Is Cheese Keto Friendly? – Carbs In Cheese


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As the keto diet grows in popularity, I get lots of questions about what you can eat on this diet. One of the most common food questions is if cheese and if it’s allowed on a ketogenic diet.

I researched dozens of kinds of cheese and now I’m sharing all of the facts about

Most varieties of cheese are very low carb and are therefore keto friendly. Carbs in one ounce of cheese range from 0 grams up to 11 grams of carbohydrates. Hard cheeses tend to be lower carb than soft or spreadable cheese types.

Cheese has many nutritional benefits; it is rich in protein, calcium, and beneficial fatty acids.

Carbs In Cheese

On average, most natural hard cheese varieties have 1 gram of carbs in a 1 ounce serving. Most types of cheese are low in carbs, for example, 1 ounce or 28 grams of the common Cheddar Cheese contains just 1 gram of carbohydrates.

Table Of Carbs In Various Cheese Varieties

Cheese VarietyCARBS Per 1 Ounce Serving 
GRUYERE CHEESE0 gram
MANCHEGO CHEESE0 gram
BURRATA CHEESE0 gram
CAMEMBERT CHEESE0.1 grams
PROVOLONE CHEESE0.3 grams
BRIE CHEESE 0.5 grams
CHEDDAR CHEESE0.6 grams
BLUE CHEESE0.7 grams
PARMESAN CHEESE0.9 grams
GOAT CHEESE0.12 grams
MUENSTER CHEESE 0.32 grams
MOZZARELLA CHEESE0.68 grams
MASCARPONE CHEESE1 gram
GORGONZOLA CHEESE1 gram
ROMANO CHEESE1 gram
SWISS CHEESE1 gram
GOUDA CHEESE1 gram 
FETA CHEESE1 gram
CREAM CHEESE1.5 grams
RICOTTA CHEESE3 grams
COTTAGE CHEESE6.4 grams
GJETOST CHEESE11 grams
Data Source: USDA FOOD CENTRAL

As you can see in the above-given table, the first twelve kinds of cheese contain less than 1 gram of carbs per 1 ounce serving, making them relatively more keto-friendly than the other varieties. 

The Lowest Carb Cheese Varieties?

Cheese is undoubtedly keto-friendly – but it’s not a carb-free food.

So you need to pay close attention to serving sizes since the small number of carbs in cheese can add up quickly.

The lowest carb types of cheese are firm white cheeses. These include Gruyere, Burrata, and Manchengo Cheese which are all effectively zero carb.

Table Of The Lowest Carbohydrate Cheese Varieties

Cheese VarietyCarbs Count In 1 Ounce
Gruyere Cheese0 gram
Burrata Cheese0 gram
Manchego Cheese0 gram
Provolone Cheese0.3 gram
Brie Cheese0.5 gram
Cheddar Cheese0.6 gram
Parmesan Cheese0.9 gram
Mozarella Cheese0.68 gram
Goat Cheese0.12 gram
Romano Cheese1 gram
Swiss Cheese1 gram
Gouda Cheese1 gram
Feta Cheese1 gram
Data Source: USDA FOODCENTRAL
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The Highest Carb Cheese Varieties?

The cheese variety which is highest in carbohydrates is Gjetost Cheese which according to the USDA FoodCentral Database has 11 grams of total carbs, 0.252 grams of fiber, and 10.748 grams of net carbs.

Gjetost cheese is a traditional brown cheese that is from Norway. It tastes like butterscotch and is very sticky. It sticks to the roof of your mouth like peanut butter; it’s one of the weirdest cheese varieties out there.

Gjetost is made with whey and the remaining liquid from cheesemaking. To make Gjetost, the whey is boiled until the liquid evaporates and the sugar caramelizes; that’s how it gets the butterscotch taste.

Table Of The Highest Carb Verities Of Cheese

High Carb Cheese VarietiesGrams In 1 Ounce Serving
Spreadable Cheddar Cheese3 gram
Ricotta Cheese3 gram
Cottage Cheese6.4 gram
Gjetost Cheese11 gram
USDA FOODCENTRAL

Is Imitation Cheese Keto Friendly?

We are believers in eating real food, and that includes eating real cheese and that means we avoid imitation cheese.

First let’s figure out what Imitation Cheese is.

What Is Imitation Cheese?

Imitation cheese is one of the many varieties of processed cheese found in grocery stores worldwide. 

Imitation cheese is made from vegetable oil and is not the real dairy cheese. Imitation cheese is no substitute for cheese.

Commonly known for its inexpensive cost and long shelf life, it’s used in many homes all around the globe. High-quality cheese is a healthy option, but imitation cheese is not because it’s made from vegetable oil and casein, a protein found in milk used instead of the milk solids. 

So is it keto friendly?

Imitation cheese is usually pretty low carb, which makes it keto-friendly. However, since these cheeses are made with non-dairy milk or soy, they are best avoided in all healthy ways of eating. 

Carbs In Imitation Cheese

Let’s dig into the number of carbs present in imitation cheese; below is the carb count in one cup of imitation cheese.

Table Of Imitation Cheese Carbohydrate Profile

Carbs In 1 Cup Of Imitation CheeseGrams
Total Carbs26 g
Fiber0
Net Carbs26 g
Data Source: Carb Manager

Imitation cheese is not keto friendly because one cup has 26 net carbs.

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Is American Cheese Keto Friendly?

In the United States, American Cheese is a very popular type of “prepared cheese product” that is usually sold in slices.

The term “cheese product” is a vague and unregulated term that tells us that it’s not real cheese.

By US law, American Cheese must contain at least 51% real cheese, which is why milk will always be the first ingredient. But from there, there are lots of other ingredients that make up the remaining 49% of this cheese-like product.

These extra ingredients greatly decrease the cost and increase the shelf life of these cheese slices.

I consider ‘prepared cheese products’ one step above imitation cheese and well below real cheese which is made exclusively of real milk.

American Cheese is somewhat keto-friendly. It contains 2 grams of carbs in a single slice which is about 3/4s of an ounce. This means that an ounce of American Cheese contains 2.66 grams of carbohydrates. It also includes a lot of ingredients other than milk.

HOW MUCH CHEESE CAN YOU EAT ON KETO?

You have many options of low carb cheeses that you can add to your daily menus, but keep in mind that they are not carb-free. If you keep a close count of your servings, you can add them safely to your keto menu.

The best way to do that is to check the labels of the cheese that you are buying; for example, if you buy the shredded cheese, they sometimes contain starch to prevent it from sticking, and this will add the carbs per serving.

It is always better to buy a whole block and do the shredding or cutting yourself. Another factor to consider while buying low carb cheese is that low-fat options generally yield a high carb count.

Choose the full-fat options and steer away from ones that have added starch or sweeteners.

You should also keep away from specialty cheeses as they often have ingredients such as fruit, chocolate, or wine, which ultimately changes the carb count.

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Angela Davis

I'm Angela Davis, Co-Founder of Advantage Meals. I have a Bachelors in Anthropology and Masters in Holistic Nutrition. My passion is Ancestral Nutrition and for over a decade I've been helping Keto Diet beginners and those looking for their Primal Diet. "There is no one right way." Below are the most recent articles I've written for AdvantageMeals.com.

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