Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Monterey Jack Cheese Bad For You?



Short answer

Monterey Jack Cheese is not bad for you when enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. It provides essential nutrients like protein and calcium, but is high in saturated fat and sodium. While the lactose content is low, it may still affect those with sensitivities. The key is to manage portion sizes and consider individual dietary needs, especially for those monitoring heart health or lactose intolerance.



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Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Monterey Jack Cheese

When examining whether Monterey Jack Cheese can be deemed 'good' or 'bad' for you, understanding its nutritional profile is a critical step. Monterey Jack Cheese, popular for its mild flavor and meltability, does contribute some essential nutrients to one's diet, just as it carries with it certain considerations for those monitoring their intake of fats, sodium, or lactose.

Macronutrients and Calories: A typical one-ounce (28 grams) serving of Monterey Jack Cheese provides the following macronutrients:

  • Calories: Approximately 100-110
  • Protein: Around 7 grams
  • Total Fat: 8 to 9 grams
  • Saturated Fat: About 5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: Less than 1 gram
  • Sugars: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 20 to 30 milligrams

Minerals: Monterey Jack Cheese is a source of several important minerals, most notably:

  • Calcium: Provides about 200 milligrams, or 20% of the recommended daily value (DV)
  • Phosphorus: About 135 milligrams, or around 14% DV
  • Sodium: Contains roughly 150 to 200 milligrams

Vitamins: Although not a rich source of vitamins, Monterey Jack Cheese does contain small amounts of certain vitamins such as:

  • Vitamin A: Approximately 2-4% DV
  • Vitamin B12: Around 1-3% DV

Fat Content: The fat in Monterey Jack Cheese is primarily saturated fat, which has been historically linked to higher cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease when consumed in excess. However, more recent studies suggest that moderate consumption of certain types of saturated fats within a balanced diet may not be as harmful as once thought. It's also worth noting that cheese contains a matrix of nutrients, including calcium and protein, which are beneficial for bone and muscle health. One should balance these health benefits with the consideration of fat content, particularly concerning individual dietary needs and restrictions.

Sodium Content: For individuals with hypertension or those maintaining a low-sodium diet, the sodium content in Monterey Jack Cheese should be noted. While not the highest in sodium content relative to other cheeses, it can still contribute significantly to the daily intake if consumed in larger portions.

Lactose Content: For those with lactose intolerance or sensitivity, it's important to note that while Monterey Jack Cheese is lower in lactose compared to fresh cheeses, it still contains this milk sugar and can cause discomfort to sensitive individuals.

Each person's dietary needs and restrictions vary, so the "goodness" or "badness" of consuming Monterey Jack Cheese largely depends on one's health status, eating habits, and nutritional goals. Importantly, it should be incorporated thoughtfully into a diverse and balanced diet to reap the potential benefits while minimizing any risks.

As with any cheese or dairy product, moderation is important, and it's recommended to consume Monterey Jack Cheese as part of a varied dietary pattern that includes a wide range of nutrients. Prospective dietary modifications should also be made in consultation with a healthcare provider or a qualified nutritionist who can provide advice tailored to an individual's specific health needs.

In the next section, we will delve deeper into the potential health impacts of Monterey Jack Cheese, considering its nutritional makeup in the context of different dietary patterns and health concerns.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Content Concerns

When we consider the nutritional profile of Monterey Jack cheese, two components that often raise questions are saturated fat and cholesterol. These elements, commonly found in many dairy products, are sometimes viewed with caution due to their association with heart health issues. Let’s delve into the details to understand the implications of these components in Monterey Jack cheese.

Saturated Fat Content: Saturated fats are a type of dietary fat that are solid at room temperature. They're found in animal products like butter, cheese, and red meat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats, as they can increase the level of cholesterol in your blood, potentially leading to heart disease.

  • Amount per serving: A typical one-ounce serving (about 28 grams) of Monterey Jack cheese contains around 5 grams of saturated fat.
  • Daily intake recommendations: It's suggested that saturated fats make up no more than 5-6% of your total daily calories. For someone consuming 2,000 calories a day, that's about 13 grams of saturated fats or less.

Considering these figures, moderate consumption of Monterey Jack cheese can fit into a balanced diet, but it is vital to monitor total daily intake of saturated fat from all sources.

Cholesterol Content: Cholesterol is a substance found in your blood that is necessary for building healthy cells. However, high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. Dietary cholesterol comes from animal-based foods, and cheese is one of those sources.

  • Amount per serving: An ounce of Monterey Jack cheese contains about 20 milligrams of cholesterol.
  • Daily intake recommendations: The American Heart Association recommends that adults should aim for no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. Those with existing heart conditions or high cholesterol should aim for no more than 200 milligrams.

Given this advice, those monitoring their cholesterol levels should consider their total daily intake from all food sources, including Monterey Jack cheese. The cholesterol content alone does not make this type of cheese inherently bad for you if consumed wisely and as part of a varied diet.

In conclusion, while Monterey Jack cheese does contain saturated fats and cholesterol, which call for mindful consumption, it can also be part of a diet that supports heart health when eaten in moderation. It's essential for individuals, especially those with particular health concerns, to take into account all sources of saturated fat and cholesterol throughout their daily meals and to consult a healthcare provider or dietitian to personalize dietary advice.

Lactose Content and Potential for Intolerance

Cheese, including Monterey Jack, is known for its creamy texture and rich flavor, making it a favorite among many. However, for individuals with lactose intolerance, consuming dairy products can lead to discomfort. Understanding the lactose content in Monterey Jack and the potential for intolerance is critical for these individuals.

Lactose is the sugar found in milk and dairy products. During the process of cheese-making, lactose is broken down by bacteria, reducing its content in the final product. The amount of lactose in cheese varies based on the cheese's aging process. Typically, aged cheeses have lower lactose content because the bacteria have more time to break down the lactose.

Monterey Jack is a semi-hard cheese and is not aged for an extended period like some other types of cheese. Consequently, it still retains a moderate amount of lactose. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, some people who are lactose intolerant might be able to tolerate small amounts of lactose, around 12 grams per day, without symptoms. For context, a one-ounce serving of Monterey Jack cheese contains approximately 0.2-0.5 grams of lactose, which is lower than the amount found in a glass of milk but still significant for those with higher sensitivity.

Individuals with lactose intolerance experience symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, and nausea after consuming lactose-containing foods. These symptoms can vary in severity from one person to another. Because reactions can differ, it's important for those with lactose intolerance to assess their level of sensitivity.

Experts such as registered dietitians and gastroenterologists can provide guidance on managing lactose intolerance and determining which cheese varieties may be best tolerated. They may advise lactose-intolerant individuals to:

  • Avoid large servings of Monterey Jack cheese to prevent symptoms.
  • Consume it alongside other foods to slow down digestion and potentially reduce symptoms.
  • Consider lactase enzyme supplements which can be taken before consuming lactose-containing foods to help break down the lactose.

In cases of severe lactose intolerance, it may be necessary to avoid Monterey Jack cheese entirely.

It's also worth noting that not all dairy sensitivities are due to lactose. Some individuals have an allergy to milk proteins, such as casein and whey, found in Monterey Jack cheese. This condition is different from lactose intolerance and requires entirely avoiding milk-based products.

The best course of action for those with lactose intolerance or milk protein allergy is to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice. For those without lactose intolerance or milk protein allergies, consuming Monterey Jack cheese as part of a balanced diet is generally not problematic and can contribute to calcium and protein intake.

Lactose Content in Dairy Products
Dairy Product Lactose Content (per ounce)
Milk (whole, reduced-fat, skim) ~3g
Hard Cheeses (e.g., Cheddar, Parmesan) 0.1g or less
Soft Cheeses (e.g., Brie, Camembert) up to 1g
Monterey Jack Cheese 0.2-0.5g

The table above provides a comparison of lactose content among various dairy products, offering a perspective on where Monterey Jack stands in terms of lactose content. By understanding these variances, individuals with lactose intolerance can make more informed dietary choices.

Sodium Levels in Monterey Jack Cheese and Heart Health

The sodium content in Monterey Jack cheese can have implications for heart health, particularly for individuals with hypertension or preexisting cardiac conditions. Cheese, in general, is known for its high sodium content, which is a concern given that excessive sodium intake is linked to increased blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.

According to the USDA FoodData Central, a one-ounce (28 grams) serving of Monterey Jack cheese contains approximately 180 milligrams of sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day and further reducing this to 1,500 milligrams for certain populations, including those with hypertension, those who are 51 years of age or older, or those of African American descent.

  • Sodium and Blood Pressure: A higher intake of sodium can cause the body to retain water, which increases the volume of blood and, consequently, blood pressure.
  • Sodium Sensitivity: Some individuals are more sensitive to the effects of sodium on blood pressure than others. For these individuals, even moderate amounts of sodium can cause an increase in blood pressure.
  • Heart Health Risks: Over time, increased blood pressure can lead to atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Thus, monitoring sodium intake is crucial for maintaining heart health.
  • Cheese Consumption Patterns: Considering the cumulative effect, it's not just the amount of sodium in a single serving of Monterey Jack that matters, but also the frequency and quantity of cheese consumed over time.

Scientific studies have provided additional insights into the sodium-heart health connection. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggested that high sodium diets may lead to left ventricular hypertrophy, a condition that is a major predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Another study in the British Medical Journal found a consistent relationship between high sodium intake and increased risk of stroke and total cardiovascular events.

However, not all research condemns sodium at strict limits. The PURE study, published in The Lancet, reported a J-shaped association where both high and low sodium intake were associated with increased risk, suggesting that moderate intake may be more appropriate for certain populations. Such studies illustrate the complexity of nutritional recommendations for heart health and the need for a personalized approach.

For those concerned about sodium intake and heart health, there are strategies to enjoy Monterey Jack while managing its sodium content:

  • Portion Control: Enjoy cheese in small amounts to keep overall daily sodium intake within recommended limits.
  • Balancing the Diet: Pair Monterey Jack cheese with low-sodium foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits to balance out meals.
  • Low-Sodium Alternatives: Seek out low-sodium varieties of Monterey Jack cheese that offer the same taste with less sodium.

It's important for individuals, especially those with heart health concerns, to be mindful of the sodium content in their diet. As with any food, consuming Monterey Jack cheese in moderation within a balanced diet can make it a part of a healthy lifestyle, while vigilance concerning sodium intake is key to protecting heart health.

Calcium and Protein Benefits of Monterey Jack Cheese

Monterey Jack Cheese is a significant source of two essential nutrients in our diet: calcium and protein. Both of these nutrients play crucial roles in maintaining the health and function of our bodies, and incorporating Monterey Jack Cheese into a balanced diet can contribute to meeting the daily recommended intake of these components.

Calcium Content: Monterey Jack Cheese is an excellent source of calcium. This mineral is vital for maintaining strong bones and teeth, and it also aids in blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve signal transmission. The calcium in cheese can be particularly beneficial for populations at risk of osteoporosis, such as postmenopausal women. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one ounce of Monterey Jack Cheese provides approximately 211 mg of calcium, which is about 21% of the recommended daily value for most adults.

Protein Profile: This cheese also provides a good amount of high-quality protein, which is necessary for building and repairing body tissues, including muscles, skin, and organs. Protein is also important for immune system function, as it helps form antibodies that fight off infections. Monterey Jack Cheese stands out because it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. In every one ounce serving, you'll find about 7 grams of protein, contributing to the overall daily protein requirements.

Synergistic Effects: The combination of calcium and protein in Monterey Jack Cheese can have synergistic effects on the body. For example, the presence of protein enhances calcium absorption, making the calcium in cheese even more beneficial. This is especially important for individuals who may not get enough calcium, such as those who are lactose intolerant or do not consume many dairy products.

  • Recommended serving: To balance the benefits of calcium and protein with the other components in cheese like fat and sodium, a standard recommended serving of cheese is about one to two ounces.
  • Pairings: Combining Monterey Jack Cheese with a fiber-rich food like whole-grain crackers or fresh vegetables can create a more balanced snack or meal component.

Expert Recommendations: While nutritionists acknowledge the benefits of calcium and protein in cheese, they also advise moderate consumption due to the high saturated fat content typically associated with cheese products. By choosing lower-fat options or reducing portion sizes, individuals can still enjoy the benefits of Monterey Jack Cheese without substantially increasing their intake of calories and saturated fats.

Nutrient Amount per 1 oz of Monterey Jack Cheese % Daily Value (DV)
Calcium 211 mg 21%
Protein 7 g 14%

The specific research and understanding of the nutritional benefits of cheese, like Monterey Jack Cheese, are consistently being updated. It is essential for consumers to stay informed about their dietary choices and to consider the latest scientific research when making nutritional decisions. The health implications of dietary calcium and protein are complex, and individual needs may vary based on age, sex, activity level, and overall health. Consulting with a healthcare provider or dietitian can provide personalized recommendations suitable for one's dietary needs and lifestyle.

Balance and Moderation: How Much Is Too Much?

When indulging in the rich creaminess of Monterey Jack cheese, it's not only the flavor that should be savored, but also an understanding of moderation. Cheese, as with many foods, is best enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. But how much is too much? Let's break it down:

Dietary Guidelines: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), adults should consume approximately three servings of dairy per day. A serving of Monterey Jack, like other cheeses, is considered to be 1.5 ounces. However, this recommendation comes with a caveat; dairy should be low-fat or fat-free to avoid the adverse effects of saturated fat on heart health.

Saturated Fat Considerations: While cheese is a good source of calcium and protein, it also contains saturated fat. Monterey Jack, in particular, has about 5 grams of saturated fat per 1-ounce serving. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 5% to 6% of total daily calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories per day, that's about 13 grams of saturated fat. Therefore, enjoying Monterey Jack within this guideline is key.

Caloric Content: Cheese is calorie-dense. Monterey Jack averages at about 100 calories per ounce. Acknowledging daily caloric needs and the contribution of cheese within those needs is essential to prevent unwanted weight gain.

Lactose Content: Those with lactose intolerance should be aware that Monterey Jack, like many aged cheeses, contains lower levels of lactose and can often be better tolerated in small amounts. However, the individual threshold varies, reinforcing the importance of personalized moderation.

Frequency of Consumption: Enjoying Monterey Jack as an occasional treat rather than a daily staple can contribute to a more balanced diet. Incorporating a diverse range of other calcium-rich foods, such as leafy greens, fortified plant milks, and fish with bones, can decrease dependence on cheese for calcium requirements.

In summary, while Monterey Jack cheese can be part of a healthy diet, it is crucial to be mindful of the quantity. Enjoying it within the parameters of dietary guidelines and personal health goals ensures that you get the most out of its delightful taste and nutritional benefits without overindulging.

Monterey Jack Cheese in Various Diets: Keto, Lactose-Free, and Low-Sodium Alternatives

Monterey Jack cheese can be a versatile addition to various diets, each with its distinct set of guidelines. However, not all diets can accommodate this cheese without some consideration. Let's explore its place in Keto, Lactose-Free, and Low-Sodium diets.

Keto Diet:

  • Carbohydrate Content: Monterey Jack cheese is low in carbohydrates, which makes it suitable for a Keto diet. Being high in fat and moderate in protein, it aligns with the Keto focus on ketosis through fat consumption.

  • Serving Sizes: Despite being keto-friendly, mindful consumption is crucial. Overindulgence could disrupt macronutrient balance, potentially impairing ketosis.

  • Fat Composition: With a substantial amount of saturated fats, individuals with cardiovascular concerns should consult healthcare professionals before incorporating high-fat dairy into their diet.

Lactose-Free Diet:

  • Lactose Content: While Monterey Jack cheese contains less lactose than milk due to the fermentation process, it is not entirely lactose-free. People with lactose intolerance may need to be cautious.

  • Cheese Aging: Ageing of cheese reduces its lactose content. Aged Monterey Jack, often labeled as "Dry Jack," may be more tolerable for those with mild lactose sensitivity.

  • Alternative Options: For a completely lactose-free diet, individuals should seek out specialty cheeses made with lactose-free milk or plant-based cheese substitutes.

Low-Sodium Diet:

  • Sodium Levels: Traditional Monterey Jack cheese can be high in sodium, which may not be ideal for a low-sodium diet aimed at reducing blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.

  • Reduced-Sodium Cheese: Some brands offer reduced-sodium versions of Monterey Jack cheese. These products can help maintain flavor while keeping sodium intake in check.

  • Portion Control: For those not wishing to switch brands, minimizing portion sizes can help manage sodium consumption while still enjoying this cheese.

Each diet requires individual consideration when it comes to including Monterey Jack cheese. Keto adherents can enjoy this cheese in moderation, while those on lactose-free diets may need to opt for aged or specialty products. Low-sodium diets present a bigger challenge, however, reduced-sodium cheeses or careful portion control can make Monterey Jack a more viable option.

Frequently asked questions

Monterey Jack cheese can be included in a weight loss diet if consumed in moderation. With approximately 100 calories per ounce, it's important to consider portion size. Opting for reduced-fat versions and balancing with other low-calorie foods can aid in weight management.

Monterey Jack cheese can be beneficial for osteoporosis prevention due to its high calcium content. One ounce offers about 21% of the recommended daily value, which is important for maintaining strong bones. However, it should be consumed as part of a diet that's also rich in other bone-supporting nutrients.

Yes, Monterey Jack cheese is an excellent source of high-quality protein for vegetarians. It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. A one-ounce serving provides about 7 grams of protein, which can help vegetarians meet their daily protein requirements.

Monterey Jack cheese can be part of a heart-healthy diet when consumed in moderation, due to its saturated fat and sodium content. Opting for lower-fat and reduced-sodium varieties, and keeping an eye on portion sizes, allows one to enjoy the cheese without significantly impacting heart health.

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

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased cholesterol levels
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • hypertension
  • weight gain

Ingredients to be aware of


  • essential nutrients
  • high in calcium
  • protein-rich
  • complete amino acid profile

Healthier alternatives

  • low-fat cheese options
  • plant-based cheese substitutes
  • lactose-free cheese
  • reduced-sodium cheese

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Grassmilk Raw Cheddar

  • Organic cheese
  • Grass-fed milk source
  • Rich, sharp flavor
  • 8-ounce block
  • Raw cheese benefits
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-23-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-23-2024

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