Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cheese >
Jan 23, 2002 10:53 AM

fattiness of cheese

  • b

not looking for a big discussion on recommendations. i would appreciate a quick pointer on the HEALTH aspects. not much of a cheese eater, but in recent forays, I've realized I enjoy creamy mushy stuff most of the time, and invariably dislike anything "hard". nowhere is this distinction more clear than in prepackaged mozzarella. depending on the fat or moisture content, some of them melt in my mouth like butter, whereas some of them taste like rubber.

anyway, i recall doctors making the comment that anyone on a diet should have " soft cheeses of any kind". Or was it " hard cheeses"?

i realize there is some variation, but as a general rule, which one is better for you. it seems OBVIOUS that the rich, creamy ones would be higher in fat...but is it simply that they're higher in MOISTURE (and therefore LOWER in fat)?

i am not on a diet, but i would like to know nonetheless. i read the nutrition labels, but haven't noticed any sweeping pattern yet. also...are the "benefits" related to any particular kind of cheese? i figured it was BITTER cheeses (bleu? stilton?), but they make so much of the FRENCH DIET, that maybe they ARE talking about rich, creamy ones.

btw, up in canada the cheese usually includes "moisture content" (%age) on the label. i wasn't there long enough to glean the pattern vis-a-vis my likes and dislikes, but i sure wish they'd implement that system here. i think the staff is getting tired of my squeezing and poking all the cheeses!

if anyone knows a website which would ORDER the major cheeses in terms of 1) fat content, and 2) health/heart benefits, that would be ideal. but some sweeping rules would be fine too.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. l
    Leslie Brenner

    Health advisories usually say to avoid hard cheeses, which tend to be high in fat. This doesn't necessarily mean that soft cheeses are lower in fat; that depends on the cheese. Triple cremes, eg. are very high in fat.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Leslie Brenner

      Ditto this. In fact, the list of cheeses that are low in fat is pretty small, including feta, low-fat fresh chevre, cottage cheese, etc. Most lower-fat cheeses are labelled as such.

      You can safely say that cheddar, Camembert, mozzarella (unless lowfat), ricotta, stilton, morbier, brie, taleggio, and basically any of the really good European "eating" cheeses have almost the same high percentage of fat. Cannot go by hard or soft, though you might eat less hard cheese in a sitting.

      1. re: lucia

        yeah, i'd definitely go thru less hard cheese, coz the stuff tastes like rubber!


        brie...yeah, i should have mentioned that in the first place. brie and camembert would be about my favs; sufficiently "spongy" havarti or mozz clocks in high on the list too. but i can't stand BLOCKS of cheese, such as for cheddar, colby, swiss, drier mozz, etc. "jack" depends on type/brand - i recently found a deliciously mushy one.

        dry/crumbly cheese bothers me even more. while i like bleu cheese as a DRESSING, say, i can't stand the consistency of the actual cheese. ditto feta, stilton, limburger, etc.

        which brings me back to the only reason i ever TRY any of these -- coz i thought they were good for me! do you honestly me to tell me that brie and camembert are no worse than a block of cheddar? or, as the prior post stated, that they might even be BETTER?!

        how could a soft cheese POSSIBLY have less fat than a hard one? is the "creaminess" indeed not from fat but from moisture?

        1. re: basil
          Jessica Shatan

          Ok here's the deal--the hard/soft distinction is not entirely scientific and is frought with exceptions to the rule.

          It's a general rule to guide people and the thinking is this: the softer cheese (like a brie) tends to have a higher fat content (hence the cheese gets softer and softer at room temp. just like the butter, one of the highest dairy fats of all). Conversely, a harder cheese (cheddar, parmasan) has less fat.

          I would put havarti somewhere in between hard and soft. 1 exception to the rule is mozzarella which is more of a dairy product like yogurt or cottage cheese, and is relatively low in fat, even whole milk ricotta (hey it's no cream like in brie! whole milk is 4% fat and cream is 10% fat minimum). That's also why fresh mozzarella only keeps about a week, fat is a preservative and there just isn't enough in it.

          Cheese IS good for you, it's got calcium and protien but most people eat it in too large quantities, 1--2 oz. is a serving and a 1 inch cube = 1 oz. Sounds crazy but if you slice it thin on a cracker, you might have 4 or 5 pieces before reaching an ounce. (picture the 1 inch cube sliced up). Grating cheeses goes a long way--you can make a mini-pizza at home with 1-2 oz. grated mozz. easily. Just avoid big cheese sandwiches. Even in France a cheese sandwich would be baguette with a couple thin slices of cheese not like a deli in NY would make it!

          Regarding types of fat--I have never heard of complex and simple fat--that's being confused with carbohydrates. For fat it's just saturated and unsaturated...........always confused me but most dairy fat is the same just different amounts of it. Then the fat in a steak or in olive oil is different from each other and from dairy fat but within cheeses it's all pretty similar in terms of TYPE of fat.

          Got it?

          1. re: Jessica Shatan

            i've ALMOST got it...except...i just noticed that of the two "balls" of mozz that i brought home last night, the "low-fat" one is higher in calories, fat percentage, and grams of fat!

            same company, same series, same size. it clearly has something to do with this "low-moisture" distinction on the regular one, but this is confusing! in fact, i'd say it's downright CRIMINAL to label the one that's higher in fat and higher in calories as "low-fat"!

            anyone on a diet had better stick to "regular"....

            1. re: basil

              Or ignore the hype and read the "Nutrition Facts"...which themselves are often somebody's guesstimate.

              Better, though not cheap: Get yourself a copy of "Bowes & Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used" ($45 @; be sure to click through from the Chowhound home page!) This is the reference bible for people who want to know the nutritional content of their food. My older edition sticks pretty close to foods that were common in the U.S. 30 years ago, but the new one has 3000 more foods, so we can hope they've broadened their horizons somewhat.

              In the meantime, here's what their 1980 ed. has on some of the cheeses mentioned (1-oz portions unless otherwise specified):

              Bleu 8.5g of fat
              Brie 7.8
              Cheddar 9.1
              Colby 9.0
              Cottage, 1/2c (4 oz) 4.7
              Cream 9.9
              Feta 6.0
              Gruyere 8.9
              Mozzarella 6.1
              Mozz, low-moisture, part-skim 4.5
              Parmesan 7.3
              Ricotta, 1/2c (4.5 oz) 16.1
              Ricotta, part skim 9.8
              Swiss 7.8

              Obviously, YMMV. Chances are a good bleu will be higher in fat than the one they tested. They don't list havarti, but at a guess I'd put it somewhere between brie and cheddar. Bon appetit!

            2. re: Jessica Shatan

              According to the National Dairy Council, a hard cheese doesn't have less fat than a soft cheese. See link below (a PDF), section on fat in cheese, and their list of cheeses with the same approx. fat content include cheddar, brie, blues, etc. The deciding factor apparently is what kind of milk you start with, not whether the result is hard or soft.

              Relative softness at room temp is not a direct indicator of fattiness. Most solids, including uncooked protiens, also soften at warmer temperatures. Do you have a source that says something different?


              1. re: lucia

                I've always been taught that a dry, hard cheese like Parmesan has more fat per ounce than a softer cheese as it becomes so condensed in the aging process and there is obviously less moisture.

                1. re: iron frank
                  Caitlin Wheeler

                  As a member of Weight Watchers (A great diet for chowhounds by the way, as you can eat everything, just not too much of it) I can tell you that Parmesan and Cheddar Cheese have the same Points per ounce, as does Brie. Fresh Mozzarella has 1 fewer point per ounce. A point is calculated by figuring out the calories and the fat, so if Parmesan is higher in fat, it is also lower in calories to have the same points.

            3. re: basil

              If two cheeses have the same fat content per dry weight, the one with more water will probably be softer.

              During aging, cheeses lose moisture, so the fat content per ounce would go up, without affecting the fat content per dry weight.

              I read the label on mozzarellas a while back, and all the products I scoped out, from fresh-style to low moisture part-skim, had the exact same fat content per serving. The different was the water content.

        2. j
          Josh Mittleman

          I believe the difference between hard and soft cheeses is not the amount of fat but the type of fat: Hard cheeses have more complex fats (longer molecular chains) which tend to be more damaging to the arteries. Can anyone confirm or refute that>

          3 Replies
          1. re: Josh Mittleman

            The only fat that can be found in real cheese is butterfat.

            1. re: Josh Mittleman

              This theory conflicts with the fact, for example, that greatest hard cheese of them all, Parmigiano Reggiano, has long been touted as a comparatively low fat cheese, inasmuch as it (like many other cheeses, btw) is made from skim milk..... It also offers a ton of potassium. Use it little guilt....

              1. re: Karl S.

                Ah, but most people use it as a seasoning, as opposed to eating it in large chunks, so ingest lots less...most people..(g)