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

Is Provolone Cheese Bad For You?



Short answer

Provolone cheese is a valuable source of protein and calcium but is high in saturated fats and sodium. Moderate consumption within a balanced diet can offer health benefits, yet those with heart disease, high blood pressure, or cholesterol issues should be cautious. For lactose-intolerant individuals, provolone's lower lactose content may be easier to digest. Enjoying it with fibrous foods can help mitigate potential negative effects. Always check labels for varying nutritional content across brands.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Provolone Cheese

Provolone cheese, as a dairy product, has a combination of nutrients that could contribute positively to your diet when consumed in moderation. It is important to understand its nutritional profile to gauge how it fits into your dietary needs. Here is a breakdown of the nutritional content found in a standard one-ounce (28 grams) serving of provolone cheese:

  • Calories: Approximately 98-100 kcal
  • Total Fat: 7-8 g (with around 4-5 g being saturated fat)
  • Cholesterol: 20 mg
  • Sodium: 190-250 mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 0.6-1 g
  • Sugars: 0-0.5 g
  • Protein: 7-8 g
  • Calcium: 200-220 mg
  • Vitamin A: Approximately 4% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin B12: 28% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: About 15% of the DV
  • Zinc: Roughly 10% of the DV

Provolone cheese is an excellent source of protein and calcium, two essential nutrients for bone health and muscle maintenance. The presence of vitamin B12 makes it beneficial for red blood cell formation and brain function. However, it is also high in sodium and saturated fats, which can be a concern for individuals with high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, or those at risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 7% of your total daily calories, making it crucial to consume provolone cheese judiciously if you're watching your saturated fat intake.

Despite its fat content, provolone cheese has minimal carbohydrates, making it a potential option for those following a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Its low sugar content also minimizes the risk of blood sugar spikes.

The nutritional content can vary slightly between brands and how the cheese is processed or aged. For example, sharp provolone, which is aged longer, may have a slightly higher concentration of certain nutrients due to the reduction in moisture content over time. It's important to check the nutrition label of the specific product you purchase for the most accurate information.

Given the varied nutritional aspects of provolone cheese, its impact on your diet depends not only on how much and how often you consume it but also on the overall balance of your diet and your specific health goals and conditions. For those with lactose intolerance, it's worth noting that aged cheeses like provolone may be easier to digest due to lower lactose content.

Remember to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to determine how best to incorporate provolone cheese into a healthy and balanced diet, especially if you have underlying health concerns. They can provide personalized advice based on your dietary needs and health objectives.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol: Cardiac Concerns?

When assessing the impact of provolone cheese on heart health, two key components come into focus: saturated fat and cholesterol. Let's dissect the relationship between these elements and cardiovascular well-being.

Saturated Fat Content

Provolone cheese contains a notable amount of saturated fat—a type of fat that has been traditionally linked to an increased risk of heart disease. However, recent studies have brought new insights into the conversation. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis which found that the evidence linking saturated fat intake to cardiac events was not entirely conclusive. This nuanced perspective suggests the effects of saturated fats on heart health may vary depending on the overall dietary context and individual health profiles.

It's wise to note that while provolone cheese does contribute to total saturated fat intake, moderation is key. Consuming it as part of a balanced diet could mitigate potential risks. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that saturated fats should comprise less than 10% of daily calories. For someone following a 2,000-calorie diet, this equates to approximately 22 grams of saturated fat per day.

Cholesterol and Heart Health

Provolone cheese also contains cholesterol—another nutrient historically viewed as a villain in the narrative of heart health. Dietary cholesterol's effect on blood cholesterol levels has been the subject of much debate in the nutrition science community. It's important to understand that the body regulates its own cholesterol production based on dietary intake, making the impact of dietary cholesterol on blood levels quite individual.

The Journal of the American Medical Association states that for most people, consuming dietary cholesterol may not significantly affect the levels of cholesterol in the blood, or necessarily lead to heart disease. This challenges the outdated blanket restriction on cholesterol-rich foods. Nonetheless, for individuals with specific health concerns, such as familial hypercholesterolemia, monitoring dietary cholesterol remains essential.

According to nutrition data, an ounce of provolone cheese provides approximately 20 mg of cholesterol. Given that the American Heart Association suggests an upper limit of 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day, provolone cheese can fit into a heart-healthy diet if enjoyed in moderation.

Moderation and Dietary Patterns

When it comes to cardiac concerns related to saturated fat and cholesterol in provolone cheese, the overarching theme is moderation. A thoughtful approach to consumption, especially within the context of a diet abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help maintain heart health.

Experts, including registered dietitians and cardiologists, often emphasize the importance of looking at the diet as a whole rather than isolating single nutrients. Integrating provolone cheese into a dietary pattern that aligns with the Mediterranean diet, for instance, which is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, could allow people to enjoy this cheese while still nurturing their heart health.

Salt Content in Provolone: The Sodium Issue

The salt content in Provolone cheese can be a double-edged sword in terms of health. On one hand, sodium plays critical roles in the body, including maintaining proper fluid balance, nerve function, and muscle contraction. However, excessive sodium intake is linked to adverse health outcomes, particularly hypertension (high blood pressure), which is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Here, we'll dissect the sodium issue relating to Provolone cheese, helping you make informed dietary choices.

Understanding Sodium in Cheese

Cheese, by nature, contains sodium due to the cheese-making process where salt is added for flavor development and as a preservative to prevent spoilage. Provolone, an Italian semi-hard cheese, is no exception. According to the USDA, a single 1-ounce (28-grams) serving of Provolone cheese contains approximately 248 milligrams of sodium. This accounts for around 10% of the American Heart Association's recommended limit of 2,300 milligrams per day, although they push for an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams daily for most adults.

Sensitive Populations

Individuals with hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, and those who are sodium-sensitive need to be particularly cautious about their sodium intake. These groups may experience more pronounced health effects when consuming high-sodium foods like Provolone cheese. For these populations, it's prudent to seek lower-sodium cheese alternatives or consume Provolone in moderation.

Comparing Provolone to Other Cheeses

When examining salt content, it's helpful to compare Provolone to other cheeses. Provolone typically falls in the moderate range of sodium content. For perspective, Swiss cheese contains about 75 milligrams of sodium per ounce which is considerably lower, while others, like feta, pack over 300 milligrams per ounce making Provolone a middle-ground option, sodium-wise.

Reducing Sodium in Your Diet

If you enjoy Provolone but are concerned about sodium, here are some tips:

  • Portion Control: Stick to a single serving to keep sodium in check.
  • Pair Wisely: Combine Provolone with foods that are low in sodium to balance your overall intake.
  • Look for Low-Sodium Versions: Some cheese manufacturers offer reduced-sodium Provolone options.
  • Read Labels: Always check nutrition labels for sodium content to make informed choices.
  • Dilute the Sodium: Use Provolone as part of a larger recipe where other lower-sodium ingredients can help dilute the total salt content of the dish.

Remember, maintaining a balanced diet is not about eliminating foods entirely but understanding and managing their place in your overall nutritional intake. The occasional enjoyment of Provolone cheese can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation and with a consciousness of its sodium content.

Lactose Intolerance and Dairy Sensitivity Considerations

For individuals with lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivity, Provolone cheese can be a source of discomfort and digestive issues. Lactose intolerance is a common condition where the body lacks enough of the enzyme lactase to break down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. This can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, cramps, and diarrhea after consuming dairy.

Dairy sensitivity, on the other hand, may be related to proteins found in milk, like whey and casein. In this scenario, the body's immune system can react to these proteins, causing inflammation and a range of symptoms from mild to severe, such as skin rashes, hives, and digestive ailments.

Considering the lactose content in Provolone cheese, it's worth noting that it falls within the category of aged cheeses, which typically contain lower levels of lactose due to the cheese-making process. During production, the majority of lactose is removed with the whey, and as the cheese ages, the remaining lactose is broken down further. Consequently, Provolone cheese may be better tolerated by individuals with lactose intolerance than fresher, high-lactose dairy products.

However, not all aged cheeses are created equal, and the lactose content can vary. Here's a general breakdown:

  • Aged cheeses (like Provolone, Cheddar, and Parmesan): Usually contain less than 0.1 grams of lactose per ounce
  • Fresh cheeses (such as Ricotta or Cottage cheese): Can contain between 2 to 3 grams of lactose per ounce

For those with dairy sensitivity or milk protein allergy, it's important to recognize that aged cheeses still contain milk proteins, so Provolone might not be a suitable option. Each individual's reaction can differ, and some people with mild sensitivity may find they can tolerate certain cheeses like Provolone in small quantities.

It's crucial to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare provider or a dietician if you suspect lactose intolerance or dairy sensitivity. They might suggest a lactose elimination diet followed by gradual reintroduction to determine your level of tolerance. Additionally, lactase enzyme supplements are available over-the-counter, and can sometimes help individuals digest lactose more efficiently, making cheese consumption more comfortable.

Lastly, for those strictly avoiding dairy, dairy-free cheese alternatives made from plant-based ingredients such as nuts or soy are available and may provide a suitable substitute without the lactose or dairy proteins.

Calcium and Protein Benefits in Provolone Cheese

Provolone cheese is not just a flavorful addition to sandwiches and pizzas; it also packs a nutritious punch. Two of its significant nutrients are calcium and protein, both vital for maintaining our body's health and wellness. The benefits of these nutrients are nuanced, and their impact on health can be quite profound.

Calcium: A Key Player for Bone Health

Calcium is renowned for its role in bone health. One ounce (28 grams) of provolone cheese provides approximately 214 milligrams of calcium, which is about 20% of the recommended daily intake for most adults. Adequate calcium supports:

  • Bone formation and maintenance: It's crucial for the growth and repair of bone tissue throughout life, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
  • Muscle function: Calcium plays a role in muscle contractions, meaning that sufficient intake can help with maintaining muscle health and function.
  • Heart and nerve signaling: As an electrolyte, calcium is involved in transmitting signals in the nervous system and helps maintain a regular heartbeat.

Protein: Building Blocks for the Body

Protein is another star nutrient in provolone cheese. With about 7 grams per ounce, provolone offers a source of complete protein, which includes all essential amino acids required by our bodies. These proteins contribute to:

  • Tissue repair and growth: Essential for the development and repair of almost all body tissues, including muscle, bone, skin, and hair.
  • Enzyme and hormone production: Proteins are involved in creating enzymes that speed up chemical reactions in the body and hormones that act as signaling molecules.
  • Immune function: Adequate protein is important for the production of antibodies which help fight off infections.

While provolone cheese can be a valuable source of calcium and protein, it is also important to consume it in moderation due to its saturated fat and sodium content. Individuals with specific health conditions such as hypertension or dairy sensitivities may need to monitor their intake more closely. Nevertheless, when included in a balanced diet, the calcium and protein in provolone cheese can support various aspects of health and wellbeing.

Incorporating a variety of dietary sources for these nutrients is recommended, and for those who enjoy cheese, provolone makes an excellent and tasty choice. Keep in mind that pairing it with a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins can maximize the benefits of provolone's nutritional offerings.

Note: All nutritional values are approximate and can vary based on the specific brand and preparation of the cheese. Consulting with a dietitian for personalized advice is always a good practice when making dietary changes or addressing specific health concerns.

Provolone in a Balanced Diet: Portion Control and Frequency

When incorporating Provolone cheese into a balanced diet, understanding portion control and safe consumption frequency is key. Cheese can be a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin B12, but it’s also high in saturated fats and sodium, which are elements to monitor for maintaining heart health and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

Recommended Portion Size

The portion size for cheese, including Provolone, as recommended by dietary guidelines is around 1-2 ounces (28-56 grams) per serving. It's comparable to the size of a pair of dice or a single string cheese stick. Adhering to this serving size helps manage calorie intake and keep saturated fat consumption within recommendations.

Frequency of Consumption

How often you can enjoy Provolone cheese depends largely on your overall diet. For those following a standard 2,000-calorie diet, the American Heart Association suggests limiting saturated fat to no more than 13 grams per day. Given that 1 ounce (28 grams) of Provolone contains about 5 grams of saturated fat, it’s advisable to limit cheese intake to a few times per week, depending on what other sources of saturated fats are present in your diet. Always consider the dietary pattern as a whole when determining frequency.

Balancing with Other Foods

To maintain dietary balance, pair Provolone cheese with fiber-rich foods like whole grains or vegetables. Adding these can offset some of the potential negative effects of the higher sodium and fat content. For example, you might integrate a slice of Provolone into a sandwich loaded with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and whole-grain bread.

Diet-Specific Considerations

  • Heart-Healthy Diets: For those specifically focusing on cardiovascular health, Provolone cheese should be consumed in even smaller portions and less frequently, considering its saturated fat content.
  • Weight Management: Those managing weight may opt for reduced-fat versions of Provolone or use it sparingly as a flavor enhancer rather than a main ingredient.
  • High Blood Pressure Diets: Because cheese is typically high in sodium, those with hypertension need to be extra cautious with Provolone. Seek lower-sodium varieties when possible.

Recording Intake

Maintaining awareness of cheese intake is easier with food diaries or nutrition tracking apps. This way, you can ensure that your overall weekly consumption of cheese, including Provolone, remains within a healthy range.

Remember, the key to including Provolone in your diet is moderation. By controlling portion sizes and frequency of consumption, you can enjoy Provolone’s savory flavor without compromising your nutritional balance.

Frequently asked questions

While provolone cheese offers protein and calcium, it also contains saturated fats, which may contribute to inflammation in some individuals. If you're managing an inflammatory condition, it might be wise to consume provolone in moderation or opt for cheeses with lower fat content. Additionally, incorporating anti-inflammatory foods like leafy greens, nuts, and fatty fish can help balance your diet.

Aged cheeses like Provolone may contain beneficial bacteria from the aging process, but they do not typically provide the same level of probiotics as fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. For a focused probiotic intake, including specific fermented foods or a probiotic supplement might be more effective.

Provolone cheese is not a significant source of vitamin D, however, it does provide valuable nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and zinc. If you're looking to increase your vitamin D intake specifically, it's best to look for other dietary sources like fortified dairy products, fatty fish, egg yolks, or consider a vitamin D supplement after consulting with a healthcare professional.

Provolone cheese can be included in a diabetes-friendly diet due to its low carbohydrate content, which helps minimize blood sugar spikes. However, since it is high in fat, it should be consumed in moderation. Pairing it with complex carbohydrates and fiber-rich foods can help manage overall blood glucose levels.

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

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • weight gain
  • increased cholesterol levels

Ingredients to be aware of


  • good source of protein and calcium
  • supports bone health
  • aids muscle function
  • contributes to heart and nerve signaling
  • tissue repair and growth
  • enzyme and hormone production
  • boosts immune function

Healthier alternatives

  • swiss cheese
  • low-sodium versions of cheese
  • plant-based cheese alternatives

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Organic Valley Cheese

  • Grass-fed milk source
  • Raw, sharp cheddar
  • Organic certified
  • Rich in nutrients
  • 8 oz. cheese block
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-09-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-09-2024

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