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Is Shredded Cheese Bad For You?



Short answer

Shredded cheese can be part of a balanced diet but is high in saturated fat and sodium, which may affect heart health if consumed in excess. Pre-packaged varieties often contain anti-caking agents, making them less pure than block cheese. Individuals with lactose intolerance or sensitivities should be mindful, as even small amounts of lactose can cause discomfort.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Shredded Cheese

When considering the nutritional content of shredded cheese, it's essential to dive into the specifics, such as the type of cheese, the serving size, and the processing it has undergone. Nutritional profiles can vary widely among different cheese varieties. Here, we'll focus on a general overview of what one can expect from a standard serving of shredded cheese.

A common serving size, about 1/4 cup (28 grams) of shredded cheddar cheese, contains roughly:

  • Calories: 110
  • Total Fat: 9 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 6 grams
  • Cholesterol: 30 milligrams
  • Sodium: 170 milligrams
  • Total Carbohydrates: 1 gram
  • Dietary Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugars: 0.1 grams
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Calcium: 200 milligrams (20% of Daily Value)
  • Vitamin A: 95 International Units (IU)

Several factors influence the nutritional content of shredded cheese:

  1. Type of Cheese: The base cheese used for shredding, whether it's cheddar, mozzarella, or another variety, will determine the baseline nutritional content. For example, mozzarella is generally lower in fat and calories compared to cheddar but may also contain less calcium.
  2. Added Ingredients: Pre-packaged shredded cheese often contains anti-caking agents to prevent sticking. These can add trace amounts of carbohydrates or sodium. It's important to check the ingredients list for additives like potato starch or cellulose.
  3. Portion Size: Shredded cheese can be easy to overconsume if you're not mindful of portion sizes. What seems like a small handful could quickly add up to several servings, multiplying the calorie and fat content consumed.
  4. Processing: Many commercially shredded cheeses undergo a process to extend shelf life and improve texture. This can sometimes alter the nutritional content slightly in comparison to block cheese.

Shredded cheese can also be a source of vital nutrients. It contains a high concentration of essential amino acids thanks to its protein content, making it a significant contributor to muscle building and repair. Additionally, the high calcium content supports bone health.

Despite these benefits, it's paramount to consider potential downsides. The saturated fat and cholesterol in shredded cheese, particularly in full-fat varieties, can present health concerns if consumed in large quantities. A diet high in saturated fats has been associated with increased risk of heart disease, as highlighted in a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Finally, for lactose-intolerant individuals or those with dairy sensitivities, the lactose content, while typically lower in cheese than in other dairy products, can still pose digestive issues.

Keeping these nutritional insights in mind will allow you to include shredded cheese in your diet in a balanced manner, taking into account both its dietary contributions and limitations.

The Role of Anti-Caking Agents in Shredded Cheese

When we examine shredded cheese from a nutritional perspective, one component that distinguishes it from block cheese is the presence of anti-caking agents. These substances are added to prevent the individual pieces of cheese from clumping together, ensuring a free-flowing product that consumers find convenient for various culinary uses. However, consumers often express concerns about the health implications of such additives.

Common anti-caking agents include cellulose powder, calcium carbonate, and potato starch. Each serves to absorb moisture and keep the shreds separate. Let's delve into their roles and the research surrounding their safety and dietary impact:

  • Cellulose Powder: Derived from wood pulp or cotton, cellulose powder is a fiber additive that's indigestible by humans. While this can add to the fiber content of shredded cheese, excessive consumption has been a topic of discussion among nutritionists. The FDA classifies cellulose as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), suggesting moderate consumption is unlikely to pose health risks for most individuals.
  • Calcium Carbonate: As an anti-caking agent, calcium carbonate contributes additional calcium to the cheese, which might be beneficial for bone health. However, overuse could contribute to calcium buildup, which has been associated with certain health risks such as kidney stones. Balance and moderation are key when consuming products containing calcium carbonate.
  • Potato Starch: Often used to prevent wetness, potato starch is a gluten-free additive that does not significantly alter the nutritional profile of cheese. Given its source, it can be considered a more natural option. Nevertheless, for individuals with specific dietary restrictions, such as low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diets, the inclusion of starches is an important consideration.

It is also essential to consider individual sensitivities and dietary requirements. Some people might be allergic or sensitive to certain anti-caking agents and could experience digestive discomfort as a result.

Research into the effects of anti-caking agents is ongoing, and while current findings from organizations such as the FDA indicate they're safe in small amounts, it is always prudent to approach food additives with a degree of cautiousness. For those concerned about additive intake, opting for block cheese that can be shredded at home may be a preferable choice. Consulting with a registered dietitian can also provide personalized advice tailored to one's health concerns and dietary goals.

Saturated Fats and Sodium: Are They a Cause for Concern?

When assessing the health implications of shredded cheese, two critical components come into focus: saturated fats and sodium. Both nutrients have been the subject of extensive research due to their potential impact on cardiovascular health.

Saturated Fats: Shredded cheese is often high in saturated fats, a type of fat found in animal products. The American Heart Association suggests that saturated fats should constitute no more than 5-6% of your total daily calories to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Consuming foods high in saturated fat can raise levels of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) in your blood, potentially leading to the buildup of plaques in arteries and increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Impact on Health:

  • Increased Risk of Heart Disease: Studies have linked high saturated fat intake to elevated LDL cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Potential Weight Gain: Saturated fats are calorically dense, potentially contributing to weight gain and obesity when consumed excessively.

Sodium: Sodium is a mineral that's essential for bodily function, but like many things, it can be detrimental in excess. High sodium intake is associated with heightened blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, individuals should aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, a target that can be easily surpassed when consuming high-sodium foods like certain types of shredded cheese.

Effects of High Sodium Consumption:

  • Blood Pressure Concerns: Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to increased blood pressure and the risk of hypertensive diseases.
  • Fluid Retention: Excess sodium can cause the body to retain water, leading to swelling and added stress on the heart.

It's important to read food labels carefully when selecting shredded cheese, as the fat and sodium content can vary widely between brands and types. Moderate consumption, along with a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods, could mitigate some of the potential health concerns associated with the saturated fat and sodium found in shredded cheese.

Expert opinions underscore the importance of balance. For those with existing health issues like hypertension or high cholesterol, or for those at higher risk, it may be beneficial to seek lower-fat and lower-sodium cheese options, or to use shredded cheese sparingly as a flavor enhancer rather than a primary ingredient.

Ultimately, mindful consumption of saturated fats and sodium is crucial, and incorporating shredded cheese into a balanced diet requires attention to quantity and the overall dietary context.

Comparison Between Block Cheese and Shredded Cheese

When evaluating the health implications of shredded cheese versus block cheese, it's crucial to delve into several key areas, including nutritional content, additives, and overall health impact. This comparison aims to help consumers make informed decisions based on their dietary needs and preferences.

Nutritional Content

On the surface, shredded cheese and block cheese made from the same type of cheese (e.g., cheddar, mozzarella) often have similar basic nutrition profiles. They generally provide comparable amounts of calories, fat, protein, and essential nutrients like calcium. However, differences may emerge based on the brand and the additional ingredients in shredded cheese to prevent clumping and spoilage.

Additives in Shredded Cheese

Manufacturers commonly add anti-caking agents to shredded cheese to maintain its free-flowing texture. One such agent is cellulose, a plant fiber often made from wood pulp, which is safe in small amounts. Added powdered cellulose should be less than 2% of the total product to align with FDA regulations. While it's non-toxic, consuming large amounts of cellulose as part of a heavily processed diet may have an unnecessary impact on digestive health.

Another additive frequently found in pre-shredded cheese is natamycin, which is an antifungal agent used to extend the shelf life of the product. It is considered safe by the FDA and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) but is not typically found in block cheese.

Health Impact

The additional ingredients in shredded cheese, such as anti-caking agents and preservatives, could potentially affect some individuals, especially those with sensitivities to additives. It is essential for individuals with food allergies or intolerances to review the ingredient list carefully.

One study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology suggests that certain anti-caking agents can affect the melting and texture qualities of the cheese, which, while not a direct health issue, could be a consideration for culinary purposes and sensory satisfaction.

From a dietary perspective, the convenience of shredded cheese could potentially lead to overconsumption. Unlike block cheese, which requires manual preparation, the pre-shredded variety is easy to sprinkle liberally without measuring, possibly adding more calories and saturated fats to the diet than intended.

Potential Environmental and Ethical Considerations

Block cheese typically comes in simpler packaging and is less processed, which might appeal to those looking to reduce their environmental footprint and decrease consumption of processed foods. In contrast, shredded cheese often comes in non-reusable plastic bags with additional resources spent on the grating and packaging process.

Consumers looking for a whole-foods approach to their diet may opt for block cheese to avoid the mild processing and added ingredients found in shredded cheese. Furthermore, those interested in culinary practices or following precise recipes might choose block cheese for its purity and consistent melting characteristics.

In conclusion, while both forms of cheese share a similar macro-nutrient profile, the finer points regarding additives, ease of overconsumption, packaging, and personal dietary practices come into play when considering which form aligns best with personal health goals.

The Influence of Shredded Cheese on Lactose Intolerance and Digestion

For those with lactose intolerance, the consumption of any dairy product can lead to discomfort and digestion issues. Shredded cheese, just like other dairy products, contains lactose, a sugar that requires the enzyme lactase for proper digestion. However, there's an interesting caveat regarding the fermentation process in cheese production which reduces the lactose content compared to other dairy products like milk.

Hard cheeses, including many that are commonly shredded such as Cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss, have lower lactose content due to the fermentation process and longer aging times. During cheese-making, most of the lactose is drained off with the whey (the liquid part). The small amount that remains in the curd is further broken down during the aging process. As such, people with lactose intolerance may tolerate these types of shredded cheese better than products made from unfermented milk.

However, for some individuals, even the trace amounts of lactose found in shredded cheese can trigger symptoms such as bloating, gas, cramps, and diarrhea. It's essential for those with lactose intolerance to be aware of their own tolerance levels and to read labels carefully. Pre-shredded cheese may also contain added powders to prevent clumping, which can sometimes include lactose, so choosing a block cheese and shredding it at home may be a better option.

Another factor to consider is the impact of cheese, and dairy in general, on digestion. Some nutritionists argue that dairy can be inflammatory for certain individuals, potentially exacerbating issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). On the other hand, some studies suggest that cheese might actually have anti-inflammatory properties. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that when cheese is digested, it can produce compounds that act as anti-inflammatory agents.

Additionally, cheese is a source of probiotics, especially if it is made from unpasteurized milk. These beneficial bacteria can aid digestion by improving gut health. However, most commercially available shredded cheeses are not made from unpasteurized milk, and the high-heat processes they undergo can destroy these probiotics, negating this potential benefit.

In summary, shredded cheese can vary in its influence on lactose intolerance and digestion, depending on factors such as the type of cheese, the length of aging, the presence of probiotics, and an individual's particular digestive health. To optimize digestive comfort, those with lactose intolerance or sensitive digestion should opt for naturally lower-lactose, aged cheeses and consider shredding them at home to avoid added lactose and other ingredients that may impair digestion.

Frequently asked questions

While the article doesn't endorse specific brands, consumers should look for brands that explicitly state 'low-fat' or 'reduced-fat', and 'low-sodium' or 'no salt added' on their shredded cheese packaging to find options lower in fat and sodium. It's always crucial to check nutritional labels for the exact fat and sodium content.

Shredded cheese and block cheese made from the same type of cheese usually have similar calcium content. However, in some pre-packaged shredded cheeses, anti-caking agents like calcium carbonate are added, which might slightly increase the calcium content compared to the original block cheese.

Shredded cheese often comes in non-reusable plastic bags and requires additional resources for grating and packaging, making it less environmentally friendly compared to block cheese, which typically has simpler packaging and undergoes less processing before sale.

The lactose content in shredded and block cheese from the same variety is generally similar, as lactose levels are primarily determined by the fermentation and aging processes of the cheese rather than the form it is sold in. However, additives in some pre-shredded cheeses could include lactose, so reading labels is important for those with lactose intolerance.

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

Possible short-term side effects

  • bloating
  • gas
  • cramps
  • diarrhea

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased ldl cholesterol
  • risk of heart disease
  • hypertension
  • kidney stones
  • weight gain

Ingredients to be aware of

  • saturated fat
  • sodium
  • cholesterol
  • anti-caking agents (cellulose powder, calcium carbonate, potato starch)
  • preservatives (natamycin)
  • lactose


  • high in protein
  • rich in calcium
  • essential amino acids
  • supports muscle building
  • aids bone health

Healthier alternatives

  • low-fat cheese varieties
  • lower-sodium cheese options
  • block cheese shredded at home
  • lactose-free cheese

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Vegan Mozzarella Cheese

  • Dairy-free alternative
  • Melts perfectly
  • Plant-based cheese
  • Lactose & allergen-free
  • Non-dairy product
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-03-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-03-2024

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