Can Cheese Be Part of a Healthy Diet?

— Written By Lethia Lee and last updated by Patricia Burch

Question: I’ve seen a lot of conflicting information on whether cheese can be part of a HEALTHY DIET. Overall is cheese healthy?

Answer: This is a great question, since a lot has changed over the years in terms of what we know about cheese and the nutrients it provides. My short answer is that you can absolutely eat cheese regular as part of a healthy diet; but, (you knew there was a “but “didn’t you) you shouldn’t treat it like a vegetable. You’ve got to choose the kind of cheese you’re eating wisely and pay serious attention to portion control. Here is a little basic background info that will help you do just that.

Facts on fat and cholesterol: The question “Is cheese healthy”, inevitably makes you think it can’t be because it contains lots of fat and cholesterol. But while we used to think that all high-fat foods like cheese were associated with conditions like obesity and heart disease. Science has since shown fats are far from created equal.

How to control portions: Be picky. Cheese is still a fatty, high calorie food, so you shouldn’t start eating it like it’s broccoli. A healthy portion is one ounce, which equals about one slice, two small cubes, or two tablespoons, depending on the cheese.

The good news: You already know that you need plenty of protein and the protein-fat combo in cheese makes it super satiating, so you should fill up fast if you’re eating it alongside other  healthy foods like fruits and veggies. In other words, a little bit goes a long way in terms of including it in a healthy, satisfying meal.

Choose cheese with sharp, bold flavor, like extra sharp cheddar, salty feta, or blue cheese. They provide a lot of flavor in small amounts when you sprinkle them on a salad. Stock your cheese plate with vegetables, nuts, and seeds for balance; choose the least processed cheeses. And opt for organic and grass-fed when possible, to avoid hormones given to dairy cows and pesticides in feed.

Most individuals in the United States would benefit by increasing dairy intake in fat-free or low-fat forms. Whether from milk including lactose-free milk or Yogurt & Cheese or from fortified soy beverages. Some sweetened milk and yogurt products may be included in healthy eating patterns as long as the total amount of added sugars consumed does not exceed the limit for added sugars, and the eating pattern does not exceed calorie limits. Because most cheese contains more sodium and saturated fats, and less potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin D than milk or yogurt. Increased intake of dairy products would be most beneficial if more fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt were selected rather than cheese. Strategies for choosing dairy products in nutrient-dense forms include choosing lower fat versions of milk, yogurt, and cheese in place of whole milk products and regular cheese.