Did you ever go to your primary doctor to have them tell you your cholesterol is too high? You're not alone. In the United States, nearly 94 million adults ages 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL). The average healthy adult should be under 200 mg/dL.
If you're running the risk of high cholesterol, chances are your doctor has told you to cut back on some beloved foods you add into your diet more often than not. Cheese is typically a recommended food to stay away from. So, if cheese is on your grocery list, you're going to want to listen up.
Not all cheeses will take a hit on your cholesterol. However, there are ones that could spike those levels if you're not careful. According to Molly Hembree, MS, RDLD, a registered dietitian and member of our Medical Expert Board, cheeses high in saturated fat are the worst for cholesterol levels.
"There is a strong correlation between high saturated fat intake and elevated total and LDL blood cholesterol levels," says Hembree.
According to Hembree, the average healthy adult should be striving for less than 22 grams of saturated fat intake per day. That equals less than 10% of total calories. However, the American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 6% of saturated fat in total calories per day (or about 13 grams).
The trickiest part of this whole thing, however, is finding cheeses that aren't high in saturated fat. There are so many types of cheeses, but not all of them make for a healthy cholesterol snack.
"Unfortunately, there is not much variation in full-fat types of cheese and their total fat and saturated fat content," explains Hembree.
For example, Hembree states that parmesan cheeses and swiss cheeses, whether in a block, cubed, or shredded form, contain about 8 grams of total fat and 5 grams of saturated fat per 1-ounce serving. Brie cheese has about 9 grams of total fat and 6 grams of saturated fat per 1-ounce serving. Cheddar cheese has around 10 grams of total fat and 6 grams of saturated fat per 1-ounce serving.
"The only real stand-out is feta cheese, coming in at 5 grams total fat and 3 grams saturated fat per 1-ounce serving," says Hembree. "However this still makes it high in saturated fat."
Low-fat cheese alternatives
If you simply cannot live without cheese in your refrigerator cheese drawer, there are some alternatives you can eat, instead.
"Opt for fat-free, reduced-fat, or low-fat cheese options such as reduced-fat cheese shreds, fat-free cheese singles, low-fat feta cheese crumbles, or light string cheese," Hembree suggests.