What are the healthy cheeses? Most of us love cheese. Cheese provides calcium and protein and can certainly be part of a healthy diet. But which ones are the healthiest for us?
Foods play a powerful role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease—and slowing the progression of existing heart disease. If you’ve been watching what you eat to boost your heart health or reduce your waistline, you might be surprised to hear that you can incorporate cheese into a heart-healthy diet.
The key lies in choosing the best cheeses for heart health, such as reduced-fat cheeses, and avoiding processed cheese (the worst cheese for heart health).
Let this list help guide your cheese choices for heart health. Elizabeth Hanes, RN provides this analysis.
Best: Reduced-Sodium Feta or Goat Cheese
Fresh, unripened cheeses like feta and goat cheese contain less fat than their ripened counterparts, which make them an acceptable choice when consuming a heart-healthy diet. But you should consider other nutritional factors besides fat content in cheese.
Unripened cheeses often contain far more sodium than recommended for heart health, so choose low-sodium versions of these otherwise heart-healthy cheeses. And if your favorite fresh cheese also comes in a reduced-fat style, opt for that one.
Best: Fat-Free or Reduced-Fat Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese packs a calcium wallop, along with B vitamins and magnesium—all of which are important nutrients for heart health. That said, choose the fat-free or reduced-fat versions of cottage cheese to avoid consuming excess dietary fat. And read the label to find out how much sodium each serving contains. The amount of salt in cottage cheese can vary widely between brands. Choose the cottage cheese with the least amount of fat and sodium (and the shortest ingredient list) for optimum health benefits.
Best: Reduced-Fat Ricotta
Mild ricotta cheese not only tastes great, but it contains nearly one-third of your daily protein requirement in a half-cup serving. However, traditional ricotta usually is loaded with saturated fat, so choose low-fat (and low-sodium) versions of ricotta when you feel like enjoying this mild, soft cheese.
Read labels because the percentage of fat and total sodium number can vary by brand. By substituting reduced-fat, lower-sodium ricotta for the full-fat version in recipes, you can indulge without feeling guilty that you’ve busted your eating plan.
Best: Fresh, Part-Skim Mozzarella
Another lovely, heart-healthy cheese you can indulge in regularly is fresh, part-skim mozzarella. This mild cheese is perfect for snacking on because it’s generally lower in sodium and saturated fat than other cheese choices.
As a bonus, fresh mozzarella usually contains beneficial active cultures like Lactobacillus, which promote gut health. Some research suggests that good gut health can reduce overall body inflammation, which benefits your blood vessels and heart.
Best: Reduced-Fat Cheddar
Although unripened cheeses make the best choice for heart health, you can consume harder, ripened cheeses like cheddar and Monterey jack, too, as long as you choose reduced-fat versions over their full-fat cousins.
Ripened cheeses contain more fat than unripened varieties, and you should read labels carefully because the amount of fat and sodium can vary between brands and cheese varieties. Remember that a serving size for any ripened cheese is one ounce (or roughly a one-inch cube), so indulge mindfully.
• American Cheese Slices
• Pasteurized Process Cheese Spread
Click here to read more about healthy cheeses.