Cheese has been a beloved food for centuries across many cultures. But if you're following a low-carb diet like keto or paleo, you may be wondering: is cheese low carb?
The short answer is: it depends on the type of cheese. While some cheeses are low in carbs, others can contain surprising amounts. In this complete guide, we'll explore the carb counts in different cheeses, how to eat high-fat, low-carb cheese, and how to fit cheese into a keto diet. Read on to learn everything you need to know to enjoy cheese without the carb guilt!
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What Determines the Carbs in Cheese?
Before diving into specific cheeses, let's look at what affects the carbohydrate content. Here are the main factors:
- Milk Type: Cheese made from goat's and sheep's milk is lower in carbs than cheese made from cow's milk. Goat cheeses like feta and chèvre contain zero carbs.
- Culturing and Aging: Fermentation and aging tend to reduce carb and lactose content in cheese as the sugars are consumed by bacteria during the cheesemaking process. Aged, hard cheeses are lower in carbs than soft, fresh cheeses.
- Additives: Cheese with added flavors, fruits, vegetables or starches contain more carbs. Always check the labels on flavored cheeses.
- Fat Content: Higher fat cheeses such as brie tend to have less carbs than low-fat cheeses. Full-fat cheese also keeps you fuller longer on fewer carbs.
- Serving Size: Pay attention to serving sizes, as the carb count piles up quickly in cheeses typically eaten in large amounts like ricotta or cottage cheese.
Top 5 Lowest Carb Cheeses
1. Feta Cheese
This iconic Greek cheese made from sheep or goat's milk contains zero carbs. Feta provides protein, fat, and nutrients like calcium and vitamin B12.
Try it crumbled over salads, roasted veggies, or scrambled into eggs.
2. Goat Cheese (Chèvre)
Like feta, goat cheese or chèvre is a zero carb cheese thanks to its source. Goat cheese adds creamy richness and tang.
Add it to charcuterie boards, smoothies, dips, or stuff into poblano peppers.
3. Blue Cheese
Most blue cheeses like gorgonzola, stilton, and roquefort contain about 0-1 grams of carbs per ounce. (1)
The bold flavor of blue cheese pairs perfectly with steak, salads, and dips.
4. Parmesan Hard Cheese
Aged parmesan averages around 1 gram of carbs per ounce. Grate it over Italian dishes, roasted broccoli, cauliflower pizza crusts, or whisk into scrambled eggs.
5. Cheddar Cheese
How many carbs in cheddar cheese? Aged cheddar contains about 1 gram of carbs per ounce. Opt for sharper, aged cheddars which are lower in carbs than milder varieties.
Cheddar cheese is a versatile low carb option. Melt it into omelets, burgers and keto-friendly Tex-Mex dishes.
This is why you'll find plenty of cheese on our low carb McDonald's guide, and you'll still maintain your low-carb diet strategy.
Worst High-Carb Cheeses to Avoid
On the flip side, these cheeses contain the most carbs:
- Cottage cheese: 6-8 grams of carbs per serving
- Ricotta: Around 5 grams per ¼ cup
- Cream cheese: 1g per tablespoon
- Processed cheeses like Kraft Singles: 2g per slice
- Mexi-blends with starches/fillers: 3-5g per ounce
Tips for Eating Cheese on a Keto Diet
- Watch the Portions. While an ounce of cheddar may only have 1g carb, cheese is easy to overeat. Track your portions and don't go overboard.
- Increase Healthy Fats. Does cheese have carbs or protein? It contains both. Balance cheese with added fats from oils, nuts, avocado, etc. Too much protein can kick you out of ketosis.
- Mind the Pairings. Pair cheese with low carb fruits and veggies like olives, avocado, tomato, and spinach instead of crackers, fruit, or starchy sides.
- Seek Out Quality. Not all cheese is created equal! Seek out quality cheeses from grass-fed cows or goats. Stay away from processed options with additives or unhealthy oils.
- Eat Fermented Cheese. Cheeses like gouda, cheddar, and camembert contain probiotics and bioactive compounds thanks to fermentation. This makes them gut and brain healthy choices.
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FAQ: Cheese and the Keto Diet
Still have questions about eating cheese on a low carb, high fat keto diet? Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions:
Is Mozzarella Cheese Keto-Friendly?
Fresh mozzarella contains around 2-3 grams of carbs per ounce. While not zero carb, mozzarella can fit into a keto diet in moderation. Use it sparingly on top of Italian dishes.
Opt for whole milk, full fat mozzarella instead of part skim to get more fat and fewer carbs.
Indulge in our Cheesy Eggplant Casserole for a fascinating trip of flavors, where layers of delicious eggplant mingle seamlessly with the richness of melting mozzarella cheese - a symphony for your taste buds!
Is Swiss Cheese Keto?
With 1-3 grams of carbs per slice, swiss cheese can work for keto diets, especially shared on a cheese board with lower carb options.
Just watch the portions since the carbs add up quickly.
Is Philadelphia Cream Cheese Keto?
Original Philadelphia cream cheese contains about 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon serving.
This makes the plain version keto-friendly. But avoid flavor variations with added sugars.
How to Eat Cottage Cheese Keto
Is cottage cheese keto? Full fat cottage cheese contains around 6 grams of carbs per half cup.
To fit it into a keto diet, opt for 4-8% milkfat grass-fed varieties. And boost the fat by:
- Mixing with olive oil or avocado
- Adding heavy cream or creme fraiche
- Pairing with nuts, chia or flax seeds
This increases fat and slows carb absorption from the cottage cheese.
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Is It Okay to Eat Cheese Every Day On Keto?
Yes, eating cheese daily fits into a healthy keto diet. Just watch your total portions and carb counts. Variety is key-rotate different low carb cheeses to get an array of nutrients.
Enhance your delightful low-carb cauliflower pizza with a touch of cheese! It will not only enhance the flavor, but this addition also introduces a bounty of vital nutrients such as calcium and protein, crafting a genuinely nourishing and gratifying gastronomic journey.
What Is the Best Cheese for Keto?
Some excellent keto cheeses include feta, goat, parmesan, romano, swiss, mozzarella, gouda, cheddar, provolone, havarti and Pecorino. Stick to full-fat, minimally processed cheeses.
Can You Eat Cheese Before Bed on Keto?
It's fine to enjoy cheese as a night-time keto snack due to its high fat and protein content. This can curb late night cravings and keep you satiated. Just watch pre-bedtime portions, as large amounts can cause digestive issues.
Does Cheese Cause Inflammation?
Studies show cheese does not cause inflammation. In fact, aged cheese contains beneficial compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that protect cells. However, cheese should be avoided by those with dairy sensitivities or allergies. (2)
Can Ketoers Eat Cheese?
Absolutely! Cheese is a keto dieter's best friend thanks to its high fat content and zero to low carbs in many varieties. Just opt for quality full-fat cheeses and keep an eye on serving sizes.
The Bottom Line on Cheese and Low-Carb Diets
At the end of the day, most cheeses can fit into a low carb lifestyle like keto when consumed mindfully. Stick to keto-friendly cheese options like feta, goat, parmesan and blue cheese in moderation along with other high-fat, low-carb foods. Avoid creamy, fresh cheeses and cheese products with additives.
By picking the right cheeses and watching your portions, you can satisfy cheesy cravings without knocking yourself out of ketosis. Cheese on!
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- Migala, J. (n.d.-b). Keto Diet Cheese: 5 types to eat and 5 types to avoid. EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/ketogenic-diet/cheeses-you-can-eat-on-the-keto-diet-and-you-cant/
- Carolyn Williams, Ph. D. (2022, November 30). Does dairy cause inflammation? here’s what a dietitian says. EatingWell. https://www.eatingwell.com/article/2056066/heres-what-a-dietitian-says-about-dairy-causing-inflammation/#:~:text=Unless%20you%20have%20a%20milk,actually%20help%20to%20reduce%20inflammation.