Since the 1980s, yogurt has been touted as the perfect breakfast or snack for working and busy women through ads highlighting their calorie count (much smaller than the the calorie count of the desserts they’re engineered to taste like), easy-to-pack packaging, and nutrition. Today, a jaunt down the dairy aisle of your local grocery store will reveal a nearly endless selection of flavors, consistencies, health benefits, and traditions among countless yogurt companies, both local and international. If you’ve ever left the yogurt aisle dazed and confused by all the types of yogurt there are at your fingertips, here’s a cheat sheet for you to reference.

 

By definition, all yogurt is a milk-based substance that has fermented with the help of a bacteria culture that turns the milk more viscous and slightly tart. The lactic acid that is produced as a result of the bacteria’s respiration help the milk to last longer, so for much of history, yogurt was used to store milk beyond its standard shelf life. What makes each type of yogurt different has to do with the type of bacteria that is used in the fermentation process, the length of that process, and the straining process they’re subjected to.

 

Standard Unstrained Yogurt:

Your standard run of the mill yogurt will likely be made with 2% or whole milk. The process entails heating up the milk-bacteria mixture to activate the process and then allowing it to cool. Afterwards, the whey is mixed in (rather than strained) to produce the smooth texture usually associated with yogurt. Boasting about 10 grams of protein per cup, this is what most Americans picture when they hear “yogurt.”

 

Greek Yogurt:

Having sprung into popularity over the past few decades, Greek yogurt has become a fan favorite for its thick texture and high protein density. After the milk and bacteria are combined, heated, and cooled, a significant portion — but not all — the whey is drained, leaving a viscous and tart substance perfect for eating plan or dipping fruit. Greek yogurt offers eaters about 19 grams of protein per cup, making it filling and calorically dense.

 

Icelandic Yogurt:

Perhaps the thickest and densest of the yogurt options, Icelandic yogurt is made by straining almost all the whey from the top of the yogurt. As such, it’s got a distinct taste and texture and lots of protein — 24 grams, to be exact. It’s ideal for spreading on top of food like a cream cheese or for thickening doughs and batters.

 

Kefir:

Whereas Greek and Icelandic yogurt can credit their thickness to their thickness, Kefir is a runny drinkable yogurt closer in texture to milk than standard yogurt. Made with a different bacteria, Kefir can be drunk on its own or used like milk in combination with cereal, oats, or smoothies. Kefir has only about 8 grams of protein per cup but is still a yummy alternative to milk for the adventurous eater.