Can You Eat Cheese on Keto?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/26/2024

Keto is a high-fat, moderate protein, and low-carb diet, so can you eat cheese on keto? 


Yes, you can have cheese on the keto diet. Cheese is an excellent source of fat and protein, and many varieties contain minimal carbs. However, not all cheeses are suitable for the ketogenic diet. 


Learn how to choose high-quality cheese and discover the best types to have on keto.  


Variety of cheeses

Can you eat cheese on keto?


Yes, full-fat cheese can be enjoyed on a ketogenic diet since it’s high in fat and protein and low in carbs. 


However, low-fat cheese varieties or processed cheeses can be high in lactose and other ingredients that aren’t keto-friendly. 


Most traditional full-fat cheeses contain less than one gram of carbohydrates per one-ounce (28-gram) serving, making cheese an ideal option for those following a low-carb diet.  


Watch the video below to learn about the best cheese to have on keto.

The Best Cheese on Keto Diet

Conventional vs. grass-fed, organic cheese


When choosing a keto-friendly cheese, it’s vital to consider the sources and production process to avoid ingredients that could kick you out of ketosis or may cause health issues. 


Here’s a comparison of conventional and grass-fed, organic cheese.


Conventional cheese

Conventional cheese is made using milk from cows that are often treated with bovine growth hormone (BGH) or bovine somatotropin (BST). These artificial hormones are designed to stimulate muscle growth and boost milk production.


Though approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), BGH and BST are banned in many countries due to potential health concerns such as infertility, lameness, and mastitis in dairy cattle. 


Additionally, conventional dairy cows are typically fed genetically modified (GMO) grains high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, such as soybeans and corn. 


This changes the nutritional profile of the milk and can contribute to inflammation, which is linked to various health issues such as heart disease, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel diseases.


In addition, GMO grains are frequently treated with glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer and hormonal imbalance. 


Grass-fed, organic cheese

Grass-fed, organic cheese is produced using milk from cows raised under stricter regulations prioritizing human and animal welfare.


Growth hormones and antibiotics are prohibited in organic livestock, which reduces the risk of exposure to these potentially harmful compounds. 


Cheese from grass-fed cows doesn’t contain remnants of glyphosate, as GMO-containing feed is banned for organically-raised beef and dairy cattle. 


Grass-fed, organic cheese is also higher in essential omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation, promote cardiovascular health, and support brain function. 


According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “Grass-fed diets for dairy cattle have been shown to reduce hock lesions, lameness, mastitis, veterinary expenses, and cull rates.”


Freshly grated cheese

The health benefits of cheese


Cheese is a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K2, which help support eye, skin, bone, and immune health. It’s also high in B vitamins, which are crucial for energy metabolism and calcium needed to build strong bones. 


Additionally, cheese contains small amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two vital anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids


Traditionally prepared cheeses also contain alpha lipoic acid (ALA), a potent antioxidant that is crucial in supporting cellular health by neutralizing free radicals. These unstable molecules can lead to oxidative stress linked to various health issues. 


Another benefit of organic, grass-fed cheese is that they’re cultured with live microorganisms, making them a probiotic food rich in beneficial bacteria. Probiotics support a diverse gut microbiome, which promotes better digestion, weight loss, and metabolic health.   


Lactose intolerance

The downsides of cheese


Despite its many health-supporting nutrients, cheese also contains elements that can worsen certain conditions. 


“Dairy contains growth factors, including estrogen, which may exacerbate prostate issues and estrogen-dependent conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, breast fibroids, and some types of cancers,” explains Dr. Berg.


Lactose intolerance and casein allergies are also common issues, and those affected can experience adverse health effects when eating cheese. 


A study published in The Lancet: Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that almost 70 percent of the world’s population has lactose malabsorption, which is the inability to digest milk sugar. 


Sensitivities to lactose and casein, the protein in dairy, can lead to symptoms including diarrhea, constipation, skin rashes, acne, bloating, and abdominal pain.


Grass-fed cheese and dairy products

The best cheeses to have on keto 


Keto dieters should aim for minimally processed and 100 percent grass-fed cheeses made from whole milk. These choices help avoid excess carbs and limit exposure to potentially harmful ingredients.


Here are the best cheeses to have on the keto diet. 


1. Cheddar

Of all keto-friendly cheeses, cheddar contains the highest amounts of fats while having one of the lowest carb counts.  


A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of cheddar cheese contains:

  • 9 g total fat 

  • 6 g saturated fat

  • 7 g protein

  • 0.4 g carbs


Cheddar cheese has a low melting point and is available in a wide range of different flavors, making it a universal option for various keto diet recipes.


2. Goat cheese

Goat milk cheese is carb-free, making it one of the best choices for those following the ketogenic diet. 


A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of goat cheese contains the following:

  • 8 g total fat 

  • 6 g saturated fat 

  • 6 g protein

  • 0 g carbs


Cheese made from goat’s milk is lactose-free, which may make it easier to digest for those with lactose intolerance.  


Blue cheese on a platter

3. Blue cheese

Blue cheese is a tangy cheese made from beneficial molds responsible for its characteristic blue-green spots and unique taste.


A 1-ounce (28 gram) serving of blue cheese has:

  • 8 g total fat 

  • 5 g saturated fat

  • 6 g protein

  • 0.7 g carbs


This type of cheese is a popular option to prepare dips, salads, keto-friendly pizzas, and burgers.


4. Gouda

Gouda is a smokey-flavored, yellow cheese and one of the best dairy sources of live and active probiotic cultures. 


Each 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of gouda contains:

  • 8 g total fat 

  • 5 g saturated fat

  • 7 g protein

  • 0.6 g carbs


Gouda cheese has a low melting point and creamy texture, which explains why it’s often used in cheese fondue and mac and cheese dishes. 


5. Cream cheese

Cream cheese is made by combining cow’s milk and cream. This creamy cheese variety is usually packaged in a block and can be enjoyed on its own or added to various low-carb dishes.


A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of cream cheese contains:

  • 10 g total fat 

  • 5 g saturated fat

  • 1.7 g protein

  • 1.2 g carbs


Cream cheese is a versatile ingredient often used for dips and sauces, to thicken soups, and to bulk up keto fat bombs.


Processed American cheese

The worst cheeses to have on keto


The Healthy Keto® diet prioritizes minimally processed, nutritious whole foods, and avoiding low-carb cheeses and those containing potentially harmful ingredients is vital to promote a healthy body. 


Here are the worst cheeses to eat on keto.


1. Low-fat cheese

Cheese labeled low-fat, reduced-fat, or nonfat contains significantly more lactose and carbohydrates, usually from fruit-based thickeners, which can spike insulin and interfere with ketone production. 


2. Ultra-processed cheese products

Keto dieters should avoid processed cheeses, including American cheese, spray cheese, and most flavored cheese spreads. 


These cheese products are often made with inflammatory additives and ingredients, including soy or canola oil, artificial colors, synthetic flavors, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), an artificial flavor enhancer linked to various health issues. 


A study published in Advances in Nutrition found that a diet high in ultra-processed foods increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, hypertension, obesity, and inflammation associated with various chronic illnesses.


Baked cheesy cauliflower

5 easy cheesy keto recipes 


Cheese is a delicious and versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of keto recipes. Its rich flavor and creamy texture make it a favorite among those following a low-carb, high-fat diet, adding taste and satiety to meals without compromising nutritional value.


Here are five cheesy and keto-friendly recipes. 


1. Keto Mac and Cheese

Keto Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food without added carbs. It’s made with roasted cauliflower and baked in a creamy cheddar and mozzarella cheese sauce.  


2. Grilled Cheese with Keto Bread

Learn to make low-carb bread that won’t kick you out of ketosis with this easy Keto Grilled Cheese recipe.  


This dish can be customized with mild cheddar cheese, pepperjack, parmesan cheese, gouda, or any other low-carb cheese of your liking.  


Broccoli salad

3. Keto Cheese and Broccoli Salad

This Keto Cheese and Broccoli Salad is an excellent choice for a light but filling lunch. It’s made with tasty and nutritious ingredients, including broccoli, fresh cheese, avocado, bacon, and red onion. 


4. Jalapeño Goat Cheese Poppers

Jalapeño Goat Cheese Poppers are ideal for football parties, backyard barbeques, or busy weeknights. Wrap stuffed poppers in sugar-free bacon to boost fat content and flavor.


These poppers pair nicely with Ketogenic Ribs, grilled burgers, or this delicious Carne Asada Bowl recipe.


5. Keto Blue Cheese Dip

This Keto Blue Cheese Dip is another party favorite made with five simple ingredients, including blue cheese crumbles, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce. 


Variety of cheeses

Key takeaways


Cheese is one of the most popular foods worldwide, but can you eat cheese on keto? 


Yes, traditional cheeses such as goat cheese, cheddar, gouda, and cream cheese are high in fat and low in carbs, making them keto-friendly options that won’t interfere with ketosis. 


However, it’s essential to avoid low-fat cheeses and highly processed cheese products that are high in carbs and often contain other ingredients that can disrupt fat burning.  



FAQ


1. Can you eat cheese on keto?

Yes. Organic, grass-fed cheese is high-fat, low-carb, and nutrient-dense, which makes it an excellent food to eat on keto. 


However, processed cheeses, such as spray-can cheese, aren’t Healthy Keto®-approved as they are often high in carbs and may contain synthetic hormones and other potentially harmful ingredients.


2. What kind of cheese can you have on keto?

Aged cheeses like cheddar, gouda, parmesan, and Swiss are low in carbs and keto-friendly. Goat cheese is also a great option as it’s highly nutritious and easier to digest than cheese made from cow’s milk.


3. Can I eat as much cheese as I want on keto?

While cheese is low in carbs, it's essential to consume it in moderation to avoid excessive calorie intake, which can slow down weight loss.


4. What cheese is the lowest in carbs?

Goat cheese is the most keto-friendly option as it contains zero grams of carbs. This type of cheese is also easier to digest and contains more nutrients than cow’s milk cheese, including vitamins A and E, folic acid, and calcium.


5. Can I eat mozzarella cheese on keto?

Yes, mozzarella is a keto-friendly cheese option for those restricting carbs. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of mozzarella contains 0.6 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fat. It’s often used in keto-friendly recipes such as low-carb pizzas, salads, and baked dishes.



Sources


  1. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/ 

  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28690131/ 

  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33942057/

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