9 Healthiest Cheeses to Eat, According to a Dietitian

9 Healthiest Cheeses to Eat, According to a Dietitian


Cheese is often an important part of diets worldwide. Though cheese sometimes gets a bad rap in the nutrition world due to its high calorie and fat content, most cheeses are nutritious and may benefit your health in several ways. Research shows that people who eat cheese are less likely to develop heart disease and stroke and are less likely to die from heart-related illnesses compared to those who don’t.

There are hundreds of cheeses, including those made with cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and sheep’s milk. From soft cheeses like ricotta to hard cheeses like parmesan, there’s a cheese for nearly every flavor, texture, and ingredient preference.

Here are nine of the healthiest types of cheese, plus tips for enjoying cheese as part of a healthy diet.

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Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a 1-ounce serving of feta cheese:

  • Calories: 75.1
  • Protein: 4.03 grams (g)
  • Fat: 6.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Calcium: 140 milligrams (mg), or 11% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • B12: 0.479 micrograms (mcg), or 20% of the DV
  • Sodium: 323 mg

Feta cheese is a tangy, soft cheese traditionally made from goat’s or sheep’s milk. This salty, slightly acidic cheese is a staple in Mediterranean diets and is featured in nutritious recipes like Greek salad and pasta dishes.

Feta is high in several nutrients, including calcium and B12, a B vitamin essential for neurological (brain and nervous system) function, red blood cell production, metabolism, and DNA synthesis.

Because feta is so flavorful, a little goes a long way. Try adding a bit of feta to salads and grain bowls or sprinkling feta on top of soups and pasta to add a creamy texture and tangy flavor.

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A 1-ounce serving of hard parmesan cheese provides:

  • Calories: 111
  • Protein: 10.1 g
  • Fat: 7.09 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.9g
  • Calcium: 335 mg, or 26% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Selenium: 6.38 mcg, or 11% of the DV
  • B12: 0.34 mcg, or 14% of the DV
  • Sodium: 335 mg
  • Zinc: 1.15 mg or 10% of the DV

Parmesan, or Parmigiano Reggiano, is a beloved hard Italian cheese commonly enjoyed in pasta dishes and salads. It has a sharp, salty, complex flavor and is naturally low in lactose, a type of sugar found in milk products.

Up to 75% of the world’s population is intolerant to lactose and may experience symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, and gas after consuming lactose-rich foods and drinks. Most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate parmesan, as it contains less than 10 mg of lactose per kilogram (kg). Foods containing less than 10 mg/kg of lactose can be labeled lactose-free and are unlikely to cause symptoms in people with lactose intolerance.

In addition to being low in lactose, parmesan is high in protein and vitamins and minerals like calcium, selenium, and B12. A 1-ounce serving covers over 25% of your daily needs for calcium, a mineral that provides structure to the bones and teeth and is necessary for critical processes such as nerve and muscle function and hormone secretion.

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Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a 1-cup serving of 2% cottage cheese:

  • Calories: 180
  • Protein: 24.2 g 
  • Fat: 5.06 g
  • Carbohydrates: 9.48 g
  • Calcium: 227 mg, or 17% of the DV
  • B12: 0.92 mcg, or 38% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 154 mcg, or 17% of the DV
  • Selenium: 32.1 mcg, or 58% of the DV
  • Sodium: 706 mg

Cottage cheese is a fresh, soft cheese that tastes much milder than other cheeses. Commonly enjoyed as a breakfast or snack option, cottage cheese pairs well with sweet and savory ingredients such as berries and herbs.

Cottage cheese is an excellent source of highly absorbable protein, providing over 24 g of protein per cup. Protein slows digestion and stimulates the release of satiety hormones, helping you feel full after eating. Plus, adding protein-rich foods to your meals and snacks can help support healthy blood sugar regulation by slowing glucose absorption into the bloodstream.

Cottage cheese is also high in several vitamins and minerals, such as selenium, a mineral essential for thyroid function and a powerful antioxidant. One cup of 2% cottage cheese covers over 50% of your daily needs for this critical nutrient.

Though cottage cheese is nutritious, it is relatively high in sodium. If you’re following a low-sodium diet, aim for smaller portions or choose reduced-sodium cottage cheese products.

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A 1-ounce serving of cheddar cheese provides:

  • Calories: 115
  • Protein: 6.78 g 
  • Fat: 9.46 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.59 g
  • Calcium: 199 mg, or 15% of the DV
  • B12: 0.246 mcg, or 10% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 278 mcg, or 31% of the DV
  • Selenium: 7.92 mcg, or 14% of the DV
  • Zinc: 1.05 mg, or 10% of the DV
  • Sodium: 180 mg

Cheddar is a popular type of cheese that comes in many flavors, such as mild, sharp, and extra-sharp. Cheddar, especially aged cheddar, is low in lactose and is usually well-tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.

In addition to being low in lactose, cheddar is packed with vitamins and minerals, like calcium, B12, selenium, zinc, and vitamin A. Vitamin A is a nutrient that’s needed for proper growth and development, cellular communication, immune function, and other critical processes in the body.

Cheddar is also high in protein and provides essential amino acids like leucine, which plays an important role in protein synthesis and muscle repair. Studies show that eating cheddar can help increase blood levels of amino acids like leucine and promote muscle growth.

Try adding cheddar to salads and sandwiches or pairing cheddar with fresh fruit and nuts for a filling snack.

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A half-cup serving of whole milk ricotta cheese provides:

  • Calories: 204
  • Protein: 10.1 g
  • Fat: 14.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 8.85 g
  • Calcium: 289 mg, or 15% of the DV
  • B12: 1.01 mcg, or 42% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 164 mcg, or 18% of the DV
  • Selenium: 7.1 mcg, or 13% of the DV
  • Sodium: 135 mg

Ricotta cheese is a creamy Italian dairy product popular in Mediterranean diets. It has a high moisture content and is very mild in taste, so it can be used in both sweet and savory recipes, such as cheesecake and lasagna.

Ricotta is available in several fat percentages, including whole milk and skim. It can suit a variety of dietary preferences. For example, whole milk ricotta can be used to make keto-friendly desserts, like cheesecakes, while low-fat ricotta can add a rich and creamy flavor to soups and pastas without adding additional fat.

It’s a rich source of several nutrients but is particularly high in B12, vitamin A, and calcium. It’s also low in sodium and can add flavor to dishes by those on salt-restricted diets.

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Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a 1-ounce serving of manchego cheese:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 5.99 g
  • Fat: 10 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.4 g
  • Calcium: 250 mg, or 19% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 300 mcg, or 33% of the DV
  • Sodium: 170 mg

Manchego is an aged cheese made in the La Macha region of Spain from milk from a specific type of sheep called Manchega sheep. Because it’s made with sheep’s milk and is naturally low in lactose, it can be used as an alternative by people who experience digestive issues after eating cow’s milk-based products.

Manchego cheese has a crumbly texture and a tangy, slightly sweet flavor that intensifies as the cheese ages. It’s used in traditional Spanish dishes like pisto, a vegetable-based stew-like dish topped with shaved manchego.

Manchego is a good source of protein and is high in calcium. A diet high in calcium and protein-rich foods, like manchego, has been shown to reduce the the risk of bone-related conditions such as low bone mineral density and fractures.

It’s also rich in vitamin A and relatively low in sodium, making it an all-around healthy choice.

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A 1-ounce serving of blue cheese provides:

  • Calories: 100
  • Protein: 6.07 g
  • Fat: 8.14 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.6 g
  • Calcium: 150 mg, or 12% of the DV
  • B12: 0.346 mcg, or 14% of the DV
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 0.49 mg, or 10% of the DV
  • Sodium: 326 mg

Blue cheese is a name for a group of cheeses made with cultures of a mold called Penicillium Roquefort. Blue cheeses, like Roquefort, Gorgonzola, and Stilton, have a characteristic sharp and salty taste and range in texture from soft and creamy to crumbly.

Blue cheeses are a good source of minerals like calcium and several B vitamins, including B12 and B5, a vitamin needed for the production of coenzymes, neurotransmitters, and cholesterol that also helps the body obtain energy from food.

Blue cheese is delicious crumbled on salads and can be added to dishes like pasta, sandwiches, and vegetable recipes. However, its powerful flavor can easily overwhelm a dish if too much is used.

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A 1-ounce serving of mozzarella provides:

  • Calories: 84.8
  • Protein: 6.29 g
  • Fat: 6.26 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.6 g
  • Calcium: 143 mg, or 11% of the DV
  • B12: 0.646 mcg, or 27% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 164 mcg, or 18% of the DV
  • Selenium: 4.82 mcg, or 9% of the DV
  • Sodium: 138 mg

Mozzarella is an Italian cheese commonly found in dishes like lasagna, caprese salad, and pizza. It has a mild taste and a highly elastic texture when melted.

This popular cheese is a rich source of vitamin B12 and also provides smaller amounts of vitamin A and selenium. It’s lower in sodium than other cheeses, making it a good choice for cheese lovers watching their salt intake.

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Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a 1-ounce serving of soft goat cheese:

  • Calories: 74.8
  • Protein: 5.24 grams (g)
  • Fat: 5.98 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0 g
  • Copper: 0.208 mg, or 23% of the DV
  • Riboflavin (B2): 0.108 mg, or 8% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 81.6 mcg, or 9% of the DV
  • Sodium: 130 mg

Goat cheese, also known as chèvre, is a mild-tasting cheese made from goat’s milk. It’s a good source of protein and contains zero carbs, making it a popular ingredient amongst those following low-carb diets. Since it’s made with goat’s milk, it’s safe for people sensitive or intolerant to cow’s milk products.

Goat cheese is lower in calcium compared to other cheeses, but it’s high in other essential nutrients like copper, which is needed for red blood cell formation, growth and development, energy production, iron metabolism, and neurotransmitter synthesis. It’s also high in riboflavin, a B vitamin that plays an essential role in energy production and functions as an antioxidant in the body.

Goat cheese is delicious in sweet and savory recipes and can add a creamy texture to soups, salads, and desserts like cakes and mousses.

Your calorie and macronutrient needs vary depending on factors like activity levels, body size, and health goals. Cheeses are generally high in calories and fat, so it’s usually recommended to consume cheese in moderation.

Though your body needs fat to function and fat isn’t inherently bad for your health, some people, such as those with familial hypercholesterolemia, are more sensitive to high-fat, high-cholesterol foods like cheese. For people with high cholesterol, it’s best to limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol, like cheese, to reach and maintain healthy blood lipid levels and prevent the development of heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends that most people stick to about three servings of cheese per day, which equates to 3 ounces (oz) of cheese, and choose lower-fat cheeses over full-fat cheeses when possible. However, unless you’re very sensitive to cholesterol-rich foods, you still enjoy small portions of full-fat cheeses, like cheddar and ricotta, in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Cheese is a nutrient-dense dairy product that’s a staple in many diets. There are hundreds of types of cheese, most of which are packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals.

If you’re looking for an easy way to hit your daily needs for essential nutrients like protein, calcium, and B12, consider adding some of the cheeses listed above to your diet.

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