You’ve probably heard the motto “everything in moderation.” This of course applies to all foods and (unfortunately) also to cheese. As a dietitian, member of a family who owned a cheese shop in New York City, and a true cheese lover, I know that sometimes you just can’t get enough of this much-loved dairy product. However, most cheeses are higher in saturated fat and sodium, which isn’t the best choice if you have high cholesterol. That said, if you’re concerned about your cholesterol, it doesn’t mean cheese shouldn’t be on your menu.
Many types of cheese tend to have more fat and cholesterol per ounce, such as parmesan or blue cheese. The good news is that these cheeses tend to be rich and very flavorful too, so you don’t need much to enjoy your filling! A grated or crumbled tablespoon of these highly flavorful cheeses is really all you need to up the “wow” factor of your dish. However, if you’re looking for a cheese to eat every day and enjoy in larger portions, especially if you have high cholesterol, here are six choices dieticians say are better options. After learning which cheeses are better options to eat if you have high cholesterol, you can find out which cheeses are healthier overall by also reading our guide to the best healthy cheeses.
“I always tell my clients of all ages that cheese is a great addition to the diet because it contains protein, which helps build muscle mass, and calcium and vitamin D help build and maintain bones throughout the lifespan” , explains Jim White, RDN, ACSM EX-Powner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios.
White’s go-to cheese is mozzarella, which is low in saturated fat, with just 3 grams of it. Best of all, mozzarella contains only 15 milligrams of cholesterol, which is extremely low compared to many other types of cheese.
Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LDa clinical dietitian at Cotton O’Neil Cardiac Rehab in Topeka, KS, and author of The nourished brainalso likes mozzarella, but prefers the fresh, semi-skimmed variety.
“This tasty cheese provides beneficial active cultures, such as Lactobacillus, which is good for gut health,” says Mussatto. “[It] also helps reduce inflammation, which is ideal for blood vessel and heart health.”
Mussatto adds that she loves her mozzarella in a caprese salad and also in a spinach cheese frittata.
“Cottage cheese can be an excellent choice for cardiovascular health because it’s high in protein and lower in fat,” explains Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD, owner of The Mindful Gut, LLC.
Sauceda also recommends choosing cultured cottage cheese to benefit from live, active cultures for your gut microbiome, which research suggests is linked to heart health.
Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN, FAND, owner of Leslie Bonci’s Active Eating Advice, recommends feta cheese with “only 25 milligrams of cholesterol per ounce and less saturated fat (3 grams) compared to most cheeses.” Plus, Bonci says feta’s rich flavor means a little can go a long way; you can generally use less of it in your dishes, but still have a fantastic taste to enjoy. Brighten up salads with crumbled feta, combine with fruit or add some products to the plate by mixing feta with fresh cherry tomatoes.
Another cheese Bonci recommends is part-skim ricotta because it provides “19 milligrams of cholesterol per 1/4 cup and 3.5 grams of saturated fat, making it less than other cheeses.” Bonci explains that part-skim ricotta has a creamy mouthfeel, making it a great addition to pasta in place of whipped cream. Because ricotta is spreadable, it can also be used in celery sticks in place of cream cheese to increase protein and reduce total fat and saturated fat.
A few ways Bonci likes to use ricotta include on a ricotta board topped with veggies and olives or whipped with berries for a deliciously creamy dessert that’s lower in saturated fat compared to ice cream.
“People with high cholesterol should try to lower their saturated fat intake, and you can do that by choosing low-fat cheeses like part-skim mozzarella and 2% cheddar and colby jack varieties,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, the author of the sports nutrition book and member of our Medical Expert Board.
Most wire cheeses contain 70-80 calories and only about 5 grams of total fat (3 grams saturated) per serving, making them an excellent choice. Plus, string cheese is individually wrapped so you can eat the right serving of cheese without worrying about overdoing it.