Greek yogurt consumption has exploded since the late 2000s, but is Greek yogurt healthy? It’s considered a superfood in North America and Europe. It’s different than regular yogurt because it’s made with three times more milk. It has a high-protein and low-sugar content which makes it a healthy snack that stays with you.
Greek yogurt has many benefits, but there is at least one drawback. The yogurt is heavily strained, which causes a byproduct called acidic whey. Acidic whey can be harmful to the environment. While this byproduct could be seen as a problem for Greek yogurt producers, it’s turning into an opportunity.
General Information about Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is made from cow’s milk. It goes through an extra straining process that removes lactose, minerals, and sugars. Greek yogurt is a staple of a Mediterranean diet. In Greece it’s known as Straggisto, meaning strained yogurt.
Greek yogurt has a tart or sour taste. It’s rich, creamy, and thicker than regular low-fat yogurt. It’s called Greek yogurt as a marketing term. Of course, variations of strained yogurt are traditionally produced all over Europe and Asia.
Greek yogurt grew quickly in popularity in the late 2000s because of its nutritional benefits. But is Greek yogurt healthy? For one thing, it is a good source of protein, 12-17 grams depending on the brand you select. It’s a terrific after-workout snack that helps to rebuild muscle. Probiotics are added after the straining process. Probiotics are bacteria that help support immunity and digestive health.
Greek yogurt is a good source of calcium, which will support bone health. One serving offers up to 20 percent the recommended daily value. High-protein, low sugar snacks help with weight loss. They boost energy and help control cravings. Consequently, adding Greek yogurt to your diet can mean consuming fewer calories throughout the day.
What Is Acidic Whey?
Acidic whey is a byproduct of Greek yogurt. It’s a watery cloudy glop. For every 3 ounces of milk used, only 1 ounce of yogurt is produced. Whey is made up of lactose, minerals, and proteins.
Acidic whey is different from sweet whey, which is produced as a byproduct of making hard cheese. Sweet whey is high in protein and contains less lactose than acidic whey. It is used in meal replacement shakes and nutrition bars among other things.
Acidic whey is harder to break apart into separate compounds, which has presented a challenge to scientists to find a viable use for a growing supply of acidic whey.
Dangers of Acidic Whey
Many thousands of kilograms of acidic whey are produced each year amongst the Greek yogurt producers. What to do with the stuff is a big question.
It can’t be dumped on the ground because it could end up in streams or waterways. Introducing the toxic substance can cause serious environmental damage to aquatic ecosystems. Acidic whey, when introduced to a waterway can cause increases in algae growth, low oxygen levels in water, and eventually kill off aquatic life. For this reason, dumping it is not only irresponsible, it’s illegal.
Can Acidic Whey Be Used Productively?
Two to three times as much acidic whey is produced as Greek yogurt. Any industry producing that amount of byproduct will look for profitable ways to use or resell that product.
- Currently, yogurt producers resell the whey to farmers who mix it with their feed and use it as fertilizer on their fields. This is not a solution for all of the acidic whey that is produced in factories. Furthermore, cows and land can only absorb so much of it without causing harm.
- Scientists at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research are close to a solution for a benign use of the byproduct. Karen Smith, PhD, a dairy processing technologist, says that they are close to a process that can make the substance useful. If it can be separated, it can be used for sweetener, calcium supplements, and oligosaccharides for infant formula.
- Another possible use of acidic whey is to make energy. Microbes introduced into the substance will break down the acid, which creates methane gas. Burning methane gas can generate energy.
So, lastly, is Greek yogurt healthy? Yes, it is a healthy choice for your body. Even some who are lactose intolerant can eat greek yogurt with no discomfort. This high-protein food source is a rich and creamy substitute for many, less healthy foods like mayonnaise and sour cream. Those who can’t eat meat can get their daily protein value from Greek yogurt.
The trend is ten years old and still growing. Strained yogurt used to be made in small batches by artisans, but an explosion in popularity revealed some challenges in production. With enginuity, science will take what could have been an environmental hazard and turn it into a useful supply of useful products.
Is Greek yogurt healthy for your diet? Have you thought about some of the ways you can add more Greek yogurt to your diet? Please add comments about your creative uses for Greek yogurt.