As a long-time health professional and lifestyle blogger, I attend a ton of events and trade shows in order to stay in the loop with the latest and greatest health-promoting products on the market. Months back I was invited to a special event showcasing the innovative talents of Siggi Hilmarsson, the man responsible for bringing an Icelandic-style yogurt called “Skyr” (pronounced skeer) to the United States.
The taste and texture of Skyr is very similar to that of Greek yogurt, as both undergo the same process of straining. Straining essentially involves the draining or “straining” of regular (unstrained) yogurt to remove excess liquid whey along with the lactose (milk sugar) it naturally contains.
The process itself results in a thicker, creamier yogurt that’s higher in protein with a tart, somewhat acidic flavor reminiscent of sour cream due to the partial removal of milk sugar.
Interestingly, more than a decade ago, Siggi was inspired to create his own blend of Skyr after having tried and failed at finding any American-made Greek-style yogurts remotely similar to that which he’d grown to love as a child in his native Iceland. Following years of trial and error, Siggi concocted the perfect recipe for Skyr, which can now be found in supermarket fridges across the country under the fitting brand name “Siggi’s”.
Since being introduced to Siggi’s, I’ve tried each and every flavor available and believe me when I say it’s one of the best Mediterranean-style yogurts I’ve ever tasted! Even the plain version of Siggi’s Skyr-style yogurt is a step above the rest – That’s straight from the mouth of someone who’s known to swear by Fage brand Greek-style yogurt.
Skyr is usually a bit creamier than Greek yogurt as it is strained over a relatively longer period of time.
Just for kicks, you can actually strain plain Greek-style yogurt to a Skyr-like consistency by simply draining excess whey through a clean cheesecloth or colander for a few hours. Due to the prolonged straining process, Skyr generally contains much less sugar than Greek varieties along with slightly higher levels of protein.
It also tends to be more expensive because the extra straining inherently requires the use of more milk. So, at the end of the day, your decision to choose Skyr over Greek-style yogurt really comes down to your food budget and personal taste preferences.
Strained yogurt is definitely an acquired taste and, unfortunately, many manufacturers have resorted to adding tons of sugar to their products to appease skeptical customers. It’s important to understand that added sugar can reduce the overall nutritional quality of any strained yogurt. Period! Remember, all yogurts naturally contain some level of lactose so adding more sugar to the mix is truly a recipe for disaster.
Whether table sugar, high fructose corn syrup or fruit juice concentrates, sugar digests rapidly causing pronounced rises in blood sugar (glucose) and insulin levels in ways that promote unhealthy weight gain and bad health.
For good health, your total daily intake of any sugar should not exceed 25 grams (about 6 teaspoons) for women or 37 grams (about 9 teaspoons) for men so be sure to check the labels on your favorite yogurt products to see how they measure up. Among the popular Greek-style yogurts currently available in the United States (Fage, Chobani, Yoplait, Dannon, Voskos and Trader Joe’s), Siggi’s Skyr-style flavored varieties contain the least amount of sugar with only 9-11 grams per serving which is definitely a plus.
Now, sugar aside, when it comes down to overall nutritional quality, Skyr and Greek-style strained yogurts are pretty much equal.
In addition to their rich content of protein, these yogurts naturally house very large concentrations of live, “friendly” bacteria cultures called probiotics that help to strengthen the immune system and support digestive health. They are also rich in vital micronutrients like vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorus, all of which are essential for the growth, development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.
Personally, strained yogurts have been a longtime staple in my diet but I’m gradually transitioning from Greek-style varieties to Skyr in an effort to reduce my sugar intake. Less sugar equates to fewer calories, as each gram of sugar a food contains yields about four calories. This is essentially why Siggi’s yogurt varieties are lower in calories than comparable brands of Greek-style yogurt.
Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are plenty of high-quality Greek-style yogurts available on the market for those of you who aren’t willing or able to make the switch to Skyr-style yogurt. As I mentioned earlier, Fage was my go-to yogurt prior to being introduced to Siggi’s and other varieties like Chobani and Trader Joe’s Greek Style yogurt can be equally as nutritious.
In order to avoid overly sweetened varieties, I highly recommend sticking with plain strained yogurts whenever possible.
You can add a little sweetness and a whole lot texture by simply including your own ingredients like fresh berries, dark chocolate, granola, nuts and seeds or high-quality nut and seed butters. These yogurts can also be used as a creamy base for high-protein smoothies and savory dips.
To find a ton of healthy, delicious, low-sugar recipes for strained yogurt, visit SiggisDairy.com. If you opt for Greek-style yogurts, simply swap out the Siggi’s for your favorite brand—But once you’ve had it, I don’t think you will.