By Meredith, Pure Matters

I recently discovered -- and fell in love with -- a secret health food that has grown tremendously popular in the past year: Greek yogurt.

Haven’t tried it? It’s a bit sour, and a bit tart (I’m obsessed with any brand that offers it with honey, with cuts the tart factor) -- consider it the cousin of your Dannon and Yoplait yogurts. What separates it from regular yogurt is that it’s strained of excess liquid, making it thicker. There are some big health benefits, too.

The thicker consistency of Greek yogurt means that it’s higher in probiotics, the good, healthy bacteria that live in your gut -- you can also get them in supplement form. Probiotics can help keep your intestinal health moving along -- particularly helpful if you ever have bowel struggles.

Both regular and Greek yogurts are low calorie and high in calcium, but Greek yogurt gets higher marks for its lower sugar and higher protein -- in some cases, Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt. Twice!! That makes it the perfect midday snack to keep you full until dinner, and it’s a great option for vegetarians looking to amp up their daily protein intake.

Another benefit to consider: You can use Greek yogurt in meal preparation. Try substituting it for cream in recipes to add an instant health booster to your plate. You can use it in smoothies, salads, and dips. One word of warning -- like I’m sure you do with regular yogurt, continue to lean toward the low-fat or fat-free brands, as the regular kind can pack a saturated-fat wallop.

Ready to give it a try? When I first discovered that I really liked Greek yogurt, I went on a taste test. I tried a number of store brands, like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Wegmans, as well as some of the pricier national brands, like Fage and Chobani. Here are my favorites (and not so favorites)!

Wallaby Organic Greek Lowfat Yogurt With Honey – A
Hands down, Wallaby’s option was my favorite of the 10 or so brands that I tried. At 180 calories, 25 from fat and 12 grams of protein (24% of your RDA), it’s the perfect no-guilt snack. Wallaby also sources only organic honey with no preservatives. It’s by far the freshest, creamiest variety I found -- I’m not kidding, I daydream about it. (The only knock against it is that I’ve only been able to find it at Whole Foods -- and it’s a bit pricey, but worth it.)

Wegmans – Greek Yogurt With Honey – A-
Of the store brands I tested, Wegmans was the best. It’s got just 150 calories, none from fat, and a whopping 14 grams of protein -- all with a gorgeously creamy consistency that is perfectly complemented by the honey. The only reason I didn’t give it a higher rater was that I prefer mixing the honey and yogurt myself, whereas this cup comes with everything pre-mixed.

Trader Joe’s Greek Style Nonfat Yogurt With Honey — B+
At 120 calories, no fat, and 14 grams of protein, it’s hard to knock the TJ’s store brand -- and it’s probably the type I’ll end up eating most frequently in the long run, since that’s where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping. That said, the honey comes pre-mixed into the yogurt, and I’m a control freak -- I like the separated containers the way Wallaby and Fage offer. That said, I’ll throw a little bit of a vanilla-nut granola into this for a mid-morning snack and it’s filling enough.

Fage – Greek Yogurt With Honey– B
Fage has to be the leader in the Greek yogurt market, for now -- they’ve got the advertising budget for it, apparently. I give their honey variety high marks -- 190 calories, 25 of those from fat, and 12 grams of protein, which is 24 percent of the RDA. Not to shabby. My only knock against Fage is that the container says Please do not stir on it, and frankly, if I want to stir, I will stir. And stir I do. Don’t boss me, Fage.

Whole Foods 365 Greek Yogurt With Honey — D
The worst of the bunch, probably because they tried to keep it low-fat and low-calorie by really skimping on the honey -- just 120 calories, none from fat, and 18 grams of protein (which I am not sure I believe). I found the pre-mixed honey to be completely lacking and the taste just much too sour. I ended up dumping two honey packets I normally reserve for tea into this package to make it edible, probably adding 60-75 calories. (Hey, I’ve got a sweet tooth…)