Hey guys, while I am not a registered dietician (sometimes I think I would have liked that job) I am a bit of a dairy queen and I have to tell you some things about greek yogurt.
First of all, making my own cheese has really shown me that all dairy is on a continuum. There is milk, yogurt, greek yogurt, soft cheeses (like cream cheese), hard cheeses with a short aging period (manchego, some cheddar), and hard cheeses with a long aging period (parmesan, romano, etc). Everything is just milk with a higher or lower ratio of milk fat solids to whey. The reason people (and by people I mean women in yogurt commercials) seem to like greek yogurt is because it has a higher protein content than most yogurt. However, it also has a higher fat content. You know what has a higher protein and fat content than greek yogurt? Hard cheese. But you never see any ladies in commercials talking about how they had a light breakfast of fruit and cheese. This is because in order to compensate for the higher fat content, “low fat” or “nonfat” greek yogurt is filled with sugar, salt, and other fillers.
I am much more solidly on the protein train than I was when we were eating vegan. However, excess protein is stored as fat, just as excess carbohydrates are. It may be easier to get excess carbohydrates than excess protein, but in my experience those who have never embraced a plant based diet seem to inflate both the importance of protein, and the difficulty in obtaining protein (i.e. plants, nuts, and beans are some of the best sources of protein). Additionally, excess protein, especially from animal sources can leach the calcium out of bones. The idea that consuming milk promotes strong bones was a construct of the milk lobby.
Furthermore, the only sense in which greek yogurt, or any source of dairy really is a “health” food, is with respect to weight loss and it is only a good food for weight loss due to low fat and nonfat varieties. Humans are meant to produce an enzyme called lactase through the age of approximately four, when it was thought breastfeeding would end. Lactase serves to digest lactose. It was only though a defect in the system which was meant to turn off the production of this enzyme, that any adults are lactose tolerant. This defect became dominant when some populations of humans co-evolved in conjunction with herd animals.
Finally, CAFO farming of animals is an environmental catastrophe in its own right, but greek yogurt specifically is an abomination. When any dairy product is coagulated, its drained of the whey in order to increase the proportion of milk solids to whey. The harder the cheese/yogurt, the more is drained. As such, greek yogurt is drained more aggressively, so it has a higher waste of whey. There are ways to make whey delicious (See whey ricotta, or zeigerkase- my all time favorite) but overall its a waste product and a gross one at that. You would be shocked how much whey comes out when you make a cheddar, as there are only 8% milk solids in milk. A lot of cheese making techniques such as even curd cutting and slow temperature increases is designed for efficient expulsion of whey. Leaving too much whey in butter for example, can result in it curdling in a few hours. However, there is a huge crisis of whey coming from greek yogurt factories. Since it becomes toxic as it decomposes, it cannot be dumped. Many farmers are being paid to accept whey and mix it in with their animals feed, which is not a natural food source.
And finally, it is not even Greek.
I propose the following solution:
1. Get some (or make some) regular plain yogurt, a bowl, a colander, and some cheese cloth.
2. Put the colander inside the bowl.
3. Line the colander with cheese cloth.
4. Pour the yogurt into the cheese cloth and let drain until it reaches the desired consistency.
5. If you want, you can hang it and leave the “curd” in the cheese cloth overnight. At some point on the continuum it will become “yogurt cheese.” This is entirely up to you at which point you want to spread it on toast rather than eat it out of a bowl. Please see my follow up article, My Epic Takedown of Cream Cheese (yet to be released).
6. Mix in whatever flavoring you like.
and that is how you make greek style yogurt healthfully, at a fraction of the cost, and without creating a poisonous sludge stream of whey.