The Expert-Backed Guide to Full-Fat vs. Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Is non-fat Greek yogurt good for you, or should you add the full-fat Greek option to your shopping cart instead? Ahead, learn the differences between the two.

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Photo: Kat-Ka/mapodile/Getty

Picture this: After walking up and down supermarket aisles and checking items off your meal prep shopping list, you finally get to the dairy section to grab a few containers of yogurt and head home. That is until you look at the jam-packed shelves. With so many options, you're suddenly overwhelmed. What's the best Greek yogurt? Do I want full-fat Greek yogurt or nonfat? And wait, is nonfat Greek yogurt even good for you?

When it comes to full-fat Greek yogurt vs. nonfat Greek yogurt, the major difference is the milk used during production. The full-fat version is made with whole milk, while the nonfat or fat-free is made with skim. Nutritionally their fat content makes them very different, and while neither nonfat nor full-fat Greek yogurt is bad for you, there are situations where one might be a better choice.

What Is Greek Yogurt?

First, let's quickly discuss the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt. Essentially, yogurt becomes "Greek" yogurt when it's strained to remove whey protein, which is the liquid that remains after the curdling process, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This also rids the yogurt of lactose (sugar). Without the liquid whey and sugar, the dairy product takes on a thicker, creamier consistency, and the protein becomes more concentrated. It's also left with a higher amount of gut-friendly probiotics and, unfortunately, a slightly lower amount of calcium.

The good news? Some brands fortify their Greek yogurt with the bone-strengthening nutrient, but not all. So, if you're looking to boost your calcium levels, be sure to look at the nutrition labels on both full-fat and nonfat Greek yogurt to determine which is the best Greek yogurt for you. (

Which Is More Nutritious: Full-Fat Yogurt or Nonfat Greek Yogurt?

Now, back to the full-fat vs. nonfat Greek yogurt conversation, beginning with a breakdown of Greek yogurt nutrition. Here's a nutritional comparison of one container (6 ounces or 170 grams) of Fage Total 5%, which is full-fat, and Fage Total 0%, which is nonfat.

Nutrition 5% or Full-Fat 0% or Nonfat
Calories 190 90
Total Fat 10 0
Saturated Fat 7 0
Carbohydrates 6 5
Sugar 6 5
Protein 18 18

As you can see, the 7 grams of total fat difference plays a significant role in the calories in Greek yogurt. If your diet consists of about 1,800 calories a day, then a 6-ounce container of fat-free Greek yogurt is going to be an appropriate snack. But if you eat more calories (about 2,200 to 2,400 calories a day), full-fat Greek yogurt (vs. nonfat) might be a better option for you.

So which is the best Greek yogurt? It depends (sorry). Some people prefer full-fat Greek yogurt (vs. nonfat) as a standalone snack since it's well-rounded nutritionally, with a hefty dose of fat and protein that will help you feel satiated. (Plus, its creaminess can make it seem more indulgent than nonfat Greek yogurt). That being said, if you're trying to maintain a calorie deficit to, say, lose weight, then the full-fat variety might not be the best Greek yogurt for you.

When you compare calories in Greek yogurt, the nonfat variety boasts a lower number of calories, thereby allowing you to be more versatile with toppings and still have a low-calorie snack. You can add some flaxseeds, chia seeds, or hemp heartsto your Greek yogurt, as well as fresh raspberries and your pick-me-up will still have less than 300 calories.

But, of course, it's not all about calories. In fact, you can't talk about full-fat Greek yogurt vs. nonfat Greek yogurt without taking a moment to discuss the variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients found in both versions. Take protein, for example: As evidenced in the above nutritional breakdown, nonfat and full-fat Greek yogurts are both packed with 18 grams of protein per container. They also have 5-6 grams of carbohydrates per serving, thereby providing an A+ protein to carb ratio that can be particularly good for fueling up pre-workout. (See also: The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Your Workout)

What's more, they're both a good source of calcium — 240 milligrams in full-fat Fage, 200 milligrams in nonfat Fage — and blood-pressure-controlling potassium — 300 milligrams in full-fat Fage, 260 milligrams in nonfat Fage. So, the next time you ask yourself if non-fat Greek yogurt good for you, remember these impressive nutrition numbers.

But Is the Saturated Fat in Full-Fat Greek Yogurt Bad for You?

Since full-fat Greek yogurt is made with whole milk, it's going to have a higher saturated fat content. In the example above, 7 grams in one cup shouldn't send your diet into a tailspin, as that figure will only make up a small (think: ~3-4 percent) of your total calories for the day. So even if you're following a low-saturated-fat diet, you'll still have plenty of room (about another 4 to 5 percent) for additional calories from saturated fat in foods you eat throughout the rest of the day. (

The Bottom Line

Greek yogurt is an easy way to add more protein (among other essential nutrients!) to your diet. So when it comes to full-fat vs. nonfat Greek yogurt, choose the variety that fits your eating plan and satisfies your taste buds. (And then consider giving one of these Greek yogurt dessert recipes a go next time you're looking to try something new.)

Updated by
Elizabeth Bacharach
Photo of Elizabeth Bacharach

Elizabeth Bacharach is the associate editor for Shape.com, where she frequently covers mental and physical health, food and nutrition, lifestyle trends, and more. Based in New York City, she has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, will take advantage of any opportunity to talk about her dog, Franklin, and dreams of becoming best friends with Ina Garten, who is, undeniably, an absolute queen.

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