How Do I Choose the Best Natural Greek Yogurt?

Marlene de Wilde

The best natural Greek yogurt is one that is thick, creamy and free of additives and preservatives. Authentic natural Greek yogurt does not contain any thickeners such as gelatin or cornstarch but is naturally thick due to the process of straining off the liquid whey. This concentrates and increases the protein in a carton of yogurt but slightly reduces the calcium. The best natural Greek yogurt may be more expensive than other types as it takes about three times as much milk to make.

Some people opt to purchase organic Greek yogurt.
Some people opt to purchase organic Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt is rich in nutrients and friendly bacteria. Both regular and natural Greek yogurt are made by adding the live bacteria cultures, Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, to milk in order to ferment it. The liquid whey is then removed from the Greek yogurt to thicken the consistency. A comparison of a carton of regular yogurt with a carton of natural Greek yogurt shows that there are more calories and significantly more protein in Greek yogurt but less calcium compared to regular yogurt.

Greek yogurt typically contains the same active cultures -- such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus -- that are found in conventional yogurts.
Greek yogurt typically contains the same active cultures -- such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus -- that are found in conventional yogurts.

Yogurts with a long list of ingredients are ones that have had fillers such as thickeners, sweeteners and artificial flavors and colors added to them. These ingredients reduce the goodness and increase the calorie count, so the best yogurt to buy is the one with the least ingredients. In the case of natural Greek yogurt, these should be milk cream, yogurt culture and cow's or sheep's milk. On the carton, there should be a label that indicates the yogurt culture is live and active.

Probiotics or live cultures are present in all natural Greek yogurts. They promote cellular immunity, better gut health and increase good cholesterol. While all yogurts are made using bacteria cultures, not all of them have the same amount. The "live culture" label on a carton means that the yogurt contains a significant amount of culture per gram of product. Some companies add extra probiotics and cultures in an effort to promote the yogurt as even more beneficial for immunity and digestive health. Some yogurts are heat-treated after fermentation and this will have killed off most of the beneficial bacteria.

A natural yogurt with no added ingredients which has not been heat treated and carries the "live culture" label will always be the healthiest option. Other than that, it is simply a case of taste. Some people who are used to sweetened products may find the taste of natural Greek yogurt a bit sharp or tart but the creaminess and texture are adequate compensation for most.

Yogurt may be used to improve digestive and colon health.
Yogurt may be used to improve digestive and colon health.

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Discussion Comments


@browncoat - Actually, you can thicken natural yogurt at home if you want. I do it as a matter of course, without really minding whether it is thick or not, but you can do it deliberately as well.

It will try to separate out into the whey if you leave it sitting in the fridge for a while. Just pour it out before you use the yogurt. If you leave it long enough, it will get thicker and thicker. The whey is the thin liquid that gathers on top and to the sides, which will usually come out first when you pour. Getting rid of it also makes the yogurt less sour.

On the other hand, if you prefer it to be sour, or more runny, you can just mix the whey back in without much difficulty. I mostly pour it out because I like mine to be a bit less sour.


@bythewell - It doesn't really bother me that much, to be honest. As long as there is live culture and I like the taste, I don't mind if there are a couple of other things in the yogurt. I don't want huge amounts of sugar, or long chemical compounds in it, because those can be harmful, but gelatin wouldn't bother me.

I don't think you can really get that sort of thick, creamy texture without some kind of thickening agent, although I suspect most of them use xanthan gum or something other than gelatin because they'd want to be able to market their product to vegetarians.


Honestly I was absolutely outraged when I checked the ingredients label on my favorite Greek yogurt and realized that it was made with gelatin. It's basically a thickening agent to make the yogurt more creamy, which doesn't sound that bad until you realize it is generally made from cow bones.

It just doesn't seem right to be mixing what is essentially a meat byproduct into my yogurt.

So I switched to another one, which stated up front that it doesn't include gelatin. It's not quite as creamy, but at least it doesn't feel dishonest.

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