Health & Wellness

Cheese & Health

Time-honored Western fare, cheese is increasingly familiar and popular around the world, even in cultures where consumption is non-traditional. Ever-sophisticated global diners seek out cheese for the taste as well as its nutritious contribution to overall health and wellness-focused eating trends. The wide range of cheeses available on today's global market help product designers, chefs and other food industry professionals create foods that meet consumer demands for indulgent-tasting, health-focused choices. 

Cheese Trends

The rapid international growth of cheese as a dietary addition tracks consumption gains of 36% in emerging markets and 15% in developed markets between 2004 and 2014.1 The United States helps fuel international demand for cheese with hundreds of varieties and styles, each crafted to meet consumer desire for enjoyable, great-tasting foods that also suit health and wellness needs. Specifically, cheese:

  • Contributes essential nutrients such as protein and calcium
  • Fits into healthy eating plans for children and adults of all ages
  • Is made from a few simple ingredients
  • Is a versatile food available in many varieties and styles.  

Cheese contributes essential nutrients

Cheese is an important source of dietary calcium for children and adults. Most cheeses act as a good to excellent source of calcium to meet daily calcium guidelines. The mineral calcium supports the development and maintenance of healthy teeth, bones and overall wellness, and the calcium in cheese is readily available and well-absorbed.2  

Cheese is considered a nutrient-dense food because it provides a high concentration of nutrients relative to calorie content. An important source of calcium, cheese also contributes high-quality protein as well as phosphorus, vitamin A and zinc to the diet.2 

For those who find it difficult to digest the lactose found in milk and other dairy products, cheese is a particularly important nutrient source. Natural cheeses such as cheddar, colby, monterey jack, mozzarella and swiss contain minimal amounts of lactose. The cheese making process naturally removes lactose during the separation of cheese curds from the whey.  

While cheese also contains some sodium, fat and calories, dietary choices should include consideration a food's total nutrient package. 3 People everywhere enjoy cheese for the great taste and beneficial nutrients it provides.

Comparative Nutrient Content per 100g of Cheese and Cheese Products

Cheese Nutrients table

Health-focused eating plans include cheese

One serving of cheese equals 4 cubes

The many different varieties and styles of cheese help it fit a wide range of health- and wellness-focused needs, requirements and dietary structures, including diabetic, plant-based, Mediterranean, vegetarian, gluten-free, low-lactose and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). 3    

Many country-specific dietary guidelines include cheese as one of the recommended daily milk or milk product servings. While the size of one serving differs slightly from market to market, the general rule is 42.5 g (1.5 oz.) of natural cheese or 56 g (2 oz.) of processed cheese. A good guideline for cheese is a simple visual reminder: one serving size equals four dice-sized cubes. 3   

When served with fruits, vegetables or whole grains, cheese may help increase consumption of the paired foods and at the same time, boosts the nutrient density of the entire dish.3 Health professionals, foodservice professionals and world-renowned chefs can easily use cheese to meet consumer health and wellness needs and at the same time help make foods more nutritious, delicious and enjoyable. Simple cheese serving suggestions:

  • Add a slice of cheese to a sandwich
  • Sprinkle shredded cheese on a salad
  • Provide string cheese or cubed cheese as a fun snack  

Cheese: A few simple ingredients

Natural cheese is made from only four ingredients: milk, salt, starter culture (good bacteria) and rennet (an enzyme). Since milk is the main ingredient, cheese contains many of the same nutrients-including calcium, protein and phosphorus-found in milk.4 A vital part of the cheese making process, salt controls moisture, texture, taste and functionality, and additionally acts as a natural preservative to ensure food safety. 4,5  

Processed cheese comes from natural cheese and contains the same important nutrients, including calcium, high-quality protein and phosphorus. It also can be fortified with extra calcium and vitamin D.5 Processing cheese stops the aging process to maintain flavor and texture and create a versatile, tasty and easy-to-use food. Salt used in processed cheese provides firmness and flavor; it also boosts food safety with its natural preservative qualities.5

Versatile, convenient palate pleaser

Cheese is enjoyed around the world as a stand-alone food and as a versatile ingredient in food applications to suit every part of the day. The immense variety of cheese tastes and textures creates a range sure to please any palate. The many convenient forms of cheese are designed to meet the needs of food professionals and consumers alike.

1 OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2014-2023. Available at:
2 Dairy Research InstituteTM, NHANES (2003-2006). Ages 2+ years. Data Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Hyattsville, Md.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2003-2004; 2005-2006. Available at:
3 Cheese and Nutrition, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and National Dairy Council, 2011; International Dairy Federation. Bulletin of the International Dairy Federation 446/2010: The World Dairy Situation 2010.
4 Cheesemaking: A Wisconsin Tradition. Available at: Accessed February 15, 2011
5 Guinee TP. Salting and the role of salt in cheese. International Journal of Dairy Technology. 2004; 57(2-3): 99-109.