We're a nation of cheese lovers, but do you know which is the healthiest cheese? We've ranked 17 cheeses from best to worst, so you know which ones to top your crackers with.
Whether it's on toast, in a sawnie or taking pride of place on a cheeseboard - it's official: us Brits can't get enough of cheese.
Each year we produce 700 different named British varieties. And our love for this dairy delight really comes into it's own during the festive period, when we fork out £2 billion on cheese for our Christmas day spreads.
Whilst this favourite fridge staple is incredibly delicious, we're not oblivious to the fact that most cheeses aren't a healthy snack, and indeed come with a heavy fat and calorie content. And though there is some evidence that a little bit of cheese is good for you, experts still encourage us to enjoy it in moderation.
As dietitian Jasmine Carbon of Carbon Nutrition explains: "Adding cheese to a meal is a great way to incorporate depth of flavour, saltiness, and increases the nutritional value by adding calories, protein, iodine, phosphorus, and vitamin C. In moderate amounts (about 30g), cheese can and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Yet regularly having more than that can take you over your daily salt, saturated fat and calories allowance."
Wanting to be wise in our future cheese choices, we studied the fat, salt and calorie content of some of our best loved cheeses to determine the healthiest cheese options overall. From Stilton to Cheddar and Parmesan to Philadelphia, we ranked our favourites and found some surprising results...
Which cheese is healthiest?
The healthiest cheese overall was Fat Free Cottage Cheese which as you'd expect ranks the best for fat content and is also the lowest calorie cheese on the market. In a 100g serving, Cottage Cheese boasts only 0.4g of salt, making it the best cheese for salt content too.
- Healthiest cheese overall: Fat Free Cottage Cheese
- Lowest calorie cheese: Fat Free Cottage Cheese
- Lowest fat cheese: Fat Free Cottage Cheese
The least healthiest cheese overall is Double Gloucester, which contains the highest amount of calories (415 per 100 grams) and a whopping 21.9g of saturated fat - which is more than the NHS's recommended daily saturated fat limit for women.
- Worst cheese overall: Double Gloucester (contains the most calories and fat)
- Worst cheese for salt content: Roquefort
- Worst cheese for saturated fat content: Stilton
Healthiest cheeses ranked from best to worst
1. Lowest calorie cheese and lowest fat cheese: Fat Free Cottage Cheese
Per 100g serving: Cals: 62 - lowest calorie cheese Fat: 0.3g - lowest fat content Saturated fat: 0.3g Sugar: 4.7g Salt: 0.4g - lowest salt content Price: £1.20 at Tesco
Verdict: Behold the humble cottage cheese, which takes the crown for the lowest calorie cheese and lowest fat cheese on the market. Though it's a bit of a love it or hate it food, cottage cheese truly is the best cheese out there if you're watching your weight. Try topping the original on a rice cracker with some cherry tomatoes for a more savoury taste. Or if you're not keen on the plain version you could try one of the other varieties that are flavoured with fruits like pineapple or mango. Just bear in mind fruit versions like pineapple ones will be higher in sugar.
2. Philadelphia light
Per 100g serving: Cals: 87 Fat: 2.5g Saturated fat: 1.7g Sugar: 4.9g Salt: 0.85g Price: £1.95 at Tesco
Verdict: Soft cheeses like good old Philadelphia light are generally lower in fat than a typical sandwich filler like Cheddar, but they are much lower in calcium. This is a cheese we tend to use as a spreadable snack, meaning that we don't tend to eat too much in one portion. However if you're thinking of filling a chicken breast with some then make sure you pick up the lighter tub, it's got less than half the fat of regular Philly. Oh, and don't be taken in by all the fancy flavours and variations, just stick to the original lighter offerings.
3. Mini Babybel light
Per 100g serving: Cals: 208 (just 42 cals per Babybel) Fat: 12g Saturated fat: 8g Sugar: Trace Salt: 1.8g Price: £1.95 for 6 or £3.50 for 12 at Ocado
Verdict: If you're really trying to be good and looking to quash your cheese craving with a quick snack, these little Babybels are perfect. The lighter versions contain just 42 calories and 2.4 grams of fat per cheese. We've ranked these highly in our healthiest cheese list as limiting yourself to just one is admirable and shouldn't jeopardise a balanced diet.
4. Reduced Fat Mozzarella
Per 100g serving: Cals: 164 Fat: 9g Saturated fat: 6.6g Sugar: 0.7g Salt: 0.4g Price: 70p at Tesco
Verdict: Mozzarella is a fresh cheese traditionally made with Italian buffalo milk but quite often made with cows' milk. You may associate mozzarella with your favourite pizza, a caprese salad, or the topping for a hearty lasagne. But how does it fair in the health stakes? It's worth choosing lighter mozzarella options over Buffalo mozzarella or the full fat variety here, which carries double the amount of fat (18g per 100g serving). Lots of supermarkets sell their own range of reduced fat mozzarella which cuts the fat and calorie content by half, making it a great option for salads.
5. Reduced Fat Feta
Per 100g serving: Cals: 163 Fat: 9.3g Saturated fat: 5.9g Sugar: 1g Salt: 1.8g Price: £1.00 at Tesco
Verdict: Feta is a crumbly, aged Greek cheese made with sheep's milk, so can be a saviour to anyone with an allergy to cow's milk. It's a delicious summer cheese, great with olives, and is everyone's favourite part of a classic Greek salad. Overall, Feta is one of the healthiest cheeses you can buy, especially the lighter versions which carry less saturated fat than the full fat kind. Plus, the bonus about feta is that while it's relatively low in calories it's strong in taste - a combination that is hard to come by. It'll satisfy your cheese craving without sitting heavily on your waistline.
6. Light Cypriot Halloumi (30% less fat)
Per 100g serving: Cals: 253 Fat: 17g Saturated fat: 11.7g Sugar: 0.7g Salt: 3.1g Price: £2.00 at Tesco
Verdict: Cypriot cheese Halloumi has gained a following in recent years, fast becoming one of the nation's best loved cheeses. It's really high melting point makes it's great for frying or grilling and having in a wrap or pitta bread. Regular halloumi is quite fatty, around 25g of fat in every 100 grams, but we've discovered that supermarkets sell lighter options that carry 30% less fat. Naturally salty in nature, halloumi therefore has one of the highest salt contents for cheese. So just watch your portion size when tossing into a salad or making Joe Wicks' halloumi fries.
7. Cornish Brie
Per 100g serving: Cals: 276 Fat: 20.5g Saturated fat: 13.1g Sugar: 0.1g Salt:1.3g Price: £1.60 at Tesco
Verdict: Brie, we had you all wrong. We thought this creamy soft cow's milk cheese would be filled with fat. And whilst it's not the healthiest cheese we've seen, it's considerably less fatty than both full fat and light Cheddar and creamy blue cheeses like Stilton. It's incredibly hard to find a light fat brie option though, so we've compared both Cornish and classic French brie options and found that the English variety is considerably better calorie and fat content wise.
8. Le Rustique camembert
Per 100g serving: Cals: 268 Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 14g Sugar: <0.5g Salt: 1.6g Price: £2.05 at Ocado
Verdict: Camembert has a similar nutritional make-up as brie, but we've ranked it a little lower for it's increased saturated fat content. We could forgive you for thinking that a baked camembert is one of the worst cheese offerings, yet it's fat and calorie numbers actually rivals most hard cheeses like Cheddar, Cheshire and Wensleydale cheese. Sharing one of these beauties between two is under 300 calories - provided you skip the bread (which may cause bloating!)
9. Pilgrims Choice Lighter Mature Cheddar
Per 100g serving: Cals: 314 Fat: 22.1g Saturated fat: 13.8g Sugar: 0.1g Salt: 1.8g Price: £2.59 at Tesco
Verdict: A true British favourite, this cheese gets its name from the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. Who can resist a tasty slab of Cheddar on a ham sandwich, or melted over a slice of toast? Unfortunately for us Cheddar lovers, it's one of the fattiest cheeses around. If you can't bear to part with your Cheddar for a lower-fat cheese, then make sure you're making a smart Cheddar choice by buying the lighter version, like this Pilgrim's Choice one.
10. Goats' cheese
Per 100g serving: Cals: 279 Fat: 23g Saturated fat: 16g Sugar: <0.1g Salt: 1.7g Price: £2.00 at Tesco
Verdict: Goats' cheese isn't too bad, it still beats full fat Cheddar and super fatty Stilton. Unfortunately we've not been able to track down a lighter version, but it is rich in vitamin D, and compared to lots of lighter versions, it doesn't fare too badly. Despite it not being the healthiest cheese, we reckon it's okay to enjoy from time to time.
11. President Emmental cheese
Per 100g serving: Cals: 368 Fat: 28g Saturated fat: 19g Sugar: 0g - sugar free Salt: 1.5g Price: £2.20 at Ocado
Verdict: Holey moly - who knew that Emmental cheese was so high in fat? If, like us, you thought the holes made it a healthier cheese, think again. Whilst this soft, savoury cheese is good on a piece of crusty bread it's not so good for our waistlines. Per 100 grams this regular Swiss cheese sets you back 368 calories, which means it's not a viable low calorie snack option. Sadly, President seemed to have discontinued their lighter option, so if you are eating the original be sure to keep an eye on your serving.
12. Worst cheese for salt content: Roquefort
Per 100g serving: Cals: 372 Fat: 32g Saturated fat: 20g Sugar: 0g - sugar free Salt: 3.6g - highest salt content Price: £2.00 at Tesco
Verdict: We were quite surprised at how much salt is in blue cheese Roquefort. The 3.6g of salt in every 100g serving makes up over half of the NHS's daily salt allowance. However, it's still lower in fat and calories than Stilton. Plus it's made from sheep's milk - making it a great choice if you're allergic to cow's milk.
13. Worst cheese for sugar content: Wensleydale with cranberries
Per 100g serving: Cals: 365 Fat: 25.6g Saturated fat: 15.9g Sugar: 15.7g - highest sugar count Salt: 1.3g Price: £2.50 at Tesco
Verdict: 'What's wrong with Wensleydale, Gromit?' We love a bit of Wensleydale cheese as it's light and slightly sweeter than other cheeses - especially when it's mixed with fruits and other flavours like chilli. However be mindful that these different flavour combinations hike up the sugar content; this Tesco Finest Wensleydale with cranberries is officially the worst cheese for sugar content (a staggering 15.7g per 100 grams).
14. Cheshire cheese
Per 100g serving: Cals: 381 Fat: 31.8g Saturated fat: 21.1g Sugar: 0.1g Salt: 1.58g Price: £2.10 at Ocado
Verdict: Did you know that Cheshire cheese is the oldest known cheese in the UK? Perhaps not, but what you do need to know is that it contains almost 32 grams of fat per 100g - which is almost the same as full fat Cheddar. Unfortunately all our dairy drawer favourites seem to be very high in both fat and saturated fat. And while lots of lighter versions have appeared on the shelves in the last few years, our beloved Cheshire is one we're yet to see have a reduced fat version. Best saved for a treat, we say.
Per 100g serving: Cals: 402 Fat: 29.7g Saturated fat: 19.6g Sugar: 0g - sugar free Salt: 1.6g Price: £2.20 at Tesco
Verdict: This cheese is an Italian hard cheese made from raw cow's milk. Thankfully when we use Parmesan we tend to be quite sparing with it, grating a little bit here and there over a pizza or pasta, and it's just as well, because it's almost as calorific as Stilton. Just under 20g of saturated fat and over 400 calories per 100g, Parmesan is not one of the healthiest cheese options. However, whilst Parmesan does tend to be a pretty fatty and salty cheese, one of its benefits is that it is high in calcium. In fact, just an ounce of Parmesan contains a third of your recommended daily allowance.
16. Worst cheese for saturated fat: Stilton
Per 100g serving: Cals: 410 Fat: 35g - joint highest in fat Saturated fat: 23g - highest in sat fat Sugar: 0.1g Salt: 1.98g Price: £1.70 at Ocado
Verdict: It's sad news for Stilton fans. This rather fragrant blue number is officially the worst cheese for fat and saturated fat. And what's more, these figures are especially alarming when you realise that an 100g serving of this will take women over their daily saturated fat limit. For those that really can't resist a slice, consider a half portion treat every now and again.
17. Highest calorie cheese: Double Gloucester
Per 100g serving: Cals: 415 - highest calorie count Fat: 35g - joint highest in fat Saturated fat: 21.9g Sugar: 0.1g Salt: 1.7g Price: £1.55 at Tesco
Verdict: A strong, savoury flavour, this is the sort of cheese we end up eating chunks of in between putting some in a sandwich. But these nutritional figures should hopefully make us lay off the mindless snacking. Double Gloucester is again quite similar to Cheddar in the sense that it's a hard cheese with a high amount of fat. Every 100 grams has over 30 grams of fat and 415 calories - making it officially the highest calorie cheese. So, although it's tasty, it's actually the least healthiest cheese on the market.
What is the healthiest vegan cheese?
Generally vegan cheeses are typically lower in fat, protein and calcium compared to regular cheese choices. However, as vegan cheese is a processed food, it often carries a higher sodium and saturated fat content than regular cheese. So it's wise to consult the label before purchasing.
We've researched the vegan cheese market and found that the healthiest vegan cheese overall is Violife's dairy free soft cheese. This spreadable vegan cheese actually contains just over 1g of salt and is 239 calories per 100g serving.
For those after a harder vegan cheese - the healthiest option is Violife's original flavour block. Compared to other leading vegan cheese brands (think Follow Your Heart, Koko and Tesco's dairy free range) this cheese has fewer calories (270 per 100g) and a commendable 19g saturated fat (most contain 23g and over).
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