The 5 Best Low-Sodium Cheeses, According to a Dietitian
When people are told to reduce their sodium intake, cheese often tops the laundry list of foods to "avoid." And while it is true that there are certain varieties of cheese that, while utterly delicious, are packed with salt, some cheeses can easily fit into a low-sodium diet, thanks to their lower sodium content. If you were told to limit your sodium intake but can't live without the satisfying goodness that is cheese, here are five dietitian-approved lower-sodium cheeses that you can enjoy in moderation.
Related: Delicious Low-Sodium Recipes
How to Choose a Healthy Low-Sodium Cheese
The trick to including cheese in your low-sodium or heart-healthy diet is knowing which cheeses are made with less salt. Trying to find cheeses that are completely sodium-free will leave you empty-handed, as salt is a necessary addition for preventing the growth of potentially harmful pathogens in our beloved dairy product, while also enhancing the flavor. But, to the delight of many cheese lovers who are limiting their sodium intake, some cheese varieties contain far less added salt than others.
One of the best ways to navigate your lower-sodium cheese selection is to read the nutrition label on your cheese package and make sure that the sodium content is on the lower side. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people eat no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, with certain experts suggesting an even lower intake (closer to 1,500 mg), especially if you have high blood pressure, kidney disease or other health conditions where eating too much salt can do harm.
Some varieties of cheese can contain a lot of salt, making you reach your sodium quota rather quickly. For instance, 1/4 cup of feta cheese contains 428 mg of sodium, which is almost one-third of the 1,500 mg limit for people with certain conditions. It's not that you can't enjoy saltier cheeses like feta, but it does mean you'll want to cut back on how much salt you sprinkle on the rest of your dish.
Including cheese in one's diet is linked to a slew of potential health benefits. Along with being a source of key nutrients, including protein, calcium and vitamin B12, eating dairy, such as cheese, may promote a healthy body weight, suggests research in Advances in Nutrition (likely due to the satisfying combination of carbs, fat and protein it delivers). Plus, many varieties of cheese contain vitamin K2, a nutrient that is created by bacteria. Adequate intake of this nutrient has been shown to inhibit the formation of potentially harmful calcium deposits in the heart, and it plays an important role in preventing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
One thing to keep in mind: Cheese also contains saturated fat, a nutrient that people with heart disease and diabetes still need to keep in mind when making food choices. While some of these lower-sodium picks limit salt, you'll still need to watch your saturated fat intake.
When you're looking to switch to low-sodium cheeses, here are five to include in your diet:
1. Fresh Mozzarella
There is nothing quite like taking a bite of creamy fresh mozzarella cheese in your Caprese Sandwich or on top of your fresh veggie salad. And if you are trying to eat less sodium, enjoying this cheese will only set you back 85 mg of sodium per ounce, making it one of the best choices among the cheese options. Try fresh mozzarella cheese in Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms or a Roasted Bell Pepper Salad with Mozzarella & Basil.
Note that more-processed mozzarella varieties that are often pre-sliced or shredded are typically higher in sodium to help with spoilage. The softer mozzarella that is sold in liquid is the variety you want to stick to if you are shooting for a lower-sodium option.
2. Swiss Cheese
The classic holey cheese that is loved by many is a perfect lower-sodium cheese, with only 53 mg of sodium per ounce of cheese. And as an added bonus, this harder cheese is extremely low in lactose, making it a potentially viable dairy option for people with lactose intolerance (not to be confused with a dairy allergy).
3. Ricotta Cheese
Whether you love it on top of toast, as an ingredient in your lasagna or as an addition to your sandwich, ricotta cheese is one of the most delicious and versatile cheeses out there. And with only 136 mg of sodium per half-cup of cheese, you can enjoy your favorite ricotta cheese dishes knowing that you aren't overloading your body with too much salt (as long as the other ingredients used are low in sodium as well). Eggplant Lasagna Rolls and Fig & Ricotta Overnight Oats are two unique ways to include ricotta cheese in your diet. Of course, an old-school classic lasagna can fit the bill as well.
4. Mascarpone Cheese
Creamy, buttery mascarpone cheese may be relatively high in fat, but it only contains 15 mg of sodium per tablespoon of cheese. And since a little bit of this cheese goes a long way, many people need just a light spread or a dollop to feel satisfied. To enjoy this softer cheese, try these recipes for Mascarpone & Berries Toast and Creamy Spinach Pasta to get your mascarpone fix.
5. No-Sodium-Added Cottage Cheese
If you are team cottage cheese, rejoice in knowing that some varieties of this cheese are relatively low in sodium. Low-fat, no-sodium-added cottage cheese typically contains about 29 mg of sodium per cup, though check the Nutrition Facts label on your favorite brand. Regular cottage cheese usually contains a lot of sodium, which is why you want to opt for those that list "no sodium added" or "no salt added" on the label. Cottage Cheese & Veggie Dip or Deviled Eggs with Relish are unique ways to add this cheese to your diet. Though topping cottage cheese with mixed fruit is a classic combo for a reason.
If you enjoy cheese but are looking to eat lower-sodium versions, there are several delicious low-sodium cheese options that will honor any cheese craving. Plus, they deliver nutrition like protein and calcium, making these low-sodium cheeses a healthy choice.