Be smart with your cheese to help your heart.
You’re in your doctor’s office discussing your recent blood work results, when your doctor tells you that your cholesterol is a little high. To help, she suggests that you make some heart-healthy lifestyle changes to lower your cholesterol, including cutting down on high-fat dairy and meat. Your heart sinks and you think: Ugh, does that mean my beloved cheese?!
The not-so-good news: Cheese does tend to be high in saturated fat—the kind that raises cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease—so it’s important to limit your intake (especially after doctor’s orders).
The good news: There are ways to be healthier about eating cheese, so you can still enjoy some ooey-gooey dairy without the guilt.
1. Switch to reduced-fat versions of your fave cheeses.
If reduced-fat cheeses haven’t satisfied your taste buds in the past, it may be worth giving them another try. Brands are getting savvier at making delicious, lower-fat cheese. Test out different varieties and who knows, you may come across one that you like.
Cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, and cream cheese tend to have a higher fat count than other cheeses. If you eat those cheeses regularly, it may be wise to swap them out for a reduced-fat version.
2. Use smaller portions of regular cheese.
A little bit of cheese can go a long way. Top your eats with a light sprinkle of your favorite cheese (shredded), instead of using a whole slice or cube.
Try high-flavor cheeses like Parmesan or Romano to get more bang for your little pinch.
3. Try naturally lower-fat cheeses.
Compared to cheddar or swiss, which have about 9 grams of total fat, and 5 grams of saturated fat per 1 ounce serving, these yummy cheeses have about 30 percent less total fat, and 20 percent less saturated fat:
Mozzarella. Sprinkle this gooey Italian cheese on a frittata, pasta, or enchilada.
Feta. This Greek cheese is packed with flavor and is great with salad, eggs, or wrap sandwiches.
Neufchatel. Spread this creamy cheese on a whole wheat bagel or cracker.
However you choose to eat your cheese, the American Heart Association recommends that you limit calories from saturated fat to less than 6 percent of your total daily calories. So if you eat 2,000 calories per day, no more than 120 of those calories should come from saturated fat. That comes to about 13 grams of saturated fat per day.
Keep tabs on your saturated fat intake by looking at the nutrition labels on your food. (Be sure to watch your trans fat intake as well.)
Mozzarella. USDA Food Database. (Accessed on June 26, 2019 at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/01026)
Feta. USDA Food Database. (Accessed on June 26, 2019 at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/01019)
Neufchatel. USDA Food Database. (Accessed on June 26, 2019 at https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/01031)
Saturated Fats. American Heart Association. (Accessed on June 26, 2019 at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats)
Low-Fat Cheeses. Science Direct. (Accessed on June 26, 2019 at https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/low-fat-cheeses)