalade to 6 ounces of plain yogurt to make Orange Burst Yogurt.

9. Eat yogurt at work

Buy some yogurt and keep it in the office refrigerator. (Don’t forget to put your name on it.) On those days when you need a morning or afternoon snack, that yogurt will be ready for you.

10. Use yogurt in recipes

Yogurt works as a substitute ingredient in all sorts of recipes. Plain yogurt can replace sour cream in a pinch (over baked potatoes or for garnishing enchiladas). You can also substitute a complementary flavor of yogurt for some of the oil or butter used in a muffin, brownie, or cake recipe. It can replace all of the fat required in cake mixes too.

Things to watch out for

If you are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, you should avoid dairy foods, such as yogurt. Sweetened yogurts can contain a lot of added sugar or other sweeteners and should be eaten in moderation only.