High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Dietary choices can have a significant impact on cholesterol levels, so it’s important to know which foods to limit. Cheese has high amounts of saturated fat, which can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. However, the impact of cheese on cholesterol is complex. Moderate amounts may not affect cholesterol levels much.
– Cheese contains high amounts of saturated fat, which raises LDL cholesterol. However, it also contains other nutrients that may help lower cholesterol.
– Eating large amounts of cheese may moderately increase LDL cholesterol. But eating moderate amounts doesn’t seem to significantly affect cholesterol levels.
– Compared to other cheeses, cottage cheese and reduced-fat versions tend to have less impact on cholesterol.
– People with high cholesterol or heart disease risk may want to limit cheese intake to small-moderate portions. But cheese can be enjoyed in moderation by most healthy people.
Does cheese raise cholesterol?
Cheese is high in saturated fat, containing about 6-10 grams per ounce (28 grams). Saturated fats are known to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
However, cheese also contains nutrients that may help lower cholesterol, like calcium and certain fatty acids. Additionally, some of the saturated fat in cheese is bound to proteins rather than “free,” which may blunt its effects on cholesterol.
Overall, research on cheese and cholesterol levels has shown mixed results:
- Some studies have found that eating around 1.5-2 ounces (40-60 grams) of hard cheese per day only results in slight increases in LDL cholesterol of 2–4 mg/dL.
- One review of 15 studies found that eating 60 grams of cheese daily increased LDL cholesterol by only 2.9 mg/dL, on average.
- Yet other studies have shown more significant increases in total and LDL cholesterol with high cheese intake, especially for people who already have high cholesterol or heart disease risk.
In most studies, eating cheese in moderation did not result in any substantial rise in cholesterol levels. However, effects seem to depend on the amount consumed and baseline cholesterol levels.
Cheese and LDL cholesterol
While its effects are modest for most people, cheese may more notably increase LDL (bad) cholesterol compared to other cholesterols:
- A study in over 1,500 adults linked each 50 gram (1.8 oz) serving per day of cheese to a 4.9 mg/dL increase in LDL cholesterol, but no significant increase in total or HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Research shows feta and blue cheese may raise LDL levels more than other cheeses like mozzarella and Swiss.
- Cheddar, cream cheese, and other full-fat cheeses also appear to raise LDL cholesterol more than low-fat cheeses.
The fat content and type of cheese impacts its effects on cholesterol levels:
|Cheese Type||Total Fat (per oz)||Saturated Fat (per oz)||Effect on LDL Cholesterol|
|Blue cheese||8g||5g||Raises LDL moderately|
|Brie||9g||6g||Raises LDL mildly|
|Cheddar||9g||6g||Raises LDL moderately|
|Cottage cheese||4g||2g||Minimal effect on LDL|
|Parmesan||7g||4g||Raises LDL mildly|
As shown above, reduced-fat cottage cheese is lower in saturated fat than most other cheeses. Some research suggests it may have little effect on cholesterol levels.
Amount of cheese and cholesterol levels
Research shows that larger amounts of cheese elevate cholesterol levels more than moderate portions.
In one study, people ate a diet with cheese providing 20% versus 40% of total calories for 6 weeks each. The 40% cheese diet increased LDL cholesterol substantially, while the 20% cheese diet had little effect.
Another study found that compared to eating 1.5 oz (42g) of cheese per day, eating 3 oz (90g) daily increased LDL cholesterol by 6.5 mg/dL.
For most healthy people, moderate cheese intake of around 1–2 oz (30-60g) per day doesn’t significantly affect cholesterol levels. But larger amounts may raise LDL moderately, especially in those with high cholesterol.
Cheese and heart disease
Research on cheese and heart disease risk has shown mixed results:
- Some studies link eating higher amounts of cheese to an increased risk for heart disease mortality. Yet higher yogurt intake is linked to lower risk.
- One study associated each 1.5 oz (40g) daily serving of cheese with a 4% increased risk of heart disease. But other studies have not found clear links between moderate cheese intake and heart disease.
- One review linked cheese consumption with a 12% lower risk of stroke, but found no association with heart disease risk.
Overall, there is limited and inconsistent evidence on whether moderate cheese intake affects heart disease risk. Despite its effects on LDL cholesterol, other components of cheese may help protect the heart.
However, people with high cholesterol, hypertension, or other heart disease risk factors may want to exercise caution with cheese intake.
Does cottage cheese raise cholesterol?
Cottage cheese is a fresh, soft cheese made by curdling milk. It’s a high protein, low calorie food that’s low in fat and saturated fat compared to most other cheeses.
Research has shown cottage cheese has little effect on cholesterol levels:
- One study found that eating 4 oz (113g) of low-fat cottage cheese daily for 12 weeks did not significantly change cholesterol levels compared to milk, yogurt, or control diets.
- A review of 10 studies concluded that low-fat cottage cheese results in lower cholesterol levels compared to regular-fat cheese.
The low saturated fat content of cottage cheese is likely why it doesn’t adversely affect cholesterol levels. Cottage cheese is a good option for those looking to limit cholesterol intake from cheese.
Does goat cheese raise cholesterol less?
Goat cheese, or chevre, is highly popular due to its distinct flavor. But does it have any advantages for cholesterol compared to cheeses from cow’s milk?
Limited research has examined the effects of goat cheese on cholesterol:
- One study in over 1,000 adults didn’t find a significant difference in cholesterol levels between those who consumed goat cheese versus regular cheese.
- Another small study reported similar effects on cholesterol for goat Gouda versus regular Gouda cheese when eaten in equal amounts.
- Goat cheese appears slightly lower in saturated fat than regular cheese, but this difference is modest.
Based on the current evidence, goat cheese does not seem noticeably better for cholesterol levels compared to regular cow’s milk cheeses.
Tips for enjoying cheese while watching cholesterol
For most healthy people, moderate cheese intake will not significantly worsen cholesterol levels. Still, those with high cholesterol or heart disease risk may want to take precautions.
Here are some tips for enjoying cheese wisely if you need to watch your cholesterol:
- Limit portion sizes to 1–2 oz (about 30–60g) of hard cheese per day.
- Choose reduced-fat cheeses like part-skim mozzarella or cottage cheese.
- Avoid incorporating multiple servings of cheese into a single dish or meal.
- Select cheeses lower in saturated fat when possible, like Swiss, Parmesan, feta or goat cheese.
- Get plenty of cholesterol-lowering foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts.
- Substitute cheese with healthy plant-based proteins like beans or tofu.
Foods that can lower cholesterol
In addition to limiting high-cholesterol foods, getting enough of these foods linked to lower cholesterol can help balance out cheese intake:
- Oats: Soluble fiber in oats helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
- Nuts: Nutrients like plant sterols, fiber and polyunsaturated fats may improve cholesterol levels.
- Beans: Beans are rich in soluble fiber, which can lower LDL cholesterol.
- Soy foods: Soy protein has been shown to modestly reduce LDL cholesterol.
- Fatty fish: Omega-3 fatty acids in fish like salmon and sardines benefit cholesterol levels.
- Garlic: Garlic contains compounds that may lower total and LDL cholesterol.
Incorporating more cholesterol-friendly foods into your diet can help counteract negative effects from cheese or other high-fat foods.
The bottom line
For most healthy people, eating cheese in moderation likely won’t harm cholesterol levels. While cheese is high in saturated fat, moderate intake up to 1–2 ounces daily appears to have minimal effects on cholesterol for those without existing high levels.
However, those with high baseline cholesterol, heart disease risk factors or hypertension may want to limit cheese intake to small portions as a precaution. Focusing on low-fat versions like cottage cheese is a safer choice.
In short–enjoying cheese occasionally or as part of a healthy pattern is fine for most people. But limiting intake and choosing lower fat options makes sense for those concerned with high cholesterol.