Can People with Diabetes Eat Cheese?

People suffering from diabetes can consume cheese, although it is necessary to pay attention to the amount of salt and fats they contain.
Can People with Diabetes Eat Cheese?
Anna Vilarrasa

Written and verified by the nutritionist Anna Vilarrasa.

Last update: 05 October, 2023

If you have diabetes, it’s common to question whether or not it’s a good idea for you to consume certain foods, like cheese. One of the recurring questions is whether it is possible to eat cheese if you have diabetes.

As in many issues related to nutrition, the key is to know how to consume the most appropriate products and in the right amounts. Any excess is harmful, whether you have diabetes or not.

If I have diabetes, can I eat cheese?

Diabetes is a disease that affects many people around the world. The main characteristic is high blood glucose levels due to a total or partial lack of insulin or an insufficient response to insulin. Over time, vascular damage can occur.

Good lifestyle habits are very important in the treatment of people with diabetes. They also prevent or delay the onset of possible complications. Excess weight and high blood pressure are two of the conditions that it is desirable to avoid.

Milk and its derivatives, such as cheese or yogurt, are nutritious foods and everyone can eat them if they wish. However, it is important to take into account some of the aspects related to their composition because it is advisable to moderate their presence.

Thus, in the case of diabetes, people can consume cheese safely as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Hombre con diabetes mide su glucemia.
Diabetes is a disease with high prevalence and the nutritional issue is key in its management.

Nutritional characteristics of cheese to be taken into account with diabetes

Dairy products and their derivatives have a place in a healthy diet. They have an adequate nutritional profile in which some of their components should be highlighted.

  • Fats: Cheese is one of the foods that can present high amounts of fat compared to others. However, the total final value varies greatly depending on the variety. It ranges from less than 10% in fresh cheeses to more than 30% in some matured cheeses. Of the total amount of lipids, the highest percentage belongs to saturated fats.
  • Proteins: Together with fat, this is one of the macronutrients present in cheese, which on the other hand provides almost no carbohydrates. In this case, they are proteins of high biological value, since they provide all the amino acids needed by the body. The presence of this component can have a satiating effect.
  • Salt: One of the problems with most cheeses is their high sodium content. This is due to the use of salt as an ingredient in the preparation and the ripening process itself. The average salt level ranges between 0.7 and 6%.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Although they can also vary according to the type, cheese is generally considered a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A.

The energy intake, the amount of salt, and the presence of saturated fats are the most problematic aspects of cheese when it comes to diabetes. These are all related to obesity, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol and represent cardiovascular risk factors. And keep in mind that in diabetic disease this is already higher.

Like this article? We think you may also like to read: Are saturated fats bad for your health?

Can cheese affect your blood sugar levels?

Some believe that people with diabetes cannot consume cheese because the presence of lactose (the main sugar in milk) could increase blood glucose levels. The glycemic index (GI) is an indicator used to measure how food is able to increase these levels.

As indicated by the Diabetes Foundation UK, milk and other dairy products have a low glycemic index due to the protective effect of the milk protein, which slows down stomach emptying.

In addition, some scientific studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show a relationship between dairy intake and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. While these are not conclusive analyses, they offer data to consider.

People with diabetes can consume cheese in appropriate portions and choose those with lower levels of salt and saturated fat, as well as lower energy intake. A recommended serving is 30 grams for hard cheeses and between 50 and 70 grams for fresh cheeses.

Cottage cheese

This is a type of fresh cheese with characteristics similar to ricotta and cottage cheese. It’s low in fat, high in protein, and low in carbohydrates. It has a mild flavor, since it is not subjected to a curing process like mature cheeses.

In recent years, it has become fashionable in many countries as a healthy product thanks to these characteristics. It can be eaten in spoonfuls, as it is a good alternative to yogurt, or spread on slices of bread. It combines well with fruits, compotes, cereals, nuts, or seeds.

We think you may also like to read this article: How to make homemade cottage cheese

Quark cheese

This is a fresh whipped cheese with a creamy, smooth texture and a somewhat sour taste. It has a low caloric value and a low fat percentage. Although, there are some versions made with whole milk that may have a higher content.

Ricotta cheese

This typical variety of Italian cuisine is made from whey and, like cottage or quark, it is a fresh type of cheese. For this reason, it has low energy, sodium, and fat values.

The texture is granular, and it has a fresh flavor with a sweet touch. It goes well with fruit or in savory recipes, and you can serve it with a little honey, dark chocolate, or cinnamon.

Neuchâtel cheese

People with diabetes can consume this cheese with an appellation of origin from Normandy. The base of this cheese is cow milk, and it has a soft moldy skin.

It has moderate sodium and fat levels. Furthermore, it also has a taste similar to cream cheese, but with lower amounts of saturated fat.

Emmental cheese

Thischeese, made with a hard and compact paste, is one of the few of these characteristics with a low salt content. On the other hand, the amount of fat is between 25 and 40% of the final composition.

It’s a good choice to accompany pasta, as it melts well when cut into thin strips. You can also add it to a vegetable dish or salad. Its flavor is mild, sweet, and nutty.

Quesos blandos en la diabetes.
Cheeses can be regular part of a diabetic diet, provided you choose the right types of cheese and in smaller portions.

Varieties of cheese to avoid

It is advisable to give up some types of cheese, such as those prepared for melting or special mixtures for salads. These may contain many ingredients (starches, melting salts, vegetable fats, and colorants).

In addition, all those types of cheese that are richer in sodium and saturated fat are best when people with diabetes consume the once in a while. They can eat them as long as they maintain proper fiber and vegetable consumption.

An adequate diet for diabetes allows the consumption of cheese in moderation

With this disease, it’s essential to follow a balanced diet with vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil, and lean protein as protagonists. Cheese and other dairy products also have their place if consumed in the right amounts.

Among the cheeses of choice should be the least caloric and those with reduced levels of salt and saturated fats. You can eat cheese in portions of about 30 grams a day, served with light foods that provide fiber.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.