It is common knowledge that limiting saturated fats and foods high in dietary cholesterol keeps your cholesterol levels in check.
For this reason, cheese is often off the menu, as it is typically high in saturated fat. However, saturated fat and cholesterol in cheese should not be a problem when consumed as part of a balanced diet. The key is to choose cheese low in saturated fat and eat it in moderation.
There are different types of cheese. Some of them are higher in saturated fat than others. The key is to find a cheese not high in saturated fat.
And with a little effort and knowing what to look for, you can find the perfect cheese for your needs.
Types of Cheese
There are countless types of cheese with distinct textures and flavours. Nonetheless, all cheese starts with the same star ingredient, milk. However, vegan cheese is made using vegetable proteins. They are derived from vegetable oils, cashews, nuts, or soy.
The first primary classification of cheese is as per the moisture content. Such as:
As the name implies, hard cheese is firm and lacks moisture. It is suitable for grating because of its crumbly and dry structure. All hard cheeses start as soft cheese but undergo additional steps to reduce the moisture content. The longer the cheese age, the harder it will become.
Most types of hard cheese contain high levels of cholesterol. For example, 100 grams of romano cheese has 104 mg of cholesterol. Parmesan, a popular hard cheese, contains nearly 88 mg of cholesterol per 100-gram serving. However, you can get reduced-fat versions of parmesan cheese with much less cholesterol.
Semi-hard cheese has the perfect balance of moisture, acidity and firmness. It is also known as semi-firm or semi-soft cheese. Some typical semi-hard cheeses are Cheddar, Mozzarella, Gouda, Edam, Trappista, and Maasdam.
The cholesterol in semi-hard cheese varies depending on its composition. For example, regular cheddar cheese has 30 milligrams of cholesterol. It is approximately 15% of the daily allowance for those on a low-cholesterol diet.
An ounce of whole mozzarella has 22 mg of cholesterol. In comparison, part-skim mozzarella cheese has only 15 mg of cholesterol. Therefore, low-fat semi-hard cheeses have the lowest cholesterol levels.
Soft cheese is unripened cheese made by coagulating milk proteins with acid. The moisture content of soft cheese is more than 50%. It gives them brittle, easy-to-spread consistency.
Common types of soft cheese are feta, Brie, ricotta, cream cheese, Roquefort, and cottage cheese. Out of these, ricotta and cottage cheese are ideal for people with high cholesterol.
Is Cheese Bad for Cholesterol?
Cheese often gets a bad reputation because it is high in saturated fat. Studies show that high saturated fat intake causes increased blood levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol. However, you do not have to cut this dairy product out of your diet entirely.
According to the American Heart Association, your diet can include 5% to 6% calories from saturated fat. It is equivalent to 11-13 grams of saturated fat in a typical 2,000-calorie diet.
There are a few ways to keep track of your saturated fat intake. One option is to use a nutrition and calorie tracking app, like HealthifyMe. This way, you can enjoy foods like cheese without going overboard and negatively impacting your cholesterol levels.
A study shows that cheese intake, compared with butter intake of equal fat content, did not increase LDL. This effect may be due to the high calcium content of cheese.
Another study reported the calcium in cheese plays a role in reducing fat absorption during digestion. It results in a higher excretion of faecal fat.
To conclude, you can have cheese if it stays within your recommended dietary cholesterol range. The limit for total dietary cholesterol is 300 milligrams a day for an average healthy individual. However, it is 200 milligrams for those on a low-cholesterol diet.
So, your choice of cheese must have no more than 20-25 mg of cholesterol per ounce. People with high cholesterol must go for cheese having less than 15 mg of cholesterol per ounce.
The HealthifyMe Note
It is better to eat cheese in moderation, especially for those with high cholesterol. Cheese can fit into a heart-healthy diet by keeping your total saturated fat intake from 5% to 6% of your daily calories. Moreover, calcium can help reduce fat absorption from cheese during digestion.
The Best Cheese for Cholesterol
Cheese can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet. However, choosing the right cheese type is essential when lowering cholesterol levels.
Talk to a HealthifyMe nutritionist to help select the best cheese for your needs and advise on other foods to avoid. Your nutritionist will guide you toward healthy food choices without compromising on other needs.
Different types of cheese contain different levels of fat and cholesterol. Some cheeses are naturally lower in fat and cholesterol than others.
For example, low-fat cheese is an excellent way to reduce saturated fat intake. You can also save on calories and fat by choosing reduced-fat versions.
Here are a few of them:
- As per USDA, one slice of low-fat cheddar cheese contains 5.88 mg of cholesterol and 1.22 g of saturated fat.
- As per USDA, part-skim ricotta cheese contains 8.79 mg of cholesterol and 1.4 g of saturated fat per ounce.
- USDA states 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains 9.04 mg of cholesterol and 1.46 g of saturated fat.
- As per USDA, one slice of low-fat Monterey cheese contains 18.2 mg of cholesterol and 3.92 g of saturated fat.
- As per USDA, one tablespoon of reduced-fat grated parmesan cheese contains 4.4 mg of cholesterol and 0.665 g of saturated fat.
Benefits of Cheese
Low- or reduced-fat cheese is an excellent source of protein and calcium. Increasing your protein and calcium intake with cheese can help prevent osteoporosis and keep your bones strong.
Furthermore, research shows that eating cheese might help to prevent dental cavities. In addition, chewing cheese stimulates saliva flow and reduces the levels of cariogenic bacteria.
Cheese is plentiful in healthy fats. People with cholesterol also need to keep a portion of their diet for healthy fats. Saturated fats can also be good, but in moderation. Therefore eating cheese, in moderation, can provide these necessary fats into your diet.
Cheese’s fat and protein content make it a great snack choice for those looking to gain weight. However, you must be careful about how much cheese you eat. Cheese is a very energy-dense food, containing over 100 calories per gram.
Side Effects of Overeating Cheese
Besides weight gain, overeating cheese can lead to gastric problems, high cholesterol, and dehydration. Therefore, balance your cheese intake with low calories foods, like fruits and vegetables.
Some other side effects are:
- diarrhoea with other unpleasant GI symptoms
- People who are salt-sensitive experience water retention
- Drastically elevate blood pressure
The saturated fats and cholesterol in cheese are not a problem when consumed as part of a healthy diet. Cheeses with lower fat content, such as cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, or nonfat cheddar, have relatively less cholesterol. Therefore, you do not need to eliminate all cheese from your diet.
Foods high in saturated fats should not make up more than 5-6% of your diet. It means no more than 11-13 grams of saturated fat per day on a 2,000-calorie cholesterol diet.
Not sure how to add cheese to your cholesterol-lowering diet? Talk to a HealthifyMe nutritionist. They can help you understand which types of cheese are best, how different cheeses impact your cholesterol, and what other foods to limit.
The Supporting Sources
1. Chiu, S., Williams, P. T., & Krauss, R. M. (2017). Effects of a very high saturated fat diet on LDL particles in adults with atherogenic dyslipidemia: A randomised controlled trial. PloS one, 12(2), e0170664.
2. American Heart Association recommendation for saturated fat intake.
3. Hjerpsted, J., Leedo, E., & Tholstrup, T. (2011). Cheese intake in large amounts lowers LDL-cholesterol concentrations compared with butter intake of equal fat content. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 94(6), 1479–1484.
4. Soerensen, K. V., Thorning, T. K., Astrup, A., Kristensen, M., & Lorenzen, J. K. (2014). Effect of dairy calcium from cheese and milk on faecal fat excretion, blood lipids, and appetite in young men. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(5), 984–991.
5. Data by the US Department of Agriculture. Data Type: SR Legacy | Food Category: Dairy and Egg Products | FDC ID: 173439
6. Data by the US Department of Agriculture. Data Type: SR Legacy | Food Category: Dairy and Egg Products | FDC ID: 171248
7. Data by the US Department of Agriculture. Data Type: SR Legacy | Food Category: Dairy and Egg Products | FDC ID: 173417
8. Data by the US Department of Agriculture. Data Type: SR Legacy | Food Category: Dairy and Egg Products | FDC ID: 168098
9. Herod E. L. (1991). The effect of cheese on dental caries: a review of the literature. Australian dental journal, 36(2), 120–125.