Variety of cheeses on serving board

Can People With Diabetes Eat Cheese?

Love cheese, but worried about what it might do to your blood sugar levels? Then I have good news for you. You can eat cheese with diabetes, but not all cheese is created equal. 

Read on to discover which cheeses are best for blood sugar management and what serving size is right for you.

Variety of cheeses on serving board

Cheese is a high-protein, high-fat food that contains little to no carbohydrates. It is considered a low glycemic index (GI) food, meaning that has little impact on blood sugar. However, not all cheese is the same when it comes to nutritional value.

Some types of cheese are higher in carbohydrates than others. For example, cheddar cheese has about 1 gram of carbohydrates per ounce, while mozzarella cheese has about 0.5 grams of carbohydrates per ounce. If you are watching your carbohydrate intake, the amount of carbohydrate in cheese is still minimal, however, it can add up if you are consuming large qualities of cheese.

Even though cheese is a low-carb food, it can still have an impact on blood sugar. Research has found a link between diets high in saturated fat and insulin resistance. Since cheese can be high in saturated fat, it is important to watch your total daily intake to prevent consuming excessive saturated fat throughout the day. 

Are there benefits of eating cheese for people with diabetes?

Woman eating cheese
  • Cheese is a good source of protein
  • Protein can help to keep you feeling full, which can help to control your blood sugar levels
  • Cheese is a good source of calcium
  • Calcium is important for bone health, which is a concern for people with diabetes
  • Cheese contains other nutrients that are beneficial for people with diabetes, such as vitamin A and vitamin B12

Is It Better To Eat Full-Fat or Low-Fat Cheese When You Have Diabetes?

Full fat cheese on a plate

Cheese can contain high levels of saturated fat, which may worsen insulin resistance. However, the amount of fat in cheese varies between cheeses. As a general rule of thumb, the harder the cheese, the higher the fat content. And since cheese is an animal protein, the fat found in cheese is most saturated fat versus healthy, unsaturated fats. For this reason, if you do choose low-fat cheese, it is best to choose part-skim varieties in hard cheeses over softer cheeses such as mozzarella which are already lower in total fat.

Although reducing saturated fat in the diet is beneficial, the fat found in cheese isn’t all bad. Full-fat cheese can contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that has been shown to have a number of health benefits including reducing overall body fat and boosting immune function. 

The CLA levels in cheese can vary greatly depending on the variety of cheese as well as the diet the cow was fed. Grass-fed cows produce beef and dairy with 300-500% more CLA than their grain-fed counterparts. Cheese coming from sheep and goat milk also contains a higher level of CLA than grain-fed cow milk. 

How much cheese can I eat per day with diabetes?

Cheese on cutting board

Although cheese can offer a variety of benefits when it comes to blood sugar management, it can also be a source of excessive saturated fat, sodium, and calories. The amount of cheese you can safely consume each day will depend largely on your health needs and goals, your daily energy expenditure (or how many calories you need each day), and what else you eat during the day.

In general, limiting cheese to one to two ounces per day is a good rule of thumb to follow. However, if you consume little saturated fat and sodium elsewhere in your diet or choose mostly low-fat cheese, you may be able to consume a slightly larger portion. 

It is always best to consult your healthcare team for individualized dietary recommendations. 

The best cheese for diabetes

Now that you know the pros and cons of eating cheese with diabetes as well as the portion size to aim for each day, let’s take a look at the best types of cheese for diabetes. Here are the best cheeses for diabetes and how to incorporate them into your diet:

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese

A one-ounce serving (¼ cup) of cottage cheese contains: 45 calories, 6 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 1 gram of saturated fat.

As a lower-in-fat, lower-calorieI  cheese, cottage cheese is incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into everything from smoothies, to baked goods, and even ice cream! It provides a good source of protein with minimal fat, which can help to keep blood sugar levels stable. 

Ricotta cheese

Ricotta cheese

A one-ounce serving (¼ cup) of ricotta cheese contains: 96 calories, 7 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 gram of saturated fat.

Similar to cottage cheese, ricotta cheese can be a versatile option to add to many dishes from baked goods, to casseroles, and even desserts. However, this cheese is slightly higher in saturated fat. Opt for the part-skim options when possible to reduce the fat content slightly for a more heart-healthy option. 

Mozzarella cheese

Mozzarella cheese

A one-ounce serving of fresh mozzarella cheese contains: 70 calories, 6 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrates, and 3.5 gram of saturated fat.

As one of the lowest carbohydrate cheese options, mozzarella cheese will have little to no impact on blood sugar levels. This cheese is also lower in fat and calories, making it a better-for-you option when looking to manage weight while still eating the food you love.

Feta cheese

Feta cheese salad

A one-ounce serving of feta cheese contains: 75 calories, 4 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of saturated fat.

Feta cheese provides a delicious pop of flavor to salads and side dishes. This cheese is slightly lower in protein than other cheese varieties, however it contains little carbohydrate and less saturated fat than other options, making it beneficial for blood sugar management.

Goat cheese

Goat cheese

A one-ounce serving of goat cheese contains: 80 calories, 3 grams of protein, 0.5 gram of carbohydrates, and 3.5 grams of saturated fat.

For those who struggle to tolerate cow’s milk due to the A1 protein, goat cheese can be a great alternative as it contains only A2 protein which may be easier to digest for some individuals. However, goat cheese still contains lactose, so it would not be better tolerated in those who suffer from lactose intolerance. 

Parmesan cheese

Parmesan cheese

A one-ounce serving of parmesan cheese (hard) contains: 111 calories, 10 grams of protein, 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 5 grams of saturated fat.

As a harder cheese, parmesan contains higher levels of fat. However, this cheese also contains significantly more protein per ounce making it a more filling option. Although this cheese contains little carbohydrate, it should be an occasional choice due to the higher saturated fat content, which may increase insulin resistance. 

Cheddar cheese

Cheddar cheese

A one-ounce serving of cheddar cheese contains: 110 calories, 7 grams of protein, 0 gram of carbohydrates, and 5 grams of saturated fat.

Cheddar cheese is delicious & contains zero carbohydrate, which means it will have little impact on blood sugar levels post-meals. However, similar to other hard cheeses, cheddar contains high levels of saturated fat. 

High amounts of this fat consumed regularly have been linked with elevated cholesterol levels and increased insulin resistance. For this reason, cheddar cheese should be consumed occasionally or choose the part-skim options if you wish to eat it more frequently. 

Swiss cheese

Swiss cheese

A one-ounce serving of Swiss cheese contains: 100 calories, 8 grams of protein, 0 gram of carbohydrates, and 4.5 grams of saturated fat.

Swiss cheese is a zero-carb protein, which means it can be added to meals without impacting blood sugar levels. However, just like other hard cheeses, it contains a higher level of saturated fat. Opt for part-skim varieties if you wish to enjoy this cheese more frequently.

The best way to enjoy Swiss cheese would be in combination with a meal containing non-starchy vegetables and slow-digested carbs for a balanced plate that satisfies your craving for cheese without excess levels of unhealthy fat.

Monterey Jack cheese

Monterey Jack cheese

A one-ounce serving of Monterey Jack cheese contains: 110 calories, 6 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrates, and 6 grams of saturated fat.

This cheese contains the highest amount of saturated fat with a lower protein content than many other cheeses on this list. Although Monterey Jack is a zero-carb food, the high levels of unhealthy fat can have a negative impact on blood sugar levels if consumed frequently. Instead, enjoy this cheese as an occasional option.

The bottom line on cheese and diabetes

Cheese plate

So, can people with diabetes eat cheese? The answer is yes, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, choose cheeses that are low in saturated fat whenever possible. That can mean choosing naturally lower-in-fat cheeses, such as cottage cheese, or opting for a part-skim version.

Keep in mind that cheese can be a higher-sodium food. Although sodium does not need to be avoided, consuming 2300mg of sodium per day or less is best for blood pressure management. If you do consume cheese, be sure to balance out your sodium intake throughout the rest of the day.

Cheese can be a delicious and nutritious addition to a healthy diet for people with diabetes. The protein & fat in cheese, when paired with foods rich in carbohydrates, may help to improve post-meal glucose levels. Just be sure to choose wisely and enjoy it in moderation.

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