Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Feta Cheese Bad For You?



Short answer

Feta cheese, when consumed in moderation, can offer several nutritional benefits including protein, calcium, and B vitamins, which contribute to bone and muscle health. However, its high sodium content and saturated fats necessitate mindful consumption, particularly for individuals with hypertension or heart health concerns. Feta is also lower in lactose, potentially making it suitable for those with lactose intolerance. While not bad for you when enjoyed as part of a varied diet, portion control is essential to maximize its benefits without overindulging in sodium and saturated fat.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Feta Cheese

Feta cheese, a traditional Greek cheese made primarily from sheep's milk or a mixture of sheep and goat's milk, offers a range of nutrients essential to a balanced diet. The nutritional profile of feta cheese is unique and can be beneficial when consumed in moderation. Here we break down the key nutritional elements of feta cheese and discuss their potential health impacts.

Calories, Fat, and Protein

Typically, a one-ounce (28-gram) serving of feta cheese contains:

  • Approximately 74 to 80 calories
  • 6 to 8 grams of fat, of which 4 to 5 grams are saturated
  • 4 grams of protein

Carbohydrates and Sugars

Feta cheese is low in carbohydrates, with a one-ounce serving containing approximately 1 to 1.5 grams of carbohydrates, mostly in the form of lactose (milk sugars). Its sugar content is generally under 1 gram per serving, making it suitable for low-carbohydrate diets.

Calcium and Other Minerals

Feta cheese is a good source of calcium, crucial for bone health. A one-ounce serving offers about 14% of the daily recommended value. It also contains phosphorus, zinc, and trace amounts of magnesium and potassium.

Mineral Amount per 1 oz (28g) % Daily Value*
Calcium 140 mg 14%
Phosphorus 94 mg 9%
Zinc 0.7 mg 6%
Magnesium 4 mg 1%
Potassium 21 mg <1%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.


Feta cheese offers several vitamins, such as B-complex vitamins including riboflavin (B2), which helps convert food into energy, and B12, important for brain health and maintaining the nervous system. Additionally, it provides a smaller amount of vitamin A.

Sodium Content

One ounce of feta cheese can contain between 260 to 560 milligrams of sodium, which is a considerable portion of the recommended daily limit (2,300 mg). Those with hypertension or a need to watch their sodium intake should take note.

Nutritional content can vary slightly depending on the brand and the specific type of milk used. However, even with these variations, the core nutritional values of feta cheese provide insight into its incorporation into a nutritious diet. As with all foods, the key is portion control and ensuring a variety of nutrients from other dietary sources. The high-quality protein and calcium content in feta can contribute positively to overall nutritional intake when consumed thoughtfully.

For those with lactose intolerance, it's worth noting that feta contains less lactose than many other cheeses and may be a more tolerable option. Lactose content decreases further as the cheese ages, thus older feta may be easier to digest for those with sensitivities.

It is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or a nutritionist to discuss dietary options, especially when managing specific health conditions or dietary restrictions.

Saturated Fat and Sodium in Feta: Heart Health Implications

Feta cheese, a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, is renowned for its tangy flavor and crumbly texture. However, much like other cheeses, feta contains saturated fats and sodium, which are critical components to consider when assessing its implications for heart health. It's important to understand how these nutritional factors can impact the cardiovascular system.

Saturated Fat: Feta cheese contains saturated fat, which has been linked to increased levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Elevated LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for coronary artery disease. According to the American Heart Association, saturated fats should account for no more than 5-6% of your total daily calories to reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of feta cheese has about 4 grams of total fat, of which 2.9 grams are saturated.
  • For someone consuming a 2,000-calorie diet, this represents about 14% of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat from a single serving.

While moderate intake of feta cheese can be included in a balanced diet, it's important to keep track of overall saturated fat consumption from all food sources throughout the day.

Sodium: Another factor to consider is the sodium content in feta cheese, which can be quite high due to the brining process it undergoes. High sodium intake is associated with an increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), a major contributor to cardiovascular disease.

  • One ounce of feta typically contains between 300-500 milligrams of sodium, accounting for approximately 13-21% of the American Heart Association's recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams per day.
  • Recent dietary guidelines suggest an even lower limit of 1,500 milligrams per day for adults, to further lower the risk of heart disease.

For individuals with pre-existing health conditions such as hypertension, heart failure, or chronic kidney disease, consuming lower-sodium alternatives or reduced-sodium feta might be advisable.

When it comes to maintaining a heart-healthy diet, portion control and a balanced intake of foods are key. For those concerned about heart health, it's advisable to consume feta cheese in moderation, perhaps as part of a varied diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources.

In summary, while feta cheese can be part of a healthy dietary pattern, its saturated fat and sodium content require mindful eating, especially for those with cardiovascular concerns. It is essential to read nutrition labels carefully and consider the cumulative intake from all sources throughout the day. Incorporating foods rich in unsaturated fats and maintaining a low-sodium diet can help mitigate the heart health implications associated with saturated fats and sodium in feta cheese.

Calcium and Protein in Feta: The Bone and Muscle Advantage

When it comes to feta cheese, many people savor its tangy flavor, but this Mediterranean staple also provides some vital nutritional benefits. Two of the most significant nutrients found in feta are calcium and protein, both essential for maintaining healthy bones and muscle function.

Calcium Content: Feta cheese is a rich source of calcium, a mineral that is crucial for building and maintaining strong bones. It also plays a vital role in muscle contractions, nerve signaling, and blood clotting. The calcium content in feta can vary depending on the brand and manufacturing process, but on average, a 1 oz (28g) serving of feta provides about 140 mg of calcium, which is approximately 14% of the daily recommended intake for an average adult.

Protein Quality: Feta cheese offers a decent amount of high-quality protein, which is made up of essential amino acids needed for tissue repair, muscle growth, and immune function. Each ounce of feta cheese contains roughly 4 grams of protein, with casein and whey protein being the predominant types. These proteins are well-known for their digestibility and for containing a complete set of amino acids required by the human body.

Here is a brief nutritional profile focusing on calcium and protein in a standard serving of feta cheese:

Nutrient Amount % Daily Value (DV)
Calcium 140 mg 14%
Protein 4g 8%

Benefits for Bone Health: A diet rich in calcium has been linked to a lower risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones. The calcium in feta cheese can help bolster bone density when consumed as part of a balanced diet that includes a variety of calcium-rich foods.

Muscle Maintenance: Protein is not only important for growth and repair but also for maintaining muscle mass, particularly as we age. The amino acids in feta's protein content support muscle synthesis and can help prevent muscle wasting.

However, while feta's calcium and protein contribute positively to bone and muscle health, it's important to note that moderation is key. Feta cheese can also be high in saturated fats and sodium, which, when consumed in excess, can lead to health issues. Therefore, enjoying feta cheese as a part of a varied and balanced diet is the best approach to reaping its bone and muscle benefits.

Based on a collection of studies, including those from the National Institutes of Health, incorporating calcium-rich foods like feta into one's diet, along with engaging in regular physical activity, significantly improves bone health. Furthermore, according to the American Society for Nutrition, animal-based proteins such as those in feta cheese can aid in muscle preservation, especially in older adults.

In conclusion, feta cheese is a nutrient-dense food that, when included mindfully in your dietary pattern, can support the health of your bones and muscles.

Lactose Content and Digestive Sensitivities to Feta

For many individuals considering the inclusion of feta in their diet, the potential for digestive sensitivities—particularly those related to lactose—becomes a central concern. Feta cheese is a brined curd cheese traditionally made from sheep's milk or a mixture of sheep and goat's milk. Notably, the lactose content in feta cheese is lower than that of many other cheeses, especially those made from cow's milk.

The process of cheese making involves the fermentation of lactose, the sugar present in milk, by lactic acid bacteria. This fermentation process breaks down most of the lactose. The remaining whey, which contains most of the lactose, is then removed. Additionally, the aging process further reduces lactose content. As a result, feta cheese generally contains low levels of lactose, making it more tolerable for individuals with lactose intolerance when consumed in moderation.

To quantify, one ounce (28 grams) of feta cheese typically contains about 0.5 - 1.2 grams of lactose. In comparison, the same amount of cheddar cheese contains roughly 0.0-0.2 grams, while a glass of milk contains about 11-13 grams of lactose. Those with lactose intolerance have varying levels of enzymatic activity and can tolerate different amounts of lactose. For some, the lactose content in feta cheese may still provoke symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea, while others may ingest small quantities without adverse effects.

Individuals with lactose intolerance should also consider the cumulative lactose content of their overall diet, as other foods may contribute to their lactose intake. It's essential to listen to one's body and note how it responds to feta cheese, possibly starting with small amounts to assess tolerance.

Studies have shown that certain individuals may be able to improve their lactose digestion over time through dietary strategies. The gradual introduction of lactose-containing foods can help some people adapt, increasing the activity of lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose. This approach could potentially allow for a greater tolerance of feta cheese and other dairy products.

For those with a severe lactose intolerance or a true milk allergy—often indicated by an immune response to the proteins in milk, such as casein and whey—feta cheese made from cow's milk may best be avoided entirely. Fortunately, there are lactose-free versions of feta cheese available on the market, which can be a suitable alternative for these individuals. Moreover, those with a milk allergy can look for vegan cheese alternatives that replicate the taste and texture of feta without containing any dairy at all.

Here is a simple reference table summarizing lactose content in various dairy products:

Dairy Product Lactose Content (per ounce)
Feta Cheese 0.5 - 1.2g
Cheddar Cheese 0.0 - 0.2g
Milk (whole or skim) 11 - 13g
Yogurt (plain) 2 - 5g

Despite the low lactose content of feta cheese, it is vital for those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies to pay attention to their bodies and consult with a healthcare professional or a dietitian before introducing it, or any new food, into their diet. By doing so, individuals can make informed decisions and potentially enjoy feta cheese without adverse health effects.

The Role of Feta in a Balanced Diet

Feta cheese, a traditional Greek cheese made primarily from sheep's milk or a mixture of sheep and goat's milk, can play a role in a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. The composition of feta cheese provides a range of nutrients essential for bodily functions. Here, we will explore how feta can fit into a healthy eating pattern, posing considerations for portion control and frequency of consumption.

Nutrient Profile: Feta cheese is rich in protein, calcium, B vitamins, and phosphorus, making it a beneficial addition to meals, especially for individuals who struggle to meet their daily nutrient requirements. Each 1-ounce serving of feta contains roughly:

  • 74 calories
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 6 grams of fat
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates
  • 140 milligrams of calcium (about 14% of the daily value)
  • B vitamins including riboflavin and B12

Portion Control: Despite its nutritional benefits, feta cheese is also high in sodium and saturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to no more than 5-6% of total daily calories, which equates to around 13 grams for a 2,000 calorie diet. A single serving of feta contains about 4 grams of saturated fat, so it should be eaten in moderation.

Sodium Content: It’s important to note the high sodium content—a single ounce of feta can pack over 300 milligrams of sodium, which is about 13% of the recommended maximum daily intake. For individuals with hypertension or heart disease, the sodium content is a significant consideration, and they should seek guidance from their healthcare provider regarding feta consumption.

Bone Health: Feta cheese can be particularly beneficial to bone health due to its calcium content. The body requires calcium for maintaining bone strength and structure, and consuming adequate amounts can help prevent osteoporosis. The bioavailability of calcium from feta is noteworthy, with research suggesting that the calcium from dairy can be readily absorbed and utilized by the body.

Digestive Health: Some feta cheese is made with probiotics during the fermentation process, which can contribute to gut health. Probiotics are live bacteria that have been associated with a variety of health benefits, including improved digestion and a potential reduction in antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Variety in Diet: Incorporating feta into a balanced diet can add variety in flavor and texture, which may improve overall diet satisfaction and adherence to healthy eating patterns. Feta can be included in salads, spread on whole-grain bread, or crumbled over cooked vegetables, providing versatility in meal planning.

When considering the role of feta cheese in your diet, balance and moderation are key. Enjoying feta as part of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can contribute to a well-rounded nutrient intake. Furthermore, regularly eating a variety of foods can reduce the risk of excessive intake of any one nutrient that may have detrimental health effects.

Research indicates that following a Mediterranean diet, which includes cheese such as feta, can be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions. However, it is the overall dietary pattern rather than any single food item that determines the health impact, as noted by experts in nutritional studies. Moderation, varied food choices, and an emphasis on plant-based ingredients remain crucial in leveraging the benefits that feta cheese can provide within a nutritious diet.

Comparing Feta to Other Cheeses: Health Considerations

When it comes to cheese, feta often stands out for its unique tangy flavor and crumbly texture. But beyond these culinary attributes, it's essential to delve into the health aspects that distinguish feta from other popular types of cheese. Here's an exploration of feta cheese in comparison with other varieties based on several health considerations:

1. Caloric Content:

Feta cheese generally has fewer calories than some other cheeses, which can be advantageous for those managing their weight. For example, one ounce (28 grams) of feta cheese contains approximately 75 calories, whereas the same amount of cheddar cheese has about 115 calories. This difference can add up significantly over time for calorie-conscious individuals.

2. Fat Content:

The fat content in cheese is a primary concern for heart health. Typically, feta cheese has less total fat and saturated fat compared to hard cheeses like Parmesan or Gouda. A one-ounce serving of feta provides around 6 grams of fat, of which 4 grams are saturated. It is noteworthy that the American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 13 grams per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. Consuming cheeses with lower saturated fat, like feta, can therefore contribute to a heart-healthy diet.

3. Sodium Levels:

One area where feta may be a less healthy choice is its sodium content. Feta is characteristically salty, and just one ounce can have over 300 mg of sodium. When compared to Swiss cheese, which has only 50 mg of sodium per ounce, feta's higher sodium levels may be a point of consideration for those with high blood pressure or those watching their salt intake.

4. Calcium and Protein:

Like most cheeses, feta is a good source of calcium and protein. An ounce of feta has approximately 140 mg of calcium, while an ounce of mozzarella has about 183 mg. Protein levels are also comparable, with feta providing 4 grams per ounce. These nutrients are vital for bone health and muscle maintenance, making feta a nutritious part of a balanced diet.

5. Probiotic Potential:

Traditionally made feta cheese contains beneficial bacteria, giving it probiotic potential. Probiotics are known for promoting gut health. When comparing to processed cheeses, which lack these live cultures, feta may offer an advantage to gut microbiome diversity. It's important to choose feta made with traditional methods to obtain these benefits.

6. Lactose Content:

Feta cheese is relatively low in lactose, making it easier to digest for individuals with lactose intolerance. Cheeses that are aged longer, such as Parmesan, also have lower lactose content. The fermentation process reduces lactose levels, so feta can be a better option for those sensitive to lactose compared to fresher cheeses like ricotta or cottage cheese.

Frequently asked questions

Feta cheese is high in sodium due to the brining process, but it can be consumed in moderation even on a low-sodium diet. It's key to monitor your overall daily sodium intake and consider choosing reduced-sodium feta products or limiting portion sizes to maintain a low-sodium diet while still enjoying feta cheese.

While feta cheese does contain saturated fats, it can be included in a heart-healthy diet if consumed in moderation. Balancing your overall saturated fat intake with unsaturated fats from sources like avocados, nuts, and olive oil, and sticking to the American Heart Association's recommendation of no more than 5-6% of total calories from saturated fat, can help maintain heart health.

Feta cheese, with approximately 74 to 80 calories per one-ounce serving, generally has fewer calories than many processed snack foods. For instance, an ounce of potato chips can contain around 150 calories, making feta a lower-calorie option for those mindful of their intake. Always check individual product labels for the most accurate nutritional information.

Feta cheese can be suitable for a vegetarian diet, but it's important to ensure it doesn't contain animal rennet, an enzyme derived from the stomachs of ruminant animals, which is sometimes used in cheese making. Vegetarians should look for feta labeled as being made with 'vegetarian' or 'microbial' rennet, or confirm with the manufacturer.

Ask a question about Feta Cheese and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • bloating
  • gas
  • diarrhea

Possible long-term side effects

  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • osteoporosis (if diet lacks variety)

Ingredients to be aware of

  • saturated fats
  • sodium
  • lactose (for some individuals)


  • rich in protein
  • high in calcium
  • contains b vitamins
  • low in lactose
  • probiotic potential
  • supports bone health
  • aids muscle maintenance

Healthier alternatives

  • low-sodium feta
  • reduced-fat feta
  • vegan cheese alternatives

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

NOOCH IT! Cashew Cheeze

  • Dairy-free alternative
  • Vegan parmesan
  • Gluten-free product
  • Flavorful cheese substitute
  • Fair Trade certified
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-14-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-14-2024

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