Is Feta Cheese Good for You? Nutritional Facts and Risks

Feta is a brined cheese with a soft and creamy texture. It also is low in calories and fat while having high amounts of B vitamins, phosphorus, and calcium.

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by
Mia Barnes
— Signos
Staff Writer
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Reviewed by

Mia Barnes
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
February 29, 2024
February 12, 2024
— Updated:

Table of Contents

Cheese is a favorite ingredient that works in many recipes. You might add it to your scrambled eggs, salad, and casseroles, but the health benefits vary between each variety. Feta cheese is good for you due to its well-rounded nutritional profile, which many people don’t learn until after adding it to their diet.

Here’s more on the many health benefits of feta cheese, the potential health risks it can cause, and how you can best include it in your daily meals. You’ll empower yourself to make positive dietary changes because you know exactly how feta cheese supports your nutritional goals.

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What Is Feta Cheese?

Feta cheese is a soft, white cheese made primarily from sheep or goat milk.1 People can also make it with milk from cows and buffalo if they desire more specialty varieties. Mixing milk varieties also creates different subtle flavors in feta cheese products. Some brands make both, depending on the manufacturer. However, any cheese sold as feta must meet certain standards, including containing a minimum of 70% sheep’s milk from local breeds traditionally raised throughout Greece.

Cheese manufacturers also make feta from pasteurized whole milk sources so it doesn’t develop bacterial colonies as it brines in salt water. The process takes weeks or months, according to each brand’s unique cheese-brining recipes.

Brands can also brine their feta cheese in specific wooden barrels. They can add a barrel-aged flavor some consumers prefer. They contain the high-humidity air and intensified salty water long enough for the feta cheese to fully develop. Both contribute to the feta cheese health benefits people want and the nutrients stemming from the milk itself.

Is Feta Cheese Healthy? Nutrition Facts

You’ll know if feta cheese is good for you by reading its nutrition facts. You’ll find essential fats, proteins, and sodium alongside these other nutrients in every 100 grams of feta cheese.2 It’s also rich in calcium, a mineral essential for healthy bones and teeth.

  • 265 calories
  • 14.2 grams protein
  • 21.5 grams fat
  • 3.88 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1,140 milligrams of sodium
  • 0 grams of sugar
  • 0 grams of fiber
  • 0.65 milligrams of iron
  • 19 milligrams of magnesium
  • 337 milligrams of phosphorus
  • 62 milligrams of potassium
  • 0.424 milligrams of vitamin B6
  • 1.69 micrograms of vitamin B12
  • 422 international units of vitamin A
  • 16 international units of vitamin D
  • 13.3 grams of saturated fatty acids

The protein in feta cheese is one of its most notable health benefits. It satisfies people long after they finish eating and supports a high-protein diet. Eating more protein slows the digestive system, balancing blood sugar and preventing spikes. 

Compared to other cheeses, feta is lower in fat and calories than aged cheeses like cheddar cheese or parmesan. Also, it contains more calcium and B vitamins than other cheeses like mozzarella, ricotta, cottage cheese, or goat cheese.

Remember your long-term health goals as you learn the feta cheese nutrition facts that make people curious about trying the crumbling, savory food. The high amount of sodium could help or hinder your progress. Discuss potential dietary changes with your healthcare provider or a nutritionist if you have any concerns.

Health Benefits of Feta Cheese

feta-cheese-olive-salad

Feta cheese is good for you because it provides many specific health benefits. The protein keeps you satisfied, while the sodium makes meals extra tasty. It also boosts your overall well-being with benefits like these.

It Helps With Weight Management

The protein in feta cheese that keeps your blood sugar balanced also boosts metabolic rates through the same functionality. Your digestive system will more effectively burn food as fuel instead of storing it for later energy use.

Losing or managing weight is challenging if your metabolism isn’t at its best due to health conditions or medications. Foods like feta cheese could help your metabolism recover as your blood sugar remains level, making weight management easier. 

It Promotes Bone Health

Feta cheese has 493 milligrams of calcium per 100-gram serving, which bones absorb because they contain the same mineral.2, 3 Calcium can help maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis. This is a significant health benefit for anyone experiencing growth spurts or living with medical conditions that weaken bones. 

Also, milk from sheep and goats contains more calcium and phosphorus than cow’s milk, so incorporating feta into your diet can help you reach these daily recommended intakes.

It’s a Good Source of Protein

The body needs protein to maintain its daily functions. You’ll get 14.2 grams in 100 grams of feta cheese, which can add much-needed protein to salads and meat-free meals.2 Given that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends 46 grams of protein daily for cisgender women and 56 for cisgender men, feta cheese could help you reach those goals quickly.4

It’s worth noting that federal researchers haven’t updated these recommendations since 2015. Typically, that would mean you could find updated information elsewhere, but the national guidelines for daily nutrient intake don’t get updated often. Always consider your lifestyle factors, such as your health history and exercise routine, before following nutritional guidance.

It Lowers the Risk of Diabetes

Foods that prevent blood sugar spikes from occurring frequently may help people reduce their risk of developing diabetes. Feta cheese can assist with that goal alongside meals and snacks, prioritizing your blood sugar. It could be part of your new low-fat diet proven to manage glycemic levels.5

It’s a Great Source of Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids provide numerous health benefits when they’re part of your daily diet. They reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, boost cognitive functioning, and prevent cancerous cells from developing.

You’ll gain more fatty acids in your diet by looking at where your cheese comes from. Feta cheese from grass-fed cows is higher in omega-3 fatty acids because the grass contains more fatty acids than processed feed.7 Cheese made from sheep’s milk often has a higher conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) concentration. Feta cheese contains up to 1.9% CLA, which comprises 0.8% of its fat content.16

It Enhances Immunity

Feta cheese includes life-supporting nutrients like vitamin B6.2 It powers the immune system by strengthening cellular functioning and communication.8 Your body will more effectively protect you from viruses with more vitamin B6 in your diet from foods like feta cheese.

It’s Lower in Calories Compared to Other Types of Cheese

The calories in feta cheese are often lower than other calorie-dense varieties. Cheddar contains 410 calories per 100 grams, and mozzarella has 296 calories in the same serving size.9,10 Feta cheese has only 265 per 100 grams, so it’s a much lower-calorie option that could help you reach your weight-management goals.2

It Promotes Gut Health

During manufacturing, feta cheese retains some probiotics and healthy bacterial colonies. Specifically, feta contains Lactobacillus plantarum, a known support for the gut microbiota that keeps the digestive tract functioning.11 Feeding the gut microbiota means feta cheese isn’t inflammatory because it won’t irritate the digestive tract.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="cheese-metabolic-health">Can Cheese Be Good for Metabolic Health?</a>.</p>

What Are the Risks of Feta Cheese?

  Although feta cheese is healthy, eating it too often or in large servings can be risky. Before adding feta to your diet, you should consider these primary adverse effects.

It Could Weaken Your Bones

Feta cheese might weaken your bones if you have kidney disease. The phosphorus in feta cheese2 increases phosphate in the blood, causing kidneys to draw more calcium from bones.12

You might not feel these effects immediately, but your bones will weaken gradually. Stay on top of your bone health and calcium intake by reducing your feta portion sizes if you have kidney disease.

It Could Increase Your Blood Pressure

Feta cheese is high in sodium.2 Adding more sodium to your system fills your blood with the salty substance, increasing your blood pressure. Although it’s a natural response to your body processing sodium, it’s dangerous to consume more sodium if you already have moderately high blood pressure.

It Might Harm Fetuses

Pregnant people are generally advised to avoid consuming unpasteurized dairy products as they have the potential to be contaminated with bacteria. If a product says the feta is unpasteurized, it could contain bacteria that harm fetuses, such as listeria.13 Always double-check the packaging before purchasing feta cheese if you’re pregnant to avoid this potential complication.

It Could Interact With Some Medications

Feta contains tyramine, which is an amino acid that causes hypertension and intracranial hemorrhages for people on monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) drugs.14 If you’re unsure if you’re on MAOI prescriptions, talk with your doctor. Physicians prescribe these medications for conditions like depression, but they can also help those with anxiety disorders, social phobias, or panic disorders.15

As you learn about feta cheese nutrition facts, remember that everything has pros and cons. Weigh these risks as you decide what to potentially add to your diet. Your doctor can always help you determine the best choice if you need guidance.

6 Ways to Include Feta Cheese in Your Diet

Once you start considering things like the calories in feta cheese and how it could support your comprehensive well-being, you might want to add it to your diet. Here are some fun ways to eat the popular cheese if you think it’s right for you:

  • Salads: Feta pairs well with spring berries and oil-based dressings
  • Pizza: Sprinkle feta on top of Greek pizza with olives for a burst of flavor
  • Mixed with fruits: The salty flavor of feta complements tangy fruit like pineapple, which can also reduce cellular inflammation in proper portion sizes
  • Omelets: Make your next breakfast extra cheesy by mixing feta cheese into your omelet before folding it over
  • Tacos: Savor a bite of salty and spicy tacos while melted feta cheese glues your hardshell ingredients together to reduce potential mess
  • Potatoes: Drizzle lemon juice and crumbled feta cheese over broiled potatoes to enjoy the glycemic-safe food in moderation

Remember to stick to the indicated portion sizes on your preferred product’s packaging. Don’t overeat, as it could lead to higher intakes of sodium and fats than you intended. A little bit goes a long way with this robust cheese and its powerful flavor profile. You’ll start seeing the feta cheese health benefits you want by avoiding overly large serving sizes.

Learn More About How to Improve Blood Sugar Health With Signos’s Expert Advice

Now that you know why feta cheese is good for you and which risks it can pose, consider if it would help you achieve your health goals. Adding it to occasional meals could help you manage your well-being and enjoy a tastier diet.

Adding new foods to your daily routine is equally important to choosing the proper medications to manage diabetes, improve your health, and promote weight loss. Signos’s experts can help you do so effectively with science-proven tips about blood sugar management.

You can also check out Signos’s blog to read more free tips about all things health, nutrition, and blood sugar. You’ll learn how your glucose levels influence your health and ways to manage them more effectively in the long term. If you want more personalized assistance, take a two-minute quiz to determine if Signos’s tips are the best way to achieve your health goals.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href="cheese-and-diabetes">Can People Living With Diabetes Have Cheese? Types, Benefits & Risks</a>.</p>

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References

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  11. Papadakis, P., Konteles, S., Batrinou, A., Ouzounis, S., Tsironi, T., Halvatsiotis, P., Tsakali, E., Van Impe, J. F. M., Vougiouklaki, D., Strati, I. F., & Houhoula, D. (2021, November 9). Characterization of Bacterial Microbiota of P.D.O. Feta Cheese by 16S Metagenomic Analysis. Microorganisms. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9112377
  12. Anand, A., & Aoyagi, H. (2023, February 20). Understudied Hyperphosphatemia (Chronic Kidney Disease) Treatment Targets and New Biological Approaches. Medicina. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina59050959
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About the author

Mia Barnes is a health writer and researcher who specializes in nutrition, fitness, and mental health.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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