The Facts About Cheese

Think a healthy diet means giving up cheese? Think again. While it’s not ideal to gorge on, a little bit truly goes a long way. Here are the facts about cheddar, gouda, ricotta and more.

On average, a person typically eats about 35 pounds of cheese per year. One serving of cheese is about one ounce, about the size of a pair of dice. Typically, one serving of cheese contains 70 calories, six grams of fat and 111 mg of sodium.

Eating just one serving is easier said than done and there’s a reason it’s hard to step away from the cheese platter at a buffet or party. A study by the University of Michigan found that dairy products contain a chemical called casein, which actually triggers the brain’s opioid receptors, meaning it can be hard to stop noshing on your favorite cheese.

Cheese contains higher-than-optimal levels of fat, saturated fat and sodium, but it’s also packed with protein and calcium. Calcium is a nutrient many people are lacking, while protein helps build strong muscles and can help give the body energy. If you want protein, Parmesan has the highest levels and it’s important to keep in mind that there are fat-free and low-fat options available for the indulgent tooth.

Here’s the nutritional data behind the most popular cheeses. The serving size for the portions below are one ounce, which is one serving, so calculate accordingly:

  • Cheddar: 113 calories, 9 grams total fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 174mg sodium, 0 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams protein, 202mg calcium
  • American: 50 calories, 2 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 400mg sodium, 1 gram carbohydrate, 7 grams protein, 191 mg calcium
  • Mozzarella (part-skim milk): 71 calories, 4 grams total fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 173mg sodium, 1 gram carbohydrate, 7 grams protein, 219mg calcium
  • Swiss: 106 calories, 8 grams total fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 54mg sodium, 2 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 221mg calcium
  • Feta: 74 calories, 6 grams total fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 312 grams sodium, 1 gram carbohydrate, 4 grams protein, 138mg calcium
  • Muenster: 103 calories, 8 grams total fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 176mg sodium, 0 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams protein, 201mg calcium

For those with lactose intolerance, it is important to note that you can have cheese as well. Once a cheese has aged beyond three months, it loses most of its lactose. Also, cheeses that are more processed tend to have more lactose.

If you’re cooking with cheese that needs to be melted, try using block cheese instead of shredded cheese. Shredded cheese doesn’t melt as well because it has potato starch added to prevent it from sticking to the package. The best cheeses to use for cooking purposes include Mozzarella, Cheddar and Swiss.

Want some healthy, cheesy recipes? Try these:

Photo credit: Brian Boucheron

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