Health Benefits of Cheese

There are many different cheeses in the world — and in your supermarket — but the healthiest choices are cheeses that are lower in fat and sodium.

Cheese is a great source of protein and calcium. Since protein curbs hunger and keeps you feeling satisfied after meals and snacks, cheese can help you to lose weight. As part of a well-rounded nutrition plan, the protein in cheese can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates eaten at the same meal or snack and therefore help balance your blood-sugar levels and improve mood as well.

The calcium in cheese can help keep your teeth and bones strong and guard against osteoporosis. In women, it can also offer some relief from PMS symptoms. Cheese contains additional nutrients like zinc and biotin. Zinc has several functions in the body: It aids in tissue growth and repair, prevents and treats macular degeneration, protects your skin, and helps keep your nails strong. Both zinc and biotin are also important for hair health.

The problem with cheese is that it’s often high in saturated fat, which in excess can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, arthritis, and memory loss. It can also derail your weight-loss efforts since full-fat cheese is higher in calories, as well as saturated fat. Look for cheeses that are reduced-fat and fat-free to take advantage of the nutritional benefits of cheese without any of these disadvantages. And watch out for sodium too! Cheese can contain a lot of sodium, which is especially problematic if you’re concerned about your blood pressure. Read the labels and seek out cheeses that are low in sodium.

The dairy in cheese makes it a trigger for some IBS sufferers. Aged cheeses are also common triggers for those who suffer from migraines. People with celiac disease must check all cheese labels carefully, as some cheeses — including all blue cheeses — are made with bread mold.


Blue Cheese | Cheddar Cheese | Cottage Cheese | Cream Cheese | Feta Cheese | Goat Cheese | Mozzarella Cheese | Parmesan Cheese | Ricotta Cheese | Romano Cheese | Swiss Cheese

Blue Cheese
Reduced-fat or fat-free blue cheese is a good dietary choice to help with the management of gout and osteoporosis, and it also helps you to maintain strong, healthy teeth. Regular blue cheese is high in saturated fat, so limit your intake if you’re trying to lose weight or if you have high cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, or memory problems. If you’ve identified aged cheese as a trigger food for your migraines, or cheese in general as a trigger for IBS, you should steer clear of blue cheese altogether.

Cheddar Cheese
Cheddar cheese is a sharp-tasting cheese that, like other cheeses, is a good source of protein and calcium, but it is also calorie-dense and high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and memory loss, not to mention impede your weight-loss efforts. Choosing reduced-fat or fat-free cheddar cheese is a great way to take advantage of its nutritional benefits while minimizing unhealthy extras. The calcium in cheddar cheese helps maintain strong bones and teeth, may relieve PMS symptoms, and can help maintain healthy blood pressure. (Note: Since most cheeses are high in sodium, people with high blood pressure should eat only moderate amounts, choose low-sodium brands, and factor the sodium content into their daily totals.) If you get migraine headaches, it’s important to know that aged cheeses like cheddar are a common trigger. IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a good source of protein and can be part of a healthy diet if you choose fat-free or reduced-fat varieties. (Full-fat cottage cheese contains extra calories and saturated fat, which can increase cholesterol levels and contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess.) Cottage cheese is also a good source of selenium, an antioxidant that can help prevent arthritis, and vitamin B12, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and memory loss. (Note: Since most cheeses are high in sodium, people with high blood pressure should eat only moderate amounts, choose low-sodium brands, and factor the sodium content into their daily totals.) IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is a soft cheese spread that doesn't contain as much protein or calcium as other cheeses. Regular cream cheese is very high in fat, especially saturated fat, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and memory loss, not to mention impede your weight-loss efforts. Look for fat-free or reduced-fat cream cheese, and use it in moderation. IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

Feta Cheese
Feta cheese is a crumbly, salty cheese, commonly used in Greek food. Regular feta is relatively high in fat, especially saturated fat, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and memory loss, not to mention impede your weight-loss efforts. To keep calories in check, enjoy feta cheese in moderation — limit yourself to a one to two ounce portion per meal, and consider choosing reduced-fat varieties. (Note: Since most cheeses are high in sodium, people with high blood pressure should eat only moderate amounts and factor the sodium content into their daily totals.) IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

Goat Cheese
Like other cheeses, goat cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, but it is also high in fat, especially saturated fat, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and memory loss, not to mention impede your weight-loss efforts if eaten in excess. To keep calories in check, enjoy goat cheese in moderation — limit yourself to a one to two ounce portion per meal. (Note: Since most cheeses are high in sodium, people with high blood pressure should eat only moderate amounts and factor the sodium content into their daily totals.) If you get migraine headaches, it’s important to know that aged varieties of cheese are a possible trigger. IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

Mozzarella Cheese
Mozzarella cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, but it is also calorie-dense and high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and memory loss, not to mention impede your weight-loss efforts. Choosing reduced-fat ("part-skim") or fat-free mozzarella cheese is a great way to take advantage of its nutritional benefits while minimizing unhealthy extras. The calcium in mozzarella cheese helps maintain healthy blood pressure. (Note: Since most cheeses are high in sodium, people with high blood pressure should eat only moderate amounts, choose low-sodium brands, and factor the sodium content into their daily totals.) If you get migraine headaches, it’s important to know that aged cheeses like mozzarella are a common trigger (although mozzarella cheese is aged for less time than most aged cheeses and may be better tolerated). IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan cheese is a popular hard cheese used in salads and pasta dishes. Because of its intense flavor, a little bit of Parmesan can go a long way, making it easier to eat in moderation. If you get migraine headaches, it’s important to know that aged cheeses like Parmesan are a common trigger. (Note: Since most cheeses are high in sodium, people with high blood pressure should eat only moderate amounts and factor the sodium content into their daily totals.) IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese is a soft cheese and a good source of calcium and protein. Ricotta cheese can be part of a healthy diet if you choose reduced-fat ("part-skim") or fat-free varieties. (Full-fat ricotta contains extra calories and saturated fat, which can increase cholesterol levels and contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess.) Ricotta is also a good source of selenium, an antioxidant that can help prevent arthritis. IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

Romano Cheese
Romano cheese is a hard cheese with a sharp, salty flavor, similar to Parmesan cheese. Because of its intense flavor, a little bit of Romano can go a long way, making it easier to eat in moderation. If you get migraine headaches, it’s important to know that aged cheeses like Romano are a common trigger. (Note: Since most cheeses are high in sodium, people with high blood pressure should eat only moderate amounts and factor the sodium content into their daily totals.) IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

Swiss Cheese
Swiss cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, but it is also calorie-dense and high in saturated fat, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and memory loss, not to mention impede your weight-loss efforts. Choosing reduced-fat or fat-free Swiss cheese is a great way to take advantage of its nutritional benefits while minimizing unhealthy extras. The calcium in Swiss cheese helps maintain healthy blood pressure. (Note: Since most cheeses are high in sodium, people with high blood pressure should eat only moderate amounts, choose low-sodium brands, and factor the sodium content into their daily totals.) If you get migraine headaches, it’s important to know that aged cheeses like Swiss are a common trigger. IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS are sensitive to dairy and experience discomfort after eating it.

The best types of cheese are fat-free and reduced-fat cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, Swiss, feta, goat, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese. Find out more about other dairy foods.