Greek Yogurt: History, Flavor, Benefits, Uses

Greek yogurt is a term for strained yogurt. Yogurt is one of the oldest foods in history; historians believe it to have been a Mesopotamian invention from around 5000 BCE. Yogurt is made from milk that has been cultured, which means that special bacteria has been added to it, and it has been fermented. Strained yogurt is made by separating the liquid in the yogurt — whey — and reserving the rest of the yogurt, which will now have less moisture.

Strained yogurt is consumed in Greece, but its origin is not Greek. Historians associate strained yogurt more with Eastern Europe and with Bulgaria in particular more than with Greece. The same method for making Greek yogurt is used all over Eastern Europe and the Middle East, not just in Greece. The word yogurt comes from Turkey. Some believe that the word Greek is used to market the yogurt to American consumers. Americans are more likely to have positive associations with Greece than with Syria, Iran or Eastern Europe.

Yogurt became popular in the US in the early part of the 20th century when Dannon — which was started by a Greek immigrant — began making yogurt in New York City.

The owner of a Greek market in New York claims to have been the first to import Greek yogurt and sell it. Costas Mastoras says that on a trip to Greece to buy feta cheese from Fage in 1988, it was suggested that he take some yogurt. Customers in New York fell in love with the yogurt, and he began distributing it all over Manhattan.

In the US, Greek yogurt has experienced a rise in popularity over the last couple of decades that can only be described as meteoric. It has carved out a significant share of the yogurt market in the US and elsewhere around the world. Numerous varieties of Greek yogurt are available in many of the world’s grocery stores. You will usually find them alongside similar trendy varieties, like Icelandic yogurt.

Greek yogurt flavor profile

Because it is less moist than regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is thicker and denser. In effect, it is concentrated yogurt. It has the fermented sourness that you expect from yogurt and other cultured dairy products.

Health benefits

Greek yogurt is marketed as a healthy food product, and it does have some important benefits. It can help to improve health with compounds like:

  • Minerals: It’s a good source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Protein: It has twice as much protein as regular yogurt.

If you regularly eat Greek yogurt, you may see the following benefits for health:

  • Improved digestive health: It can contain healthy bacteria that will help to boost gut health.
  • Lower blood pressure: The calcium, magnesium, and potassium in it can help to lower blood pressure.
  • Lower risk of diabetes: The helpful bacteria in it may help to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Health concerns

Traditional Greek yogurt is fatty and comes with the potential for causing health problems that you get from any fatty food.

Common uses

Many people in North America and Western Europe know Greek yogurt as an accompaniment to fresh fruit or for its role in smoothies. In Eastern Europe and the Middle East, it’s a popular marinade for lamb chops and a condiment for chickpeas.