Is cheese healthy? And what are the best types?
Is cheese healthy or not? We look at it extensively in this blog! Let’s start with the good news: cheese certainly provides some useful substances for your body. For example, there is a lot of calcium in it, which you need for your bone-building. It is also nice that cheese is very high in protein. The protein content is comparable to meat and is higher than that of most vegetarian protein sources. It can therefore be a practical choice, especially for vegetarians.
You will also find a number of useful vitamins and minerals in cheese. For example, it is rich in B vitamins, which are important for building tissue and energy.
Unhealthy substances in cheese
Unfortunately, all those warnings against cheese come from somewhere! Cheese contains a relatively large amount of saturated fat. Exactly how much depends on the variety, but a 48+ full-fat cheese consists of more than a quarter of its weight. So that adds up quickly.
The disadvantage of saturated fat is that it is bad for your heart and blood vessels in large quantities. That doesn’t mean you should never eat animal products again – that’s where you mainly get these fats. However, it is recommended to alternate animal products with vegetable ingredients, so that you get a total of up to 10% of your daily calories from saturated fat.
In addition, there is also a lot of salt in cheese. The exact amount again depends on the type of cheese, but 200 mg sodium per slice is certainly not exceptional. That’s inconvenient when you realize that 2.4 g of sodium (equal to 6 g of salt) is the daily recommended maximum. Certainly because the bread under the cheese also contains salt, you are already at about one-sixth of your RDI with one sandwich with cheese.
Is cheese healthy?
How big are those problems compared to the benefits? In other words: is cheese healthy, despite those downsides? That depends in large part on the rest of your diet. That’s what makes the difference between too much salt and saturated fat, or acceptable amounts of both.
Do you eat mostly vegetable and do you usually cook yourself, so that you are well below the maximum salt? Then there is nothing wrong with a tasty portion of cheese every now and then: after all, you run little risk of an excess of saturated fat and salt.
But do you regularly get fries at McDonalds and are there often ready-to-eat meals on the menu? Do you eat meat at every meal, or do you eat a lot of full-fat yogurt and eggs? In that case, cheese is not the best choice. That doesn’t mean you can’t necessarily stop eating cheese – you’ll just need to get the balance right. Less cheese is one possible solution, healthier cooking too!
What is the healthiest cheese?
In addition to your diet, the type of cheese you eat is also important. As we have always emphasized above, that makes a big difference when it comes to the disadvantages of cheese. The type of cheese determines how much salt and saturated fat you get with it.
But what is the healthiest cheese when you consider those two points? We discuss some popular types of cheese and see how good they are for you!
Is Gouda cheese healthy?
The ‘normal’, golden yellow Dutch cheese comes in many shapes and sizes. You have cheese with a lot of fat, cheese with less fat, cheese with a lot of salt, cheese with less salt… In terms of nutritional value, that makes a huge difference.
Let’s start with that fat. The number after the cheese indicates how much of the solid mass of the cheese consists of fat. The reason is that cheese also contains some water; that is therefore not taken into account here. A calculation example: matured 30+ cheese consists of approximately 34 grams of water. Of the remaining 66 grams, 30% is fat: a total of 19.8 grams of fat.
The higher the number, the more fat a cheese contains. The Nutrition Center advises you not to choose a fat percentage higher than 30. Higher is only a good idea if you eat very low in fat – otherwise, you will be above your RDA for saturated fat.
In addition, this cheese is quite rich in salt. If you want to make a healthy choice, it is better to look for a lower salt type, with a maximum of 2 grams of salt per 100 grams of cheese. If you can find such a cheese, then you are certainly not very unhealthy and you can enjoy your sandwich in peace!
Is Parmesan Cheese Healthy?
Parmesan cheese is a popular choice for pasta and similar dishes, thanks to its delicious salty taste. But you guessed it: that means that it also contains a lot of salt… How healthy is this cheese?
The bad news: It’s better not to choose Parmesan too often. It contains almost 30 grams of fat per 100 grams – quite a lot, even for cheese. In addition, there is more than 3.5 grams of salt in 100 grams of Parmesan cheese. This will get you up to your daily 6 grams of salt (2.4 grams of sodium) very quickly.
However, there is one bright spot. In contrast to ‘normal’ cheese, Parmesan cheese is rarely eaten in large quantities, precisely because it has such a strong taste. And if you just take a little bit of it, those nutritional values are less of a problem. So it is better to grate 15 grams of Parmesan over your pasta than to throw 50 grams of grated Gouda cheese over it.
So, for a little cheese flavor in your food, Parmesan cheese can still be an acceptable choice, but keep in mind you don’t want to use too much of it!
Is brie or camembert healthy?
Moldy cheeses such as brie and camembert are treated with mold spores during production, which gives them their characteristic strong flavor. Don’t worry, the fungi themselves are not unhealthy (unless of course, you are allergic to them). The cheese itself, however, is not the best choice.
Soft mold cheeses in particular are incredibly fat: they contain about as much saturated fat as 48+ Gouda cheese. However, the amount of salt is again relatively low, because they need less of it thanks to the taste of the fungi. Yet that still does not make blue cheese healthy…
We would therefore advise against the toast with brie as a weekly Friday snack. Now and then you should be able to, but you better not make it a routine!
Is goat cheese healthy?
It is sometimes claimed that goat cheese is a lot healthier than cheese made from cow’s milk, mainly because it is said to be more ‘natural’ than the ‘more processed’ cow’s milk. The idea is that cow’s milk causes all kinds of nasty diseases, and that is not the case with goat cheese.
Now you can usually take those kinds of stories with a grain of salt. Convincing links between milk and Parkinson’s, for example, have not been demonstrated. When milk is unhealthy, it’s usually because of the amount of saturated fat it contains – but that’s the same with goat cheese.
So, is goat cheese healthy? It has a few small advantages: goat cheese, for example, contains slightly more calcium and vitamin B than cow cheese. The amount of potassium is also much higher, and that can somewhat compensate for the sodium it supplies. An advantage for people who cannot tolerate lactose is that goat cheese contains slightly less of it.
But then goat cheese is still just cheese – with saturated fat and salt. So always read the label carefully to see how much of both the cheese contains, and choose how much you want to eat based on that.
Is mozzarella healthy?
Another cheese favorite, then: what about mozzarella? As usual: it depends a bit on whether you choose good or cheap mozzarella. For example, cheap mozzarella sometimes contains more salt to compensate for the flatter taste.
However, mozzarella is generally lower in salt than most cheeses. It contains just over a gram of salt per 100 grams. The amount of fat is about as high as with 30+ cheese: 19 grams per 100 grams. That falls within the healthy limits if you eat it in moderation. Mozzarella is, therefore, a great choice for, for example, a healthy sandwich or pasta salad!
Is cottage cheese healthy?
Huttenkase or cottage cheese is often a bit forgotten when comparing cheeses. It, therefore, has less of that typical cheese taste. On the other hand, it can be a wonderfully light way to give dishes a fresh taste. And on top of that, it contains extremely little fat for a cheese!
100 grams of cottage cheese provides only 3.9 grams of fat, 2.5 of which is saturated. That means it poses few problems for your heart and blood vessels. In addition, it is fairly low in calories, so you do not have to worry that your plate of pasta with cottage cheese will suddenly over your calorie requirement.
The amount of salt is also fine: about one gram per 100 grams. It is still better not to eat extremely much of it, but especially if you do not have a high-salt diet, you do not run much risk of ingesting too much.
How much cheese per day?
All in all, cheese is by definition not unhealthy by definition, and if you like it, you can just keep eating a sandwich every now and then. It is, however, a product that you can easily eat too much of unnoticed. If that does not fit well within your further diet, it can have unhealthy consequences.
Don’t you eat cheese often? Then you can sometimes opt for fattier and saltier variants – if you don’t overdo it, of course. But do you eat it every day? Then preferably opt for a ‘healthier’ variant, such as 20+ or 30+ cheese, mozzarella or cottage cheese.
Do you have any questions about other types of cheese? Let us know in the comments and we might add them to the article!