Greek yogurt has been touted as a superfood boasting many benefits over recent years, but we aren’t so sure it holds up to those claims, especially if you’re following a ketogenic diet.
Read on for our take on the controversial issue of yogurt on a Keto diet…
What is Greek Yogurt?
Fundamentally, there are few meaningful differences between regular yogurt and its Greek cousin.
To make yogurt, milk is heated and then cooled for the fermentation process. It is then cultured with bacteria or pre-made yogurt and allowed to ferment.
The difference between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt comes into play with what happens next.
For regular yogurt, the process stops here. It’s now ready to refrigerate and eat.
Greek yogurt, on the other hand, must go through a bit more preparation before it’s done.
After the yogurt is through fermenting, it’s placed into a cloth made of fine mesh and allowed to strain for several hours. The liquid produced is called whey. The longer it’s allowed to strain, the thicker the resulting Greek yogurt will be.
In the end, Greek yogurt will still have the tangy taste you’d expect from regular yogurt, but it will have a thicker consistency.
Over the last few years, you might have noticed that Greek yogurt is frequently advertised as a healthy food choice.
Why do people call it a healthy food, exactly?
Here are 5 reasons behind these claims…
- Protein: The process of straining the whey from yogurt results in a more concentrated final product. For this reason, Greek yogurt has up to 2x more protein than regular yogurt.
- Gut health: Much research is being done on the microbiome – the collection of microorganisms that live in the human intestinal tract – and their effect on our health. (1) Many studies are pointing to the importance of probiotics to maintain good gut health. (2) Probiotics – microorganisms consumed for their beneficial effects – are found in fermented foods, including yogurt.
- Calcium: Studies show that adults who don’t consume adequate amounts of calcium are prone to weak bones or osteoporosis. (3) Calcium is vital for the strength of the body’s muscles and bones, and Greek yogurt is a good source of dietary calcium.
- Fat: Because Greek yogurt is denser than regular yogurt, the full-fat versions also have more fat than regular yogurt varieties, resulting in a creamier and more satisfying product.
- Lower-carb options: Though many varieties are sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners, plain Greek yogurt is typically free of these questionable ingredients. When you choose an unsweetened Greek yogurt, it will have roughly half the amount of carbs as regular yogurt.
There are also vitamins and minerals present in Greek yogurt that can help you improve overall health and peak performance. But is Greek yogurt the best way to get these nutrients?
And is Greek yogurt OK to eat if you’re following a Keto diet?
Is Greek Yogurt Keto?
The short answer to this question is no, Greek yogurt does not gel well with a ketogenic diet.
In fact, dairy, in general, generates a deal of controversy in the ketosphere.
This might be confusing, especially since the typical internet search for Keto recipes leads to an onslaught of tempting meals featuring various kinds of dairy.
We believe you should avoid Greek yogurt and most, if not all, other kinds of dairy.
Reasons To Avoid Dairy
Though many agencies and programs try hard to convince you that dairy products are essential for your health and wellness, this simply doesn’t hold true for everyone.
Lactose intolerance is surprisingly common, with 30 million Americans experiencing it by the time they are 20 years old. (4) And milk – the main ingredient in yogurt – has been identified by the FDA as one of the 8 Major Food Allergens. (5)
Some people have sensitivities and intolerances to lactose, whey, casein, and other dairy proteins, and they don’t even know it. When they abstain from dairy products for a period of time they are often surprised to find certain health problems and ailments are completely relieved.
Another good reason to avoid dairy is that it can be very easy to overeat. If you’re a fan of cheese, you know how hard it can be to stop after eating a 1-oz serving.
This is because even small portions of dairy products tend to be high in calories. Around here we generally focus on macros rather than calories, but if you’re looking to lose weight, dairy can easily derail your progress.
Beyond this, certain types of milk or other dairy have unwanted ingredients that just aren’t healthy. Some cows are fed growth hormones to produce more milk, though this has reduced significantly in recent years due to public outcry. (6)
Dairy products often contain other unwanted additives too, like carrageenan, cellulose gum, guar gum, and artificial sweeteners and flavorings.
Additional Reasons To Avoid Greek Yogurt
Yogurt tends to be high in carbohydrates. On a ketogenic diet, you’re keeping your total carb intake down to 25g a day. A little 6-oz cup of plain yogurt could really throw things off at 7g of net carbs. (7)
And if you’ve ever had a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt, you might understand why companies feel the need to add sugars and other ingredients to make it taste better. This adds additional carbs and sugars, or else suspicious sugar substitutes. (8)
Plus, usually the Greek yogurt you find in the store is low-fat. It’s hard to find one compliant with the general guidelines of a Keto diet.
Hopefully, you can see clearly why we are not fans of Greek yogurt, and why we don’t think it should be consumed while following a ketogenic diet.
What can you turn to instead, though?
Get The Same Benefits Of Greek Yogurt Without The Downsides
Even though Greek yogurt has many drawbacks, the advantages cannot be ignored.
Luckily, we’ve got some ideas to harness these benefits without experiencing all the disadvantages.
Protein and Fat
- You can get protein and healthy fats from many natural food sources like fatty meat and fish, eggs, shellfish, and organ meats.
- A great source of non-dairy protein is collagen, which also has many unexpected health benefits. You can read more about collagen here. We recommend CoBionic for collagen.
- There are many healthy ways to get the fats you need for health, energy, and satiety. In addition to animal fats, we love avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee.
- Including fermented foods in your diet is a great way to support your overall health. (9) There are many options – try kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and coconut yogurt.
- Fiber is a core element of any diet that helps promote proper digestion. Prebiotic fiber – food you eat that supports our microbiome – is necessary to keep your gut happy. You can find prebiotic fiber in many Keto-friendly food sources.
- When you are eating plenty of veggies you can also count on getting your calcium. A cup of cooked collard greens has 268 mg of calcium, while the same amount of spinach has 256 mg. (For comparison, a 6-oz cup of plain full-fat Greek yogurt has 187 mg of calcium).
But what if you just really like yogurt? Well, you can try making and fermenting your own non-dairy yogurt! We’ll explain how to do this below.
What To Use Instead Of Greek Yogurt
Because dairy is such a staple in most standard diets, it can be hard to know how to cook without it. Plus, a lot of mainstream Keto recipes rely on dairy as a core ingredient.
So how can you get past that and break through to improved health and successful weight loss?
First of all, check out this great list of Keto substitutes for dairy, including options for replacing butter, cream and cheese. When you’re making dressings, dips, and smoothies, coconut milk or cream are excellent alternative ingredients.
Greek Yogurt: Just Say No!
With so many healthy, Keto-friendly ways to get the same benefits of Greek yogurt without the downsides of dairy, there’s really no reason to keep using it.
Experiment with any of the above recipes instead and enjoy a dairy-free life while still staying true to your Keto diet.
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