What is Greek Yogurt Missing?

Yogurt offers some remarkable health benefits: it feeds good gut bacteria we need for digestion and strong immunity; it’s a great source of calcium, B vitamins and protein; and the more we eat, the thinner we get.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported the more yogurt participants ate, the less weight they gained as they aged. The opposite happens when you eat French fries.

Whole milk yogurt provides CLA, a fatty acid that protects us from cancer, and contributes to its slimming properties.

So what about the wildly popular Greek yogurt?  Is it any healthier than regular?

Greek yogurt is regular yogurt, strained of it watery whey.  You can make it yourself:  put some whole milk yogurt into cheesecloth, tie it into a bundle, and let it drip into a bowl.  In a few hours you have “Greek” yogurt.   You also have a bowl of whey.  Don’t toss this.

Whey turns out to be super healthy: it provides what the body needs to make glutathione, a powerful and elusive anti-aging antioxidant. Whey keeps our immune system strong and protects us from cancer and other diseases of aging. Whey promotes muscle formation. It also helps keep blood sugar levels stable, protecting us from diabetes.

Many of yogurt’s nutrients are in the whey.  Whey contains up to 70% of the vitamin B12, 75% of the B6 and pantothenic acid and up to 90% of the thiamin, folate and niacin. Traditional Greek yogurt is lacking this plethora of health benefits.

I once lived in southwest Turkey, a neighbor to the Greek islands.  The Turks too strain their yogurt. This is the only version available at farmer’s markets there.   Knowing that whey is highly nutritious, I once asked my Turkish dairy farmer if she would sell me regular yogurt, with whey. She reported whey is used to make a special cheese and to feed the children, and not available to me.

Of course! This gives their kids a true super food. I am sure the Greeks too keep this extraordinary dairy byproduct for their children.

There is one potential benefit of Greek yogurt; it is strained of most of the lactose, if you happen to be lactose intolerant.

If you tolerate milk, yogurt is among the healthiest of dairy foods, especially full-fat, plain, regular style. If you want your health and creamy style yogurt too, make your own Greek and keep the whey to soak your grains or add to another dish.

Don’t offset yogurt’s many benefits by choosing sugared or fat-free yogurt and avoid any milk products that contain hormones including rBST.

Click here to see a list of popular Greek yogurts and their relative merits.


What is Greek Yogurt Missing? — 18 Comments

  1. Hi Linda,
    I love the Goat Whole Plain yogurt from Trader Joes (and so do two of my girls). I tend to have a damp pattern. If I have as a snack at night after dinner, I feel heavy the next morning. IS there a better time of the day to eat it? When do you eat yours? Thank you!

  2. Hello Linda! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with all of us. I appreciate you! Nancy’s organic full fat yogurt is amazing! No fillers, or added anything. If any one is lucky to have access to Nancy’s products is lucky! Their cottage cheese is amazing!

  3. Linda, last time I was at Whole Foods I found both lactose free yogurt and kefir! Both agree with me and taste wonderful. Am I missing out on any nutrients with the lactose free versions?? Thanks! Lisa

    • Lactose-free is a great choice if you react to the lactose in regular yogurt. I am guessing they do this by removing the whey however. Is the yogurt thicker than normal? You could try goat yogurt as this is naturally lower in lactose.

  4. Thank you for this very timely (for my family!) email about yogurt! I have been on the SCD diet for inflammatory bowel disease for three years. Per this diet, I used to make my own yogurt and ferment it for 24 hours until all or most of the lactose was consumed. My gut has improved considerably and I no longer make my own yogurt all the time, but I’ve also been reluctant to try commercial yogurt! I realize that I should add it back in to my diet. In this method of making yogurt, do you think that the beneficial properties of the whey are maintained? Thank you!

  5. Hi Linda,

    Thanks for this. I used to strain my yogurt (back in my hippie days when I made my own yogurt in my nyc apt); it was called “yogurt cheese” back then. I probably threw the whey away. I will try it again (if I can find unbleached cheese cloth). So glad you pointed out whey’s benefits. However, I’m still flummoxed as to how to use it without cooking away its nutritional properties. If I made gelatin, that would be a good way I think. Maybe just putting it in a smoothie instead of water. I would welcome other ideas if anyone has any.


    • I like the smoothie idea. You can also make cultured beet kvass with sliced beets, whey, salt and water. Google for recipes. Whey is ideal for fermenting veggies.

  6. Hi Linda,
    If you were buying Greek yogurt from Whole Foods or a health food store, what brands would you personally buy? it seems that it is not easy to find a full fat AND organic brand. Also… What are your thoughts about the honey? (ie: in Fage)
    Thank you as always for your insight!

    • It is hard to find an organic, full-fat and filler-free yogurt. New brands seem to pop up all the time so I suggest you ask in your Whole Foods. My choice when in a WF market is always Bellweather Farms sheep yogurt, an uber rich, creamy plain yogurt that is almost like Greek. Second choice is Redwood Hill Farms goat kefir, which is very thick and more tangy than yogurt, but free of the fillers in their goat yogurt. I am a goat and sheep milk fan so always look for those. If you prefer cow’s milk yogurt, check out Straus or Stoneyfield organic yogurts and strain them in cheesecloth if you prefer “Greek” style.

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