Do you think cheese should always be considered a guilty pleasure? Think again. While some types of cheese are loaded with fat and sodium and don’t have much nutritional value, others offer enough protein, vitamins, and healthful bacteria to be considered downright healthy.
In our quest to determine the healthiest cheeses, we consulted two dietitians and a food scientist. According to Rosemary Trout, program director of culinary arts and food science at Drexel University, we should consider nutrient density per calorie, satiety, and how well nutrients are absorbed and metabolized. Jennifer Altman, PsyD, RD, recommended that we look for cheeses that are low in saturated fat and sodium, and high in protein, calcium, and probiotics.
With their guidance, we’ve identified five healthy cheeses that we should feel great about eating more often.
Mozzarella is one of the healthiest cheeses we can be eating, with six grams of protein per one-ounce serving. It is lower in saturated fat and sodium, making it a better choice for those looking to limit their intake of these nutrients. Mozzarella is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and zinc, which are all essential for good bone health. It contains the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus fermentum, which promote good gut health.
Goat cheese, made from goat’s milk, comes with a host of health benefits. Goat’s milk is high in Vitamin A and riboflavin (Vitamin B2), and it contains less lactose than cow’s milk, making it a good option for those who are lactose intolerant. Goat milk also has a higher concentration of short chain fatty acids compared to cow’s milk, which are more metabolically reactive and less likely to be stored as excess fat in the body. Additionally, goat cheese can help you feel fuller faster, leading to eating fewer calories at later meals.
Cottage cheese has been a well-known health food for years. It is high in protein and loaded with valuable Vitamins B and B12. One cup of cottage cheese contains 24 grams of muscle-building, belly-filling protein, making it a go-to recommendation for those who struggle to get enough protein in their diet. Cottage cheese also contains bacteria that can help bolster the immune system and improve digestion.
Parmesan cheese is low in lactose, making it easier to digest than most cow’s milk cheeses. It is high in protein, with 10 grams per ounce serving, and high in calcium, with 335 mg per ounce serving. While it is higher in sodium, it packs a punch of flavor, so most people aren’t consuming large amounts in one sitting anyway.
Swiss cheese contains a valuable probiotic called propionibactirium freudenriechii, which can help decrease inflammation, fight off infection, and even slow the aging process. It is also high in other key nutrients, including vitamin B12, calcium, and phosphorus. Swiss cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, both important for bone health.
In conclusion, the healthiest cheese for you depends on what is most important to you. If you want more protein in your diet, opt for cottage cheese and parmesan. If you’re concerned about sodium, choose mozzarella. And if you want to feel stronger, healthier, and possibly even live longer, reach for Swiss cheese.
– Rosemary Trout, program director of culinary arts and food science at Drexel University
– Jennifer Altman, PsyD, RD
– Kim Yawitz, RD and owner of Two Six Fitness in St. Louis, MO