The Ambrosia of the Greek Gods
Ambrosia was the food eaten by the gods on Mt. Olympus in Greek Mythology. At times when I eat Greek yogurt I feel emboldened like Poseidon throwing his mighty trident. All hyperbole aside, Greek yogurt is a marvelous snack. It provides an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, its low in carbs, and low in lactose for those of you who are sensitive to it (or might just want to avoid it). Since it is popular a review of most popular Greek yogurt brands is imperative.
The biggest winner for Greek yogurt is that it is a probiotic food, meaning it contains live cultures of beneficial bacteria. Numerous studies show that a diet high in probiotics improves your overall digestive health, mood, weight maintenance, auto-immune issues, and much, much more. The bigger question is “Why aren’t you eating Greek Yogurt?” You should be and for this reason, we offer you a review of most popular Greek yogurt brands.
(Read our article on the importance of a high-probiotic diet.)
Greek yogurt is versatile. Check out our yogurt bowl recipe to see it optimized. It may be used in smoothies, baked good recipes, sour cream and alike. As I mentioned in the sugar-laden superfoods article and podcast, you must stay away from flavored Greek Yogurt since it boasts twice the sugar and may contain artificial sweeteners. And you should always try to purchase full fat for better satiety. That helps narrow down your selections, but when you peruse the aisles you see there are dozens of different brands of Greek Yogurt.
We here at Naturopathic Earth will review 5 well-known yogurts. The three (3) main criteria for any good Greek yogurt selections are:
- As much fat as possible. Fage, Chobani, Trader Joe’s and some local varieties offer full-fat. Choose these1st!
- Choose a Greek yogurt with the most-varied probiotic strands. Similar to kombucha, the more listed the better. Most will have Acidophilus & Lactobacillus, both of which you may buy in pill form. Click here.
- rBST/rBGH-free (Read below). All organic varieties will exclude this nasty, growth hormone.
Reading labels is crucial since Big Food deceives us at every possible turn. Also look at the serving size to see if the 2-3 choices you are comparing are the same size. After that, look at the macronutrients (fat, carbs, & proteins) followed by pure sugar content. (Note: most sugar in unflavored yogurt is lactose, a sugar found naturally in milk products.) So let’s start the review of most popular Greek yogurt brands!
The Serving size for the following is 1 cup.
Fage Total Full-Fat Unflavored:
- 220 calories
- 11.0 grams of fat
- 8.0 grams saturated fat
- 20 grams of protein
- 9 grams of carbs
- 9 grams of sugar
- 25% Daily Value (DV) of Calcium
- “Grade A Pasteurized Milk & Cream, Live Active Yogurt Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei).”
The Fage selections are rBGH/rBST-free. rBGH stands for Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, a GMO additive given to cows to increase milk production. rBGH is banned in the EU due to its connections to Insulin-Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), an agent known to increase likelihood of getting breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.
Aside from that Fage Total offers plenty of fat and protein and a decent amount of Calcium. Its probiotic bacteria is pretty standard.
It’s slightly higher in calories compared to the other varieties.
Fage Total is a great full-fat yogurt. It offers a good complement of macronutrients and live cultures. I would rate its taste and texture slightly higher than Chobani. Overall Grade A-
Chobani Whole Milk Unflavored:
- 190 calories
- 9.0 grams of fat
- 6.0 grams saturated fat
- 0.0 grams trans fats
- 20 grams of protein
- 8 grams of carbs
- 6 grams of sugar
- 25% DV of Calcium
- Yogurt (Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk, Cream). Contains Live and Active Ingredients: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidis and L. Casei.
rBGH/rBST-free. Slightly lower in sugar than the competitors.
Not much. Pretty average on the calorie front, slightly lower in fat than the Fage.
The fact that is mentioned trans fats could be two things.
- I mentioned in the 53 Code Words for MSGs, Trans Fats, and Sugar article that companies maybe have up to 0.5 grams of trans fats in their product while still labeling it as 0.0.
- Chobani is aware that people are not wanting to ingest trans fats and so they put a mention of their yogurt has having 0.0 grams to allay their fears. It is hard to say.
A good by-the-books full-fat Greek yogurt. Standard live culture profile and good macronutrient profile. Vis-a-vis taste and texture, I don’t rate it as high as Fage.
Incidentally, Chobani has been a bit duplicitous. Whole Foods stopped selling Chobani products in 2013 due to the fact that they give their cows GMO feed. Also, the ex-wife of the founder and CEO of Chobani, Hamdi Ulukaya, alleges that Ulukaya bribed a high-level Fage employee to steal the Fage recipe. Overall Grade B-
Trader Joe’s Whole Milk Greek Yogurt Plain:
- 280 calories
- 22 grams of fat
- 14 grams saturated fat
- 8 grams of protein
- 12 grams of carbs
- 10 grams of sugar
- 30% DV of Calcium
- Grade A Pasteurized Milk, Cream, Nonfat Milk, Live and Active Cultures (S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei. Cultured after pasteurization.)
If you are on a ketogenic diet, an incredible whopping 22 grams of fat per serving is an asset. Compare that to the other brands in this review.
The calorie content is too high, and arguably as is the fat. Also notice that the probiotic bacteria was added after pasteurization. (Pasteurization is heating dairy to a high temperature to destroy the bacteria. Fresh, natural milk still contains live cultures; but store-bought milk does not.)
Compared to the others, it is too high in calories and fat, but only boasts 1/2 as much protein. The added fat makes it very smooth and tasty, but as a whole it is not recommended as the others. Overall Grade C-
White Mountain Bulgarian Yogurt:
- 140 calories
- 8.0 grams of fat
- 4.5 grams saturated fat
- 0.0 grams trans fats
- 13 grams of protein
- 5 grams of carbs
- 5 grams of sugar
- 30% DV of Calcium
- 25 % DV of Vitamin D
- Grade A Pasteurized Whole Milk & Live Cultures (L. Acidophilus, L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, B. Bifidum)
Unlike the others on the list, White Mountain boasts 1/4 of your dietary Vitamin D. It is low in calories and sugar per serving.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer as much protein as the others and its fat content is paltry for a full-fat yogurt. Its live culture panel is limited.
Bulgarian yogurt is an acquired taste. It is much more runny than the others, partly because it lacks the cream and fat of the others. That being said, it is relatively nutrient-dense and is low in sugar. Good choice for diabetics. Overall Grade C
The Greek Gods Greek Yogurt: Traditional Plain
- 220 calories
- 14.0 grams of fat
- 9.0 grams saturated fat
- 9 grams of protein
- 15 grams of carbs
- 15 grams of sugar
- 35% DV of Calcium
- Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Milk, Cream, Pectin. Contains Live and Active Ingredients: S. Thermophilus, B. lactis, L. Acidophilus, L. Casei., L. rhamnosus, Lactobacillus lactis, L. Bulgaricus.
Great source of fat and calcium.
The protein content is too low for a good quality Greek Yogurt as well as the sugar content being too high. The worse part is the Pectin, which is a sugar additive found naturally in some fruits, but commonly put in other processed foods to thicken the item. There is aboslutely no reason it should be in high quality Greek yogurt.
Though the probiotic variety is good, the pectin, high sugar, and low protein issues make it an inferior yogurt. Overall Grade D
In truth, none of these yogurts are truly substandard compared to the Dannon’s and Yoplaits of the world. Those are garbage! These reviewed are all much lower in added sugar, food dyes, and preservatives compared to them. These Greek yogurts are all on a higher echelon simply because they are full of satiating fats and boast live cultures.
As mentioned incorporate Greek yogurt into your diet at least 2-3 times a weeks. To amplify its goodness, eat if with a prebiotic food (e.g. unripened bananas, honey, chia seeds, et al) to create the ultra-powered synbiotic. You won’t regret it!
Forward this review of most popular Greek yogurt brands to those who consume large amounts of creamy stuff.
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A. Gregory Luna
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