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The healthiest types of cheese

The 9 healthiest types of cheese to add to your diet

Cheese comes in hundreds of different varieties and flavors, and you may wonder which ones are healthiest. Here are nine of the healthiest types of cheese.

Evidence-based
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Last updated on September 28, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on July 26, 2022.

Cheese is a dairy product with hundreds of different textures and flavors.

It’s produced by adding acid or bacteria to milk from various farm animals, then aging or processing the solid parts of the milk.

The nutrition and taste of cheese depend on how it is produced and what milk is used.

Some people are concerned that cheese is high in fat, sodium, and calories. However, cheese is also an excellent source of protein, calcium, and several other nutrients.

Cheese may even help weight loss and prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. That said, some cheeses are healthier than others.

Here are nine of the healthiest types of cheese.

1. Mozzarella

Mozzarella is a soft, white cheese with high moisture content. It originated in Italy and is usually made from Italian buffalo or cow’s milk.

Mozzarella is lower in sodium and calories than most other cheeses. One ounce (28 grams) of full-fat mozzarella contains:

Mozzarella also contains bacteria that act as probiotics, including strains of Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus fermentum.

Both animal and human studies show that these probiotics may improve gut health, promote immunity, and fight inflammation in your body.

One study in 1,072 older adults found that drinking 7 ounces (200 ml) per day of fermented dairy containing Lactobacillus fermentum for 3 months significantly reduced the duration of respiratory infections compared to not consuming the drink.

Therefore, dairy products like mozzarella that contain this probiotic may strengthen your immune system and help fight infections. However, more research is needed.

Mozzarella tastes delicious in Caprese salad — made with fresh tomatoes, basil, and balsamic vinegar — and can be added to many recipes.

Summary: Mozzarella is a soft cheese lower in sodium and calories than most other cheeses. It also contains probiotics that may boost your immune system.

2. Blue cheese

Blue cheese is made from cow, goat, or sheep’s milk cured with cultures from the mold Penicillium.

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It is typically white with blue or grey veins and spots. The mold that creates blue cheese gives it a distinctive odor and bold, tangy flavor.

Blue cheese is very nutritious and boasts more calcium than most other cheeses. One ounce (28 grams) of whole-milk blue cheese contains:

Since blue cheese is high in calcium, a nutrient necessary for optimal bone health, adding it to your diet may help prevent bone-related health issues.

Adequate calcium intake is linked to a reduced risk of osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak and brittle.

Blue cheese tastes great on top of burgers, pizzas, and salads made with spinach, nuts, and apples or pears.

Summary: Blue cheese has distinctive blue or grey veins and a tangy taste. Loaded with calcium, it may promote bone health and help prevent osteoporosis.

3. Feta

Feta is a soft, salty, white cheese originally from Greece. It’s typically made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Sheep’s milk gives feta a tangy and sharp taste, while goat’s feta is milder.

Since feta is packaged in brine to preserve freshness, it can be high in sodium. However, it is typically lower in calories than most other cheeses.

One ounce (28 grams) of full-fat feta cheese provides:

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Like all full-fat dairy, feta provides conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is associated with reduced body fat and improved body composition.

One study in 40 overweight adults found that taking 3.2 grams per day of a CLA supplement for six months significantly decreased body fat and prevented holiday weight gain compared to a placebo.

Thus, eating CLA-containing foods like feta may help improve body composition. Feta and other cheeses from sheep’s milk typically have more CLA than others.

However, research is limited and has focused chiefly on CLA supplements.

To add feta cheese to your diet, try crumbling it over salads, adding it to eggs, or whipping it into a dip to eat with fresh vegetables.

Summary: Feta is a Greek cheese that’s higher in salt but lower in calories than other cheeses. It may also contain higher amounts of CLA, a fatty acid linked to improved body composition.

4. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is a soft, white cheese made from the loose curds of cow’s milk. It’s thought to have originated in the United States.

Cottage cheese is much higher in protein than other cheeses. A 1/2-cup (110-gram) serving of full-fat cottage cheese provides:

Since cottage cheese is high in protein but low in calories, it is often recommended for weight loss.

Several studies indicate that eating high-protein foods like cottage cheese can increase feelings of fullness and help decrease overall calorie intake, which may lead to weight loss.

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A study of 30 healthy adults found that cottage cheese was just as filling as an omelet with a similar nutrient composition.

Thus, adding cottage cheese to your diet may help you feel fuller after meals and reduce calorie intake.

It tastes great spread on toast, blended into smoothies, added to scrambled eggs, or used as the base for dips.

Summary: Cottage cheese is a fresh, clumpy cheese loaded with protein. Adding cottage cheese to your diet can help keep you full and may aid weight loss.

5. Ricotta

Ricotta is an Italian cheese made from the watery parts of cow, goat, sheep, or Italian water buffalo milk that is left over from making other cheeses. Ricotta’s creamy texture is often described as a lighter version of cottage cheese.

A 1/2-cup (124-gram) serving of whole-milk ricotta contains:

The protein in ricotta cheese is mostly whey, a milk protein containing all of the essential amino acids humans need to obtain from food.

Whey is easily absorbed and may promote muscle growth, help lower blood pressure, and reduce high cholesterol levels.

One study in 70 overweight adults found that taking 54 grams of whey protein daily for 12 weeks lowered systolic blood pressure by 4% compared to baseline levels. However, this study focused on whey supplements rather than whey from dairy foods.

While ricotta may offer similar benefits, more research on whey from whole foods is needed.

Ricotta cheese tastes delicious in salads, scrambled eggs, pasta, and lasagna. It can also be used as a base for creamy dips or served with fruit for a sweet-and-salty snack.

Summary: Ricotta is a creamy, white cheese loaded with protein. The high-quality whey in ricotta may promote muscle growth and help lower blood pressure.

6. Parmesan

Parmesan is a hard, aged cheese that has a gritty texture and a salty, nutty flavor. It’s made from raw, unpasteurized cow’s milk aged for at least 12 months to kill harmful bacteria and produce a complex flavor.

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The final product is loaded with nutrients. One ounce (28 grams) of Parmesan cheese provides:

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving also contains close to 30% of the recommended daily intake for phosphorus.

Since Parmesan is rich in calcium and phosphorus — nutrients that play a role in bone formation — it may promote bone health.

One study in around 5,000 healthy Korean adults found that higher dietary intakes of calcium and phosphorus were significantly associated with better bone mass in certain body parts — including the femur, the longest human bone.

Finally, since it’s aged for a long time, Parmesan is very low in lactose and can usually be tolerated by most people with lactose intolerance.

Grated Parmesan can be added to pasta and pizzas. You can also sprinkle it on eggs or spread slices on a cheese board with fruit and nuts.

Summary: Parmesan is a low-lactose cheese high in calcium and phosphorus, which may promote bone health.

7. Swiss cheese

As the name suggests, Swiss cheese originated in Switzerland. This semi-hard cheese is normally made from cow’s milk and features a mild, nutty taste.

Its signature holes are formed by bacteria that release gases during fermentation.

One ounce (28 grams) of Swiss cheese made from whole milk contains:

Since it is lower in sodium and fat than most other cheeses, Swiss cheese is often recommended for anyone who needs to monitor their salt or fat intake, such as people with high blood pressure.

Moreover, research shows that Swiss cheese hosts various compounds that inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).

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ACE narrows blood vessels and raises blood pressure in your body — so compounds that stifle it may help lower blood pressure.

That said, most studies on the effects of Swiss cheese compounds on blood pressure have been isolated to test tubes. Human research is needed.

To incorporate Swiss cheese into your diet, you can eat it with fruit or add it to sandwiches, egg bakes, burgers, and French onion soup.

Summary: Swiss cheese has less fat and sodium than most other cheeses and offers compounds that may help lower blood pressure. However, more research is needed.

8. Cheddar

Cheddar is a widely popular semi-hard cheese from England.

It is made from cow’s milk that has matured for several months and can be white, off-white, or yellow. The taste of cheddar depends on the variety, ranging from mild to extra sharp.

One ounce (28 grams) of whole-milk cheddar contains:

In addition to being rich in protein and calcium, cheddar is a good source of vitamin K — especially vitamin K2.

Vitamin K is important for heart and bone health. It prevents calcium from being deposited in the walls of your arteries and veins.

Inadequate vitamin K levels can cause calcium buildup, inhibiting blood flow and increasing the risk of blockages and heart disease.

To prevent calcium deposits, it’s important to get enough vitamin K from foods. As K2 from animal foods is better absorbed than K1 found in plants, K2 may be especially important for preventing heart disease.

Over eight years, one study in over 16,000 adult women linked higher vitamin K2 intake to a lower risk of developing heart disease.

Eating cheddar is one way to increase your vitamin K2 intake. Add it to charcuterie plates, vegetable dishes, burgers, and eggs.

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Summary: Cheddar is rich in vitamin K2, a nutrient that prevents calcium from building up in your arteries and veins. Getting enough K2 may decrease your risk of heart disease.

9. Goat cheese

Goat cheese, also known as chèvre, is a tangy, soft cheese made from goat’s milk.

It’s available in several forms, including spreadable logs, crumbles, and varieties made to resemble Brie.

Goat cheese is highly nutritious, with 1 ounce (28 grams) providing:

In addition, goat’s milk has more medium-chain fatty acids than cow’s milk. These types of fat are rapidly absorbed in your body and less likely to be stored as fat.

Furthermore, goat cheese may be easier for some people to digest than cheese made from cow’s milk. This may be because goat’s milk is lower in lactose and contains different proteins.

In particular, goat cheese contains A2 casein, which may be less inflammatory and less likely to cause digestive discomfort than the A1 casein found in cow’s milk.

Crumbled goat cheese can be added to salads, pizzas, and eggs. What’s more, whipped goat cheese makes a delicious dip for fruit or vegetables.

Summary: Goat cheese is lower in lactose and contains proteins that may be more easily digested than those in cheeses from cow’s milk.

Summary

Cheese is a widely consumed dairy product.

Most cheeses are a good source of protein and calcium, and some offer additional health benefits. In particular, certain cheeses may provide nutrients that promote gut health, aid weight loss, improve bone health, and decrease your risk of heart disease.

However, as some cheese can be high in sodium and/or fat, it’s still worth keeping an eye on your intake.

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Cheese can be a nutritious addition to a healthy, balanced diet.

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