Which Cheeses Are Lowest in Cholesterol and Fat?

Close up of cheddar cheese on a table
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Cheese is a great source of both protein and calcium, but it also contains both cholesterol and saturated fat. In fact, it is the top dietary source of the latter for Americans, according to the National Cancer Institute. Cheese can be a part of a well-balanced, low-cholesterol diet, but which cheeses you choose—and how much you eat—matters.

Cheeses That 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 lower end of the saturated fat scale. Cheddar and Swiss cheese contain slightly higher amounts of fat.

These fat content differences are helpful when deciding on which cheese to use on a sandwich, in a salad, and while cooking food.

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

The cheeses with the lowest amounts of cholesterol are made with low-fat or fat-free milk.

Low-cholesterol cheeses include:

  • 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)

Cheeses to limit include:

  • 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

Adding Cheese to a Low-Cholesterol Diet

There are ways you can enjoy dishes containing cheese while cutting the overall saturated fat and calorie content. Try these helpful tips for those on a low-cholesterol diet:

  • Cheese swap: Try substituting cottage cheese or ricotta for higher-fat cheese in recipes. You may discover that these taste just as good.
  • 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 more fat than you've bargained for.
  • 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 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. Look for thin pre-sliced cheeses that allow you to enjoy a complete slice of cheese while reducing your fat intake.
  • Stop eyeballing. When adding shredded cheese, use a measuring cup or spoon instead of portioning cheese by hand.
  • 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 your favorite cheeses entirely on a cholesterol-lowering or low-fat diet, but you will need to choose wisely and limit your portions. You might use low-fat versions for everyday meals, saving the more pungent and flavorful cheeses as a special treat. Don’t forget to check nutrition labels before buying low-fat cheeses, as the fat and cholesterol amounts may vary between products and brands. 

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