Healthy Cheese

5 Healthiest Cheeses
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Cheese gets a lot of bad press for clogging arteries and packing on the pounds. But just because you shouldn't eat an entire platter of Paula Deen's cheese balls doesn't mean you have to avoid cheese altogether.

Cheese can be both delicious and a great source of lean protein, calcium, phosphorus, and other health benefits -- if you choose the right varieties. Here are five cheeses that belong on any shopping list.

1. Feta

A key component of Greek cuisine, feta is lower in fat and calories than most cheeses, says Natalie Caine-Bish, an associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Kent State University. A one-ounce serving -- enough to make a Greek salad lover happy -- has 4 grams of protein and only 74 calories.

Caine-Bish says feta's characteristic strong flavor means you can get away with using less cheese without feeling cheated. Feta's salty flavor makes it a good choice to crumble on salads and soups. It also pairs well with sweeter produce, like watermelon or sweet potatoes.

Tip: Although domestic feta is often made with cow's milk, Greek feta is made from sheep or goat's milk, which makes it a good choice for someone with problems digesting bovine dairy products. Keep in mind, though, that unpasteurized feta and other soft cheeses have a higher risk of containing the Listeria bacteria than other cheeses -- so be sure to buy pasteurized feta if you'll be serving it to a pregnant woman or someone with a compromised immune system.

2. String cheese

Seriously. String cheese, that favorite kid snack, is a great choice for adults too.

For starters, if you choose string cheese made of part-skim mozzarella, it's low in calories and high in protein (a one-ounce serving has 71 calories and 7 grams of protein).

What's more, string cheese isn't actually a processed cheese -- mozzarella naturally behaves in that stringy way, so it counts as a whole food. (Just make sure to buy string cheese that's 100 percent mozzarella.)

Tip: String cheese is "quick and easy -- grab and go, and already portioned out for you," says Silvia Veri, the nutrition supervisor at Beaumont Health System's Weight Control Center in Royal Oak, Michigan. The fact that it's prepackaged makes it handy for healthy snacks at work, between errands, or at home.

3. Parmesan

Like feta, Parmesan is a great choice because just a little packs a potent, nutty punch.

Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from the Parma area of Italy, and its strong flavor has inspired a lot of buzz throughout history: Samuel Pepys famously buried his Parmesan cheese to keep it safe during the Great Fire of London, and Boccacio, in The Decameron, imagines a mountain of Parmesan inhabited by macaroni and ravioli makers.

Parmesan is relatively low in calories (110 in a one-ounce serving), but it's high in sodium (449 milligrams for the same serving size), so be sure to use it in moderation.

Tip: Try shaving pieces onto a salad or eating small slices with ripe apples or pears, in addition to grating it over pasta and pizza.

4. Swiss

Swiss is another strong cheese that's good for you. What we call Swiss cheese is often Swiss Emmentaler (or Emmental), though other cheeses with a similar taste and hole-studded texture are sometimes lumped in as well.

Swiss is a popular cheese, and Caine-Bish likes it specifically for that reason. Since it comes in a number of varieties, including low-sodium or low-fat, it's easy to find a version that fits your dietary needs.

As a hard cheese, Swiss is also richer in phosphorus than nearly all soft cheeses. According to Caine-Bish, "Calcium and phosphorus are key to bone formation and to maintaining bone density" -- important for women of any age.

Tip: Try adding a slice to your sandwich or grating a few ounces into scrambled or baked eggs. Small slices or cubes make a great snack, especially with fruit instead of crackers.

5. Cottage cheese

There's a reason dieters love cottage cheese: It's high in protein, low in fat (if you buy a low-fat variety), and versatile enough to add to most any meal or snack.

"You can eat it with almost anything," says Veri. "You can eat it with veggies and make it savory, or add fruit and cinnamon and make it sweet."

A one-ounce serving of low-fat cottage cheese has 3 grams of protein and only 20 calories. Like all cheeses, it's also high in calcium.

Indian paneer, Mexican queso fresco, and other types of farmer's cheese are simply pressed versions of cottage cheese. If you're the DIY-type, this cheese and its firmer derivatives are some of the easiest cheeses to make at home.

Tip: Cottage cheese can have a lot of sodium, especially when it's low-fat or nonfat. Be sure to check the nutrition label on the container before buying it. Some companies, such as Lucerne and Friendship Dairy, make no-salt-added versions.


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over 2 years ago, said...

The cheeses mentioned in the article are the ones I eat. Didn't realize the health value.


over 3 years ago, said...

There are also yogurt cheeses which are lactose free, if lactose is the problem. Trader Joes in my area carries them.


over 3 years ago, said...

Nancy Anderson might like the soy-based cheese substitutes. For example, Soy Kaas "Mozzarella Style" tastes a lot like real mozzarella but digests more like tofu. She could her nephrologist the ingredients label and ask whether the soy-based product is better than dairy for her kidneys. There are also almond-based cheese substitutes.


over 3 years ago, said...

Have been told by my nephrollogist that I should not use dairy products . My kidneys are at 30% right now. I am vegetarian, but like cheese. Which would be the best for me to use on a seldom basis? Thank you, Nancy Anderson


over 3 years ago, said...

The article would be more helpful with specifics on fat content. There are low-fat (or reduced-fat) versions of some kinds of cheese, including some that are normally high in fat. Low-fat cheese tastes a lot like regular cheese. U can tell the difference, but U may not mind it and may even prefer the lighter taste of low-fat cheese. Some examples available in major supermarkets follow. Example 1: Cabot "Sharp Extra Light Cheddar" is actually mild rather than sharp. An ounce has 2.5 g of fat (1.5 g of saturated fat) with 60 calories and 9 g of protein. Example 2: President "Fat Free Feta" is a cows' milk feta. If U don't mind that (and don't accidentally buy the regular version), U get nil fat per ounce, with 35 calories and 7 g of protein. Example 3: Sargento "Reduced Fat Provolone" tastes essentially like mild regular provolone. A 19 g slice has 3 g of fat (2 g of saturated fat) with 50 calories and 5 g of protein. Example 4: I have not seen a low-fat version of fresh mozzarella, but FRESH mozzarella does have less fat than many cheeses, including normal aged mozzarella. U can use fresh mozzarella as a pizza cheese as well as in salads. Just be aware that the shelf life is shorter than normal.


over 3 years ago, said...

I enjoyed learning more about cheeses, their nutrition contents, and ideas for use in diets. Thanks!


over 3 years ago, said...

The detailed information about the individual cheeses. THANKS!


over 3 years ago, said...

up to date information....easy to understand....good variety


over 3 years ago, said...

I'll be changing the way I purchase cheese. Thanks.


over 3 years ago, said...

The apparent vendetta against Paula Deen is disappointing. Surely you can pick a well-known chef who exemplifies your nutritional standards and can put a positive spin on the articles. Perhaps the Dr. Oz chef(s) would do. Try to live up to the name Caring.com.


almost 4 years ago, said...

I eat cheese because I enjoy the taste, and essentially none of the recommended cheeses appeal to my taste buds. So I like blue cheeses such as Stilton, and genuine Cheddar, or Gloucester. I enjoy being alive, so I prefer not to live by the 'book'. Cottage cheese along with string cheese seriously revolt me., but then I enjoy all kinds of bad things, such as Scotch..


almost 4 years ago, said...

It's a great article, about great cheese's. And I love each and everyone of them!!!


over 4 years ago, said...

Wonderful information


over 4 years ago, said...

My favs in this order: Swiss, Cottage, Mozzarella and string! Gotta love those cheeses! But they can be constipating so "eat in moderation!"


over 4 years ago, said...

I just started a new diet plan and this is very helpful advice for someone in their 50's like me . Thanks for the information


over 4 years ago, said...

Raw goat, or sheep cheese is the best! Go do your homework again!


over 4 years ago, said...

I have been a cheese addict since i was pregnant with my son 21 yrs. ago. Cottage cheese being one of my favorites. A salad is not a salad without that & Parmesan. I would like to know what cheeses are the highest in calories so i know what to avoid.


over 4 years ago, said...

I love cheese! This article really helped me understand the portions and breakdown of fat grams, proteins and calories.


over 4 years ago, said...

I'm surprised that an article discussing cheese and health is discussing their macronutrient properties (protein v fat) and says nothing about how the cheese is made. Most factory cheese is really thickened milk and not fully fermented or even fermented at all. And then how was the animal fed? A grass-fed cow will produce a very different cheese (from the perspective of nutrition and health) than something produced in a lab.


over 4 years ago, said...

love the "natural" advice here


over 4 years ago, said...

explaining which cheeses are the worst for your body


almost 5 years ago, said...

Alfredo sauce is high fat and normally made with butter and cream; probably wouldn't be considered a healthy choice. Saute fresh diced garlic cloves in olive olive and mix in some cooked pasta. Add grated parmesan or romano cheese to taste after you plate the pasta; that way you only add enough cheese to flavor the amount of pasta on your plate. Throw on some fresh diced basil or ground pepper for added zip. My grandfather used to make this simple dish with hot pepper flakes. Delish! Romano cheese also adds a lot of salty flavor so that additional salt is not needed.


almost 5 years ago, said...

I'm a cheese lover. especially parmians cheese on my pasta. and also like the alfrado sauce with it. Is that good too???


almost 5 years ago, said...

- Mentioning more sodium levels would have been nice. Sodium intolerance is the "forgotten health risk" and it looks like the author forgot about it too, for the most part. - Goat cheese is also worth mentioning as a cow-cheese substitute. - Thanks for the good info contained in the article.


almost 5 years ago, said...

Stop talking about calories and look at carbohydrates.


almost 5 years ago, said...

What about goat cheese? And lactose intolerance? Good but not great article...


almost 5 years ago, said...

I have 2 friends on diets who will find these tips informative...especially calorie-wise and about which of those cheeses are beneficial for bone density.


almost 5 years ago, said...

Rating edible cheeses would have been more useful - especially as my French specialist decided cheese would be good for my bones, and I am not overweight. The French eat well, but live longer - can't be just because they drink lots of red wine.


almost 5 years ago, said...

I love cheese and I'm glad the my favorities cheeses are in the 5 healthies cheeses


almost 5 years ago, said...

I thought all cheese were a danger its good to know I can eat without worrying about my arteries clogging.


almost 5 years ago, said...

As a cheese lover, I feel less guilty; cholesterol is on the boarder-line.


almost 5 years ago, said...

cottage cheese is marvellous when you are on a diet, I buy the low fat one with fruit added, peaches is particularly nice, then cut a canteloupe melon in half and fill the centre with the cheese. Eaten at lunchtime it's a really refreshing yet filling meal and doesn't leave you feeling over full.


almost 5 years ago, said...

My son is a pilote and he loves to eat cottage cheese, he usually mixes with peaches. I love all kinds of cheese and I will be more carefull next time I buy my cheese.