http://www.thelittlepine.com/low-carb-flour-101-deeper-dive-baking-low-carb-without-wheat/If you’re eating low carb foods, the crazy low number of carbs in cheese is going to rock your world… Because you’ve already had to give up so many of your favorites: cakes, cookies, crusty baguettes, you name it!
Not to be a downer, but giving up the carbo-loaded goods can a bit of an adjustment. So, what’s a foodie gotta do to ease the pain?
The answer is cheese.
This protein-rich wonder isn’t exactly the picture of health food in many circles – however for those sticking to low carb meals, it deserves a second look.
But before you go out on a cheese bender, here’s everything you need to know about carbs in cheese and how it may or may not fit into your low carb routine – from portion size, calories, content, and more.
Use this table of contents to skip to the section you’re looking for:
Table of Contents:
- 1 The Full Breakdown of Carbs in Cheese – our 29 favorites
- 2 Generally Speaking, Nutritional Breakdown of Cheese
- 3 Highest Protein Cheese
- 4 What’s the Healthiest Cheese?
- 5 How to Eat More Cheese
- 6 Benefits to Eating Cheese:
- 7 Negatives of Eating Cheese
The Full Breakdown of Carbs in Cheese – our 29 favorites
Generally speaking, cheese is low in carbs.
Some cheeses contain a lower carb content than others…
Goat, brie, camembert, edam, or gruyere bring about 0.5 grams of carbs or less. And beyond that, there are plenty of others that contain just a single carb (or less) – Swiss, mozzarella, gouda, cheddar, or parmesan.
Here’s the full breakdown of Carbs in Cheese (based on 1 oz unless noted):
**FYI – the nutritional info and graphics throughout the article use information from the USDA Food Composition Databases, and have been rounded to the closest whole number.
- American Cheese: 2.36 grams
- Asiago Cheese: 1 grams
- Blue Cheese: 0.66 grams
- Brie Cheese: 0.13 grams
- Cheddar Cheese: 0.88 grams
- Colby Cheese: 0.73 grams
- Feta Cheese: 1.16 grams
- Fontina Cheese: 0.44 grams
- Gjetost Cheese: 12.09 grams
- Goats Cheese: 0 grams
- Gouda Cheese: 0.63 grams
- Gruyere Cheese: 0.1 grams
- Havarti Cheese: 0.79 grams
- Monterey Cheese: 0.19 grams
- Mozzarella Cheese: 0.62 grams
- Muenster Cheese: 0.32 grams
- Parmesan Cheese, Hard: 0.91 grams
- Provolone Cheese: 0.61 grams
- Ricotta Cheese (1 cup): 3.77 grams
- Romano Cheese: 1.03 grams
- Swiss Cheese: 0.41 grams
- Burrata Cheese: 0 grams
- Gorgonzola: 2 grams
- Manchego Cheese: 0 grams
- Roquefort: 0.57 grams
- Regular Cottage Cheese, Creamed (1 cup): 7.61 grams
- Nonfat Cottage Cheese, Creamed (1 cup): 9.66 grams
- Regular Cream Cheese (1 Tbsp): 0.8 grams
- Nonfat Cream Cheese (1 Tbsp): 1.38 grams
Generally Speaking, Nutritional Breakdown of Cheese
Cheese has more to offer than ooey, gooey goodness. It comes with a bevy of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and protein. Most commonly associated with fat and calcium, cheese comes in handy when it comes to keeping people sated and getting closer to their daily calcium requirements.
Let’s dive a little deeper into some of the key benefits you’ll get when you eat cheese:
Cheese is rich in a complete protein called casein.
Complete proteins supply our bodies with the all essential amino acids they can’t make on their own – which is why eating protein-rich foods (like cheese) is vital to keep everything functioning properly.
We all know protein is in charge of powering our muscles and keeping the body’s tissues, cells, and functions in tip-top shape…
…but different types of protein have different functions.
For example: cheese is derived from milk, which contains two types of protein: whey and casein. Whey is what separates from the cheese during the cheese making process, while casein remains.
While whey is digested by the body without delay, casein functions as a time-release protein, which means it feeds your cells amino acids over a longer period of time.
Now back to cheese… not all cheeses are created equal.
Parmesan, for example, contains nearly 11 grams of protein per one ounce serving, while gouda, fontina, Swiss, and provolone hover in the 7-7.5 gram range for the same amount.
At the lower end of the spectrum, regular cream cheese contains less than a gram per tablespoon.
As a point of reference, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) states that a healthy adult should consume .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (source).
Check out this nifty nutrition calculator to see your RDA for protein.
So, is cheese a protein?
A common misconception, many people are unsure whether cheese falls into the protein or fat category. Chalk it up to the lasting influence of the food pyramid, but cheese defies clear cut classification.
The discussion about cheese and fat has grown a little stale.
It’s full of misconceptions, conflicting information—it feels as though no one really has a clear cut picture as to whether or not cheese is healthy or if it’s something to be used sparingly like sugar or simple carbs…
So, let’s set the record straight—how much fat is in cheese, and is it something to be concerned about?
Nutritionally, cheese actually has a lot going for it. It’s rich in minerals, vitamins, and protein—as well as saturated fat. While saturated fat was originally linked to heart disease or diabetes—recent studies have shown it may not necessarily be a full-blown nutritional evil.
Many foods that contain fat contain some amount of saturated fat—it stems from animal sources like beef, eggs, and cheese. The so-called healthy fats are unsaturated fats, like avocado or olive oil.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, only about 10 percent of your caloric intake should come from saturated fats. The Heart Association says that number should be even less—say around 7 percent.
All that said, the amount of fat in cheese depends on the type of cheese you’re eating.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “Soft French cheeses tend to be higher in fat, so eat them prudently – healthier options include organic, natural cheeses such as Emmental (Swiss), Jarlsberg and true Parmesan.”
Consult with the chart posted below for a look at the fat content (and carb, cals, etc.) of many popular cheeses.
Vitamins and Minerals
Cheese actually contains a diverse set of nutrients—vitamins and minerals.
A solid lineup of vitamins; A and the hard-to-come-by vitamins: D and B12. On top of that, you’ll get calcium, zinc, and phosphorous. That said, one serving of cheese doesn’t fill your body with the RDA for any of these, but it will help along the way!
Though it seems like we’re putting a lot of focus on calcium, it’s important to point out, as many Americans aren’t getting enough of this bone-supportive mineral (source).
Calcium supports strong bones and teeth, and helps stave off osteoporosis—this stuff, most of us have been told countless times.
But, calcium also plays a critical role in the function of the heart, muscles and nervous system. Some studies suggest that a calcium-rich diet prevents illnesses like cancer or diabetes.
As a point of reference, the RDA for adults between 19-50 years is around 1,000 mg of calcium daily.
Good sources of calcium include ricotta cheese (257 mg per four-ounce serving—wow!), yogurt, milk, and a whole long list of cheeses. I mentioned ricotta, because, again, just wow—it certainly blows most calcium counts out of the water.
Lowest and Highest Carb Cheeses
Again, as a general rule, there are very few carbs in cheese.
However, cow’s milk is not a low carb milk option…
How many carbs in milk? Well, due to naturally occurring lactose, i.e. milk sugar, 1 cup of 1% milk is has 12 grams of carbs!
That said, cheese is low in carbs, thanks to the cheese making process in which lactose gets converted into lactic acid—the end result is a low carb food, high in fat and protein.
Here are the lowest carb cheeses:
- Cheeses like goat cheese or brie only have about 0-0.1 grams per ounce.
- Cheddar and blue cheese contain slightly more—0.7-0.9 grams per ounce.
- Parmesan contains about 0.9 grams
- Provolone and mozzarella contain about 0.6 grams per the same one-ounce serving.
Higher carb cheeses are:
- Gjetost—clocking in at a whopping 12.09 grams per ounce – (this one’s not making it on our low carb food list)
- Cottage cheese (7.6g for regular, 9.6 for low-fat)
For a full rundown—consult the chart below.
Something that should be noted about carbs in cheese is—specialty cheeses may be the exception to the low carb rule. In some cases, they are flavored with unusual elements like wine, fruit, or chocolate—so check the label if you’re concerned about the nutrition.
Highest Protein Cheese
High protein cheeses are generally the harder, sharper cheeses out there.
So, it should come as no surprise that the highest protein cheese honor goes to Parmesan—aka Parmigiano Reggiano. Though we generally think of Parmesan as sort of an afterthought thrown onto salads, soups, and low carb spaghetti—it’s actually a REALLY tasty snack!
Pair it with low carb crackers for a nutty, pleasantly pungent midday snack—you’ll get a whopping 10 grams of protein per ounce—pretty good, huh?
Runners-up include Ricotta, Romano, and Gruyere.
That said, milder cheeses like mozzarella and provolone contain about 7 grams of protein per ounce themselves—so the rule isn’t a hard and fast one.
What’s the Healthiest Cheese?
Is there a healthiest cheese? It depends on your definition of healthiest…
We can agree that the healthiest cheese on the market bears no resemblance to queso—but is soft and gooey better or worse than hard and sharp?
Fermented cheeses have all the vitamins found in cheese, plus healthy bacteria. Hard cheeses with a sharp bite tend to be more rich in protein and calcium—so, “healthiest cheese” is pretty darn subjective.
How to Eat More Cheese
Granted, most of us don’t need any help getting enough cheese in our diet—more often than not, the opposite is true…
But there are healthier ways for a low carb foodies to eat cheese – because (unfortunately) this food group can’t magically take out carbs in beans or grains.
So, load up on more protein, calcium, and nutrients, by sneaking in some cheese with these easy alternatives:
Put down the protein bar and swap it out for a slice of cheddar from time to time!
Cheese is at the heart of a ton of great low carb snacks, one that brings major nutritional bang to the table with minimal effort on your end. It could be as simple as having a slice of cheese with low carb fruits or putting together your own protein plate—cheese, a hard-boiled egg, low carb nuts with a few slices of low carb vegetables.
If you’re a meal prepper, try making these super easy low carb cheese crisps!
Cheese at Meal Time
For something more substantial, consider using shredded parmesan to bulk up a soup or boost the protein and calcium content of your favorite meat and low carb grains dish.
Double down and pair sliced turkey breast with Swiss cheese or cheddar, top a lettuce-wrapped burger with a melted piece of provolone and you won’t miss the bun.
It’s clear the options are endless—think low carb stuffed peppers, low carb pasta with cheese, and so on.
And oh boy, if you need inspiration, I’ve got some recipes for you to test out—fat head pizza (a popular low carb pizza), low carb chicken parmesan, and even a low carb breakfast casserole (recipes all coming soon!).
Benefits to Eating Cheese:
We’ve already looked at the vitamin and protein content, but there’s many more benefits to cheese we should mention… and alright, calcium is one of those benefits.
Butyric acid is a short-chain fatty acid found in butter, ghee, plant oils, and animal fats—as well as inside our colons and in…ahem, vomit.
But, before you write off cheese out of sheer disgust, butyric acid actually kind of rules. Flavor-wise, it’s responsible for that interesting pungency and subsequent sweet aftertaste, a la Parmesan.
In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a link between high cheese diets and increased levels of butyric acid were linked to faster metabolisms—which may be why our French counterparts seem to have the ability to eat all that cheese and stay impossibly trim.
According to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)—a fatty acid known as trans-palmitoleic acid may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
While this ingredient isn’t exactly as well-known as say calcium or protein (seriously, spell check isn’t even sure about it), it’s definitely worth eating.
This compound is found in milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter, and unlike butyric acid, the body doesn’t naturally produce trans-palmitoleic acid—it’s found almost exclusively in full-fat dairy (sorry, non-fat cottage cheese) and in meat.
The HSPH study found that people with higher circulating levels of trans-palmitoleic acid had a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as compared to participants with the lowest concentration of the substance.
Some Cheeses Have Probiotics
Because cheese is made by process of fermentation—those hungry cultures we mentioned above—many contain probiotics.
For the uninitiated, probiotics are good bacteria that work to maintain the body’s natural balance of gut flora.
You can find these tiny organisms in yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods. Now, most conventional cheeses do not contain probiotics—they’re killed off during the pasteurization process, which, unfortunately, kills off bacteria both good and bad.
Raw cheese contains probiotics, which can help aid digestion, boost immune health, and reduce the presence of allergies—but because the cheese hasn’t been pasteurized, there are some health risks associated with raw dairy (source).
That said, some fermented cheeses, such has cheddar, contain probiotics. Cheddar is made with lactic acid bacteria which causes the milk to ferment for a long period of time—creating those gut-friendly probiotics the body can’t get enough of.
We’ll spare you the rant again, but calcium is unequivocally a benefit to eating cheese. Check out this graph of high calcium foods.
Negatives of Eating Cheese
Alright, it’s not all low carb pizza paradise.
Cheese may be one of our favorite low carb shopping list items, but it’s worth pointing out that there are some downsides to gobbling up the dairy products like there’s no tomorrow:
While casein has a number of health benefits, many people cannot digest the milk protein—in some cases, it may cause inflammation or other stomach issues.
And, then there’s the issue of lactose…
Many people are lactose-intolerant—globally, we’re talking about 75% of the Earth’s population—meaning, their bodies don’t produce lactase, the enzyme required to digest dairy products. While cheese is relatively low in lactose, it’s still present in most cheeses.
Brie, cheddar, blue cheese, and provolone all are relatively low in lactose, while feta, American, Colby, and ricotta are on the higher end of the spectrum.
Allergies and Sensitivities
The one case where I’d suggest staying far, far away from dairy.
If sodium is your concern—certain cheeses simply won’t work for you.
Processed cheeses, blue cheese, feta, halloumi, and edam are high in sodium, so those with issues like hypertension should look toward low-sodium cheeses like Swiss, Monterey Jack, and parmesan.
High in Fat and Calories
Okay, we did just go over the many virtues of eating cheese—and fat and calories certainly has some pros and cons. But, for some people—these two factors may be something to watch out for.
Are Cheese Carbs Your Saving Grace?
Maybe cheese is still a hard sell for you—or maybe you’re guilty of overindulging from time to time. But, if you’re not lactose-intolerant or allergic—cheese can be the saving grace of a whole range of low carb meals.
Again, the carbs in mozzarella cheese versus the carbs in American cheese or the carbs in Swiss cheese—might look a little different, but it really can be a healthy part of any diet—whether you’re whipping up a low carb cheese sauce or a low carb lasagna.
With probiotics, a solid lineup of vitamins, protein, and of course, calcium, there’s no reason to skip out on cheese for the sake of your waistline. In fact, cheese provides that sustenance needed to keep you going no matter what the day throws your way.