Feta Cheese Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

crumbled feta on a black plate


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Feta cheese is a Greek cheese often made from sheep’s milk, but it can also be made partially with goat’s milk. It is the most well-known of all Greek cheeses.

The name feta, which literally means “slice,” is thought to have originated in the 17th century in Greece. Historians believe the cheese was given this name because of the practice of slicing up the cheese and placing it into barrels—a tradition still practiced today. 

In the 20th century, when Greeks began immigrating to various other countries including Australia, the United States, Canada, and Germany, they brought feta cheese with them. Since then, it has become a popular cheese in other parts of the world. Here is what you need to know about feta cheese.

Feta Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese. 

  • Calories: 398
  • Fat: 32.2 g
  • Sodium: 1,710 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5.82 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Sugars: 0 g
  • Protein: 21.3 g
  • Calcium: 740 mg


Carbs

Feta is very low in carb content, accounting for less than 1% of your daily value of carbohydrates. This is because it has almost no sugar or fiber. Feta is also low in sugar content, which can be beneficial for people following certain eating plans.

Fats

About half of the fat in feta cheese is saturated fat. Different methods of making feta cheese can result in different amounts of salt and fat, but all feta cheese typically has a high saturated fat content.

Saturated fats are intended to be eaten in moderation. When possible, you should replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats.

Protein

A cup of feta cheese has 21.3 grams of protein. This accounts for 43% of your daily intake of protein, making feta cheese a fairly good source of protein.

Part of this protein content is due to the animal rennet used to make feta cheese. Animal rennet is an enzyme made from the stomach of a calf, which means feta cheese is not suitable for vegetarians.

Vitamins and Minerals

Feta cheese is high in calcium and vitamin B12, which are good for your bones and provide natural energy. Feta cheese also has phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese, selenium, and vitamin B6. It also has relatively low amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A.

Due to the low iron content of dairy products like feta, research is being done to determine if there are benefits of fortifying feta cheese with more iron. Feta cheese is also high in sodium, which most people already get more than their daily value of.

Calories

There are 398 calories in 1 cup of feta cheese.  

Health Benefits

Because feta cheese has a number of vitamins and minerals, it can be a beneficial part of a nutritious eating plan. Here are some potential benefits of feta cheese.

May Improve Digestive Health

A study tested 29 strains of Lactobacillus, a bacteria found in dairy products, and discovered that they contain probiotic properties. This means that dairy products may help aid digestion. While you have probably heard that yogurt aids digestion, this can also apply to feta cheese and other dairy products.

Further, a test of yeast samples from feta cheese reported that they tolerate low pH environments, such as the inside of your stomach. This means that the good bacteria in feta cheese will survive in your stomach and still aid digestion, even if you have an empty or upset stomach.

Supports Bone Health

We often tell children that dairy products are good for your bones, and this is, in fact, true. Calcium and protein are some of the most important nutrients needed for healthy bone growth.

Feta cheese is high in both calcium and protein, making it a good supporter of healthy bones. Getting enough of these nutrients can also prevent bone fractures and osteoporosis, which is especially helpful for mature individuals. 

May Prevent Cardiometabolic Diseases

Despite having a high saturated fat content, eating dairy products may help prevent life-threatening cardiometabolic diseases (CMDs). Dairy products provide nutrients that combat many conditions, such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and obesity. Therefore, eating dairy like feta cheese can reduce the risk of being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Helps With Vitamin Absorption

Fat-soluble vitamins D, A, K, and E require dietary fat like that found in feta cheese in order to be transported through and absorbed by the body. Without sufficient fat in your diet, you could be at risk for a fat-soluble vitamin deficiency, like vitamin D deficiency. 

In fact, some experts consider vitamin D deficiency a global health problem. It is possible that adding feta cheese to your meal plan could help with the absorption of these essential vitamins, particularly with vitamin D.

May Help With Weight Management

When it comes to weight management, not many people think of cheese as a possible tool. But, most cheeses—including feta cheese—are a rich source of calcium, which has been shown to help maintain or even reduce body weight.

In fact, research on calcium intake has shown that dietary calcium intake is often associated with weight loss. However, the mechanism of action has not yet been determined, so more research is needed.

Allergies

Feta cheese is not recommended for those with a milk allergy. Milk allergies are among the most common types of food allergies in both adults and children. Interestingly, people with a cow's milk allergy may also be allergic to milk from other animals like sheep and goats. So, if you are allergic to cow's milk, it is likely that you will be allergic to the milk used to produce feta cheese.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction occur shortly after consuming milk or a milk protein. These symptoms can include hives, an upset stomach, vomiting, and even life-threatening anaphylaxis. If you suspect that you have an allergy to milk, talk to a healthcare provider about your symptoms.

People who are lactose sensitive or lactose intolerant also should avoid eating feta cheese. It is important to note that lactose intolerance is not the same thing as a milk allergy, but can be just as uncomfortable.

Storage and Food Safety

Like most other cheeses, feta cheese should be stored in the refrigerator to preserve freshness. It is often stored in a sealed container as well, to prevent molding or loss of moisture. There is often a “use by” date written on the container, however, a good rule of thumb is to throw it away one week after it has been opened.

How to Prepare

Feta cheese comes in a couple of different forms. Dry, crumbled feta cheese is good for sprinkling on salads or pizzas. Blocks of feta, usually submerged in brine, can be drained and used for many different recipes, such as pasta.

Recipes

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