Which Cheeses Are Lowest in Cholesterol and Fat?

Best and Worst Cheese Choices

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If you don't think a sandwich or pasta is complete without cheese, you're not alone. While flavorful, cheese is the top dietary source of saturated fat for Americans, according to the National Cancer Institute. But not all cheese is the same. When you are on a cholesterol-lowering diet, you can make a choice from those that are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. See how you can use cheese in your healthy diet without adding extra fat and calories.

Which Cheeses Are Lowest in Fat?

Commonly used types of cheese such as mozzarella, cheddar, Monterey Jack, blue cheese, provolone, and Swiss all contain similar amounts of saturated fat, from 3.7 to 5.7 grams per ounce. Mozzarella and feta are on the low end of the scale for saturated fat. Cheddar and Swiss cheese contain slightly higher amounts of fat. Think of these differences when deciding on which cheese to use on a sandwich.

Other types of cheese, such as part-skim ricotta cheese and cottage cheese, have even lower amounts of saturated fat per serving. One cup of cottage cheese contains 6 grams of saturated fat, while one cup of shredded cheddar cheese contains about 24 grams of saturated fat. If you were to select low-fat versions of these products, the saturated fat content would be cut almost in half.

Cheese

Saturated Fat
(grams per ounce)

Cholesterol
(mg per ounce)

Cream cheese

5.7

29

Muenster cheese

5.4

27

Cheddar cheese

5.3

28

Mexican cheese (queso chihuahua)

5.3

30

Blue cheese

5.3

21

Swiss cheese

5.2

26

American cheese (processed)

5.1

28

Provolone cheese

4.8

20

Swiss cheese (processed)

4.5

24

Parmesan cheese (grated)

4.4

24

Camembert cheese

4.3

20

American cheese food (processed)

4.3

28

Feta cheese

4.2

25

American cheese spread (processed)

3.8

16

Mozzarella, whole milk

3.7

22

Neufchatel cheese

3.6

21

Mozzarella, low moisture, part-skim

3.2

18

Ricotta, whole milk

2.4

14

Ricotta, part skim milk

1.4

9

Mozzarella cheese substitute

1.1

0

Parmesan cheese topping, fat-free

0.9

6

Cottage cheese, creamed

0.5

5

Cottage cheese, low-fat, 2 percent milkfat

0.4

3

Cottage cheese, low-fat, 1 percent milkfat

0.2

1

Cottage cheese, nonfat

0.0

2

American cheese, nonfat or fat-free

0.0

7

Best and Worst Cheeses for Cholesterol

Looking at the list, there are cheeses that are lower in cholesterol even though they are average for saturated fat. But the lowest choices are those made with low-fat or fat-free milk.

Low Cholesterol Cheese

  • Part-skim mozzarella cheese (18 mg cholesterol per ounce)
  • Low-fat (1 percent) cottage cheese (1 mg cholesterol per ounce or 8 mg per cup)
  • Low-fat cheddar or Colby cheese (6 mg cholesterol per ounce)
  • Fat-free cream cheese (1 mg cholesterol per tablespoon)

Cheese to Limit

  • Whole milk ricotta cheese (14 mg cholesterol per ounce or 125 mg cholesterol per cup)
  • Cheese with 25 to 27 mg cholesterol per ounce, including cheddar, Swiss, feta, Muenster, and American processed cheese

Helpful Tips for Adding Cheese to Your Low-Fat Diet

Fortunately, there are ways you can cut saturated fat and calorie content of the cheese that you add to food. Try these helpful tips for those on a cholesterol-lowering diet:

  • Cheese swap: Try substituting cottage cheese or ricotta for higher-fat cheese in recipes. You may discover that these work just as well.
  • Look for low-fat versions of your favorite cheeses. Check to see if a low-fat version of your favorite cheese is available. Many low-fat varieties taste the same and have a similar texture to their full-fat counterparts. However, you should always check the food labeling for fat content in order to make sure that you still not introducing too much fat into your diet.
  • Use a vegan cheese substitute. If you are watching your fat intake, try a cheese substitute made from plant products, such as soy. These vegan cheeses lack the saturated fats that full-fat dairy products contain.
  • Use smaller portions. If you don't want a substitute, you could reduce the amount of your favorite cheese in a dish. For instance, instead of placing three slices of Swiss cheese onto your sandwich, add just one slice. When adding shredded cheese, use a measuring cup or spoon instead of your fingers and eyeballing the amount. Look for thin pre-sliced cheeses (available from several food manufacturers) that allow you to enjoy a complete slice of cheese while reducing your fat intake.
  • Maximize flavor. Look for hard cheeses and "stinky cheeses" that are more flavorful. You can grate just a small bit of aged Parmesan or Asiago onto your pasta or crumble flavorful blue cheese on a salad to satisfy a cheese craving.

    A Word From Verywell

    You don't have to give up cheese entirely on a cholesterol-lowering or low-fat diet, but you will need to choose wisely and limit your portions. You may find yourself exploring the more pungent and flavorful cheeses to enjoy as a special treat less often, while your everyday choices will include low-fat versions.

    Sources:

    USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 28 Software v.3.7.1 2017-03-29. USDA. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/index

    Whitney EN, Rolfes SR. Understanding Nutrition. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning; 2016.

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