It's all Greek to yogurt fans

The latest craze at the grocery store is old hat in many Balkan countries, where the benefits of Greek yogurt have long been known.

Many consumers aren't aware of what to look for when buying Greek yogurt, says nutritionist

It's all Greek

9 years ago
Duration 1:57
Greek yogurt has a host of health benefits but do you know what to look for when buying it?

Skim, half-fat, flavoured, probiotic — for yogurt fans, choosing the right type can be serious business.

Chrisoula Tzigalanis's Greek face mask

Tzigalanis suggests applying the mask three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Blend 1/2 cup ripe papaya or cantaloupe.
  • Add two tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • Add one tablespoon 100 per cent pure honey

Blend together well and leave in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. The recipe will last for 10 days in the fridge and makes enough for three to four applications.

Skin must be cleansed thoroughly before applying the mask. After 20 to 30 minutes, rinse skin well with warm water and pat dry. Continue with usual skin or makeup routine.

Add concerns about protein content and saturated fat to the mix and the result is all Greek to many.

Yet for those serious about getting the most health bang for their buck, nutritionists and Greeks alike swear by the powers of good, old-fashioned Greek yogurt.

"It's made from milk, it it has all the B vitamins, potassium, magnesium as well," said Alexandra  Karagiannis, a nutritionist. "More importantly, it does contain the active bacterial cultures so those probiotics do help increase our healthy gut flora, boost out immune system and help our digestive tract."

Greek yogurt is now a mainstay in most Canadian grocery stores.

Brands like Danone, Yoplait, Astro and President's Choice make Greek yogurt, in addition to lesser-known companies such as Chobani, Liberté and Skotidakis.

Yet for the undiscerning consumer, choosing the right one can be mind-boggling.

"There are a lot of thickeners and additives put in to Greek yogurt to give it that consistency," said Karagiannis, "You really want to make sure that you're looking at the protein content and again, looking for simple ingredients — the actual bacterial culture and the milk."

Making it the old-fashioned way

For those intimidated by scouring nutritional labels, there might be a simple solution.

'There are a lot of thickeners and additives put in to Greek yogurt to give it that consistency.'—Alexandra Karagiannis, nutritionist

Greek yogurt can easily be made at home with just milk and live bacterial culture similar to a sourdough bread starter.

"Yogurt was a big thing in Greece," said Chrisoula Tzigalanis, a Greek Calgarian who learned the art of making yogurt from her mother and grandmother. "My mom had five kids, we all had to have something with protein and all that, so we made yogurt just about every third day."

The process involves boiling two per cent milk, letting it stand in cold water, adding a live culture and straining before waiting half a day to taste.

The result is authentic, traditional Greek yogurt free of additives and flavourings.

"Doctors says 'your bones, is so strong, it's like you're a young girl,'" Tzigalanis said, "and I think it's because of the yogurt."

In addition to bone and digestive health, Tzigalanis swears by Greek yogurt for something else — keeping her youthful appearance.

She says that a regularly-applied Greek yogurt mask has kept her skin healthy and soft.

For those put off my the tart flavour of Greek yogurt without sweeteners, Tzigalanis has some advice.

"It's nice, doesn't have any sweetness or anything but I tell you my secret," Tzigalanis said. "I put always a bit of honey on it. It tastes much better."