“Cheese is good for your health! It’s rich in calcium and vitamin B12.” This is a common notion among society.
It’s true, however, they’ve missed a critical point. It’s also very high in protein! And the protein in cheese is definitely something that you don’t want to overlook.
The cheese protein amount is higher than you think. Cheeses are good sources of protein, alongside legumes, grains, vegetables, and soy.
And, here’s another fact.
The cheeses you should reach for are healthy cheeses, which are high in protein and low in fat.
In this article, we’ve listed 6 of the healthiest cheeses that make an excellent addition to your diet. Read on to find out.
Is Cheese a Good Source of Protein?
Most of us would agree that cheese is a good source of calcium because it’s made of milk. This raises the question, “Does cheese have protein?”
Let’s see what the nutritional data tells us about protein in cottage cheese.
A cup of cottage cheese (145g, 5oz) offers:
- Calories: 104
- Protein: 15g
- Fat: 0.4g
- Carbs: 9.7g
- Fiber: 0g
- Calcium: 125mg
- Sodium: 539mg
That’s a lot of cheese protein!
With cottage cheese being high in protein, it’s also worth noting that not all cheeses have the same nutritional content.
The protein in cheese can be drastically different, depending on the type of cheese.
Some cheeses are high in fat and calories, which you need to avoid if you’re on a health transformation journey.
Is cheese a fat or protein?
“Is cheese protein? Or is it fat?”
It’s actually both.
It’s impossible to categorize cheese as one nutrient because it contains many nutrients such as fat, protein, vitamin B12, and other vitamins and minerals at different ratios.
Which Cheese Is High in Protein?
While cheese is widely known for its calcium, the protein in cheese is often underappreciated.
What proteins do is that they build, strengthen, and repair cells such as antibodies, enzymes, casein, and collagen.
What’s more, cheese protein is derived from milk protein, which is a complete protein — that contains all 9 essential amino acids.
This list of cheeses was carefully selected based on the cheese protein amount, calories, calcium, sodium, and other nutrients — making them the healthiest cheeses on the market.
1. Swiss cheese
This semi-hard group of cheese originated in Switzerland and has a mild, sweet, and nutty taste.
Its distinctive holes (eyes) were made by a trio of bacteria mixed with cow’s milk. These bacteria are what make swiss cheeses taste so good.
One ounce (28g) of swiss cheese contains:
- Calories: 111
- Protein: 7.64g
- Fat: 8.79g (which includes 5.17g of saturated fat)
- Carbs: 0.4g
- Sugar: 0g
- Calcium: 252mg
- Cholesterol: 26.4mg
- Sodium: 53mg
If you’re on a low sodium diet, swiss cheese is the best choice. It has low sodium content, yet is loaded with cheese protein and calcium.
Even better, research published in the Journal of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition shows that swiss cheese contains peptides that can inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) — compounds that may cause blood pressure and other health problems.
Summary: Swiss cheese has the lowest sodium and highest protein in cheese per ounce. It also contains ACE inhibitors that may help in lowering blood pressure.
A highly-prized Italian food made from cow’s milk (initially made from buffalo’s milk). It is a semi-soft, white cheese. Thanks to its low-calorie, low-fat, low-sodium content, and its delicious milky flavor, mozzarella tops the American’s favorite cheese list.
Each ounce of mozzarella (28g) cheese contains:
- Calories: 83.6
- Protein: 6.73g
- Fat: 5.61g (which includes 3.2g of saturated fat)
- Carbohydrates: 1.58g
- Sugar: 0.54g
- Calcium: 198mg
- Cholesterol: 18.1mg
- Sodium: 189mg
Mozzarella is one of the dairy products that contain probiotics — a type of bacteria (also known as live cultures) that promote gut health.
One surprising fact about mozzarella is its high-phosphorus content. An ounce alone contains 155mg of phosphorus (15.5% of the daily value).
Phosphorus is essential in bone and teeth formation and it makes protein for cell growth, maintenance, and repair.
Summary: Mozzarella is one of the healthiest cheeses (and the most popular) that has a high amount of protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Thankfully, it also has low calories and fat.
3. Blue cheese
Have you seen cheeses with blue or grey veins that instantly strike your nose? That’s a type of blue cheese; a cheese that either you love or hate.
Blue cheese is a generic term used for cheeses ripened with a mold called Penicillium roqueforti — this is what makes the distinct dark-colored vein formation.
One ounce (28g) of blue cheese contains:
- Calories: 100
- Protein: 6.07g
- Fat: 8.15g (which includes 5.29g of saturated fat)
- Carbs: 0.67g
- Sugar: 0.14g
- Calcium: 150mg
- Cholesterol: 21.3mg
- Sodium: 325mg
Besides being low in calories and fat, blue cheese is high in protein and calcium, and some studies also claim that it may have anti-inflammatory properties.
According to a group of doctors at a Cambridge-based biotech company, they found that blue cheeses may have anti-inflammatory properties and may even be more helpful in improving cardiovascular health.
Overall it’s a great healthy cheese!
Summary: Despite their strong odor and flavor, blue cheeses are low in fat and high in protein. It may also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help improve your cardiovascular health.
4. Goat cheese
Goat cheese, also known as chèvre (pronounced as shev-ruh), refers to any cheese made from goat’s milk. It is manufactured into many shapes: cone, wheel, disc, brie-like, and many textures from creamy to semi-firm.
One ounce (28g) of soft goat cheese contains:
- Calories: 74.8
- Protein: 5.25g
- Fat: 6g (which includes 4.13g of saturated fat)
- Carbs: 0g
- Sugar: 0g
- Calcium: 39.7mg
- Cholesterol: 13mg
- Sodium: 130mg
According to research, goat’s milk is considered a functional food for three reasons:
- It has as many nutrients similar to human milk and less alpha-casein-1, which is responsible for some allergies in cow’s milk.
- It contains more essential fatty acids (linoleic and arachidonic) that give quick sources of energy without being stored as fat.
- It decreases the overall cholesterol level.
Summary: Goat cheese is high in protein, low in sodium, low in cholesterol, and low in saturated fat. It’s similar to human milk, a quick source of energy, and reduces overall cholesterol levels.
5. Feta cheese
Feta, which means ‘slice’ in Greek (φέτα), is a soft white cheese that originated from Greece. It is typically made from sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk.
Sheep’s feta usually tastes sharp and tangy, while goat’s feta is milder.
In 2005, the Commission of the European Communities classified feta cheese as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for Greece — meaning it can only be called a ‘feta’ cheese if it’s made in Greece.
One ounce of feta cheese contains:
- Calories: 15.7
- Protein: 4.03g
- Fat: 6.09g (which includes 3.77g of saturated fat)
- Carbs: 1.1g
- Sugar: 0g
- Calcium: 140mg
- Cholesterol: 25.2mg
- Sodium: 323mg
By far, feta contains the least calories per ounce.
Even better, feta’s nutritional profile is impressive; it is packed with phosphorus, vitamin Bs, selenium, zinc, vitamin A and K, folate, iron, magnesium, and more.
Fun fact about feta: 70% of cheese consumed in Greece is feta cheese.
6. Cottage cheese
One of the fresh cheeses that have been a favorite among athletes and dieters for good reason.
Despite the low cottage cheese protein amount, it’s also relatively low in fat and calories, high in calcium, B vitamins, and vitamin A.
One ounce (28g) of cottage cheese contains:
- Calories: 40
- Protein: 2.94g
- Fat: 2.74g (which includes 1.45g of saturated fat)
- Carbs: 0.9g
- Sugar: 0.7g
- Calcium: 21.8mg
- Cholesterol: 8.7mg
- Sodium: 96mg
The conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in cottage cheese may help to manage blood pressure and obesity.
A study on dietary habits has shown that cottage cheese, along with other whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and fish, helped 60 participants to lose an average of 3kg of weight.
Summary: Although the protein in cottage cheese is lower than in others, its low-fat, low-calorie characteristic is ideal for people who want to lose weight and manage their blood pressure.
What Is the Healthiest Cheese?
The healthiest cheese is the one that suits your nutritional needs.
For the vast majority of people, high protein and low-fat cheeses are good enough.
People who are on specialized diets such as a prediabetes diet, low-sodium, low-cholesterol, low-sugar, or low-lactose diets may have different needs.
If you’re on a low-cholesterol diet, low-fat cheeses such as cottage cheese, mozzarella, and goat cheese can help in managing your cholesterol levels.
If you’re on a low-lactose diet, blue cheeses and swiss cheeses are your best choices.
As a general rule of thumb, stay out of pre-shredded, pre-grated, and processed cheeses as they may contain additives and preservatives.
The Bottom Line
Cheeses can be your friends or your enemies. They can either make or break your health goals.
Cheeses that are low in fat and high in good nutrients are your friends. They may not taste as good as their counterparts but trust us, your body will be grateful later.
Nothing tastes as good as health and longevity feel.— Eric Edmeades, trainer of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest
How do you know which protein in cheese is your friend?
You can take these three simple steps to start becoming a mindful consumer:
- Know your health goals. Are you on a low-sodium diet or a low-cholesterol diet?
- Identify which nutrient you should take more and take less.
- Read the food ingredients and labels as if you’re reading your credit card statement.
When you know what your body truly needs and know what you’re really eating, you’re doing yourself, your body, and our planet a huge favor.