Is Feta Cheese Good for You?

Feta cheese is a soft, white-colored cheese typically made from the milk of sheep and goats. One of the oldest cheeses in the world, it’s known for a rich aroma and slightly sour taste.

While feta cheese provides you with an excellent source of nutrients like calcium and protein, it also contains high amounts of sodium and saturated fat.

Feta is lower in fat than many other cheeses, however, and is considered a reasonable option to eat in moderation. Because it’s not traditionally made from cow’s milk, but with milk from sheep and goats, it’s also easier to digest.

Nutrition Information

A one-ounce (28-gram) serving of feta cheese contains:

Feta cheese is a good source of:

Feta cheese also contains a number of B vitamins, which support a healthy nervous system, healthy skin, and energy production.

Potential Health Benefits of Feta Cheese

Feta cheese is a good source of essential vitamins and minerals. However, the high sodium content in feta cheese may cause complications with certain medical conditions.

Research has found that when eaten in moderation, feta has the following potential health benefits:

Bone Health

Feta contains more calcium than many other cheeses. Calcium helps you maintain healthy teeth and bones.

Feta cheese also has high levels of phosphorus. Consuming these phosphorus and calcium together has been linked to improved bone density and osteoporosis prevention.

Weight Management

Feta contains a fatty acid known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Experimental studies have shown that CLA can help reduce body fat. These studies also show that CLA can help improve your body composition in the long term. 

However, these studies are not consistent and further testing is required. Additionally, some studies have shown that CLA can have negative effects on sugar metabolism and cholesterol levels.

Gut Health

Fermented foods like feta cheese contain probiotics. These strains of good bacteria promote a healthy gut and support immune system function.

Researchers are studying if probiotics can help with symptoms of diarrhea and constipation associated with both irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

Lowers Risk of Diabetes

Researchers have found that protein and calcium (both of which are plentiful in feta) can help control your body’s blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of developing diabetes and helping to manage existing blood sugar-related conditions.

Continued

Potential Risks of Feta Cheese

Feta cheese is a low-calorie source of many vitamins and minerals, but it also has a high sodium content. It contains saturated fats as well, which should be limited to less than 10 percent of your daily calorie count.

Consider the following before including feta cheese in your diet:

Blood Pressure

Excessive sodium in your diet has been shown to contribute to high blood pressure, which is linked to chronic issues like kidne y disease, stroke, and heart disease.

Kidney Function

Although feta cheese contains healthy amounts of calcium, the phosphorus in feta may weaken bones in people with kidney disease.

Pregnancy Concerns

Soft, unpasteurized cheeses like feta can contain Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause mild flu-like symptoms in adults. The bacterium may be quite harmful to unborn babies, however, and pregnant women are advised not to consume unpasteurized cheeses.

Medication Interactions

Feta also contains tyramine, a naturally occurring substance found in aged and fermented foods. Tyramine has been associated with blood-pressure spikes, heart palpitations, and severe headaches in people taking monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) drugs. For example, those prescribed for depression or Parkinson’s disease.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on September 22, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

The American College of Greece: “The Benefits of Fermented Foods.”

American Diabetes Association: “Nutrition Principles and Recommendations in Diabetes.”

British Heart Foundation: “7 cheese facts that will surprise you.”

ESHA Research Inc., Salem, OR: “Cheese, feta, 1-inch cube.”

GoodTherapy: “MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors).”

Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing: “Health benefits of taking probiotics.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Calcium: What’s Best for Your Bones and Health?”

International Dairy Foods Association: “Types of Cheese.”

International Dairy Journal: “Probiotic potential of Lactobacillus strains isolated from dairy products.”

International Osteoporosis Foundation: “Calcium Content of Common Foods.”

Journal of Dairy Science: “Survival of Listeria monocytogenes During the Manufacture and Ripening of Swiss Cheese.”

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: “A review on effects of conjugated linoleic fatty acid (CLA) upon body composition and energetic metabolism.”

Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture: “Changes in fatty acid profile of feta cheese including conjugated linoleic acid.”

Mayo Clinic: “Dietary fats: Know which types to choose.”

Mayo Clinic: “Sodium: How to tame your salt habit.”

National Health Service (UK): “B vitamins and folic acid.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Mineral & Bone Disorder in Chronic Kidney Disease.”

Nutrients: “Cow’s Milk Substitutes for Children: Nutritional Aspects of Milk from Different Mammalian Species, Special Formula and Plant-Based Beverages.”

NutritionValue.Org: “Cheese, feta.”

Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: “Bone Health In Brief.”

Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology: “Listeriosis in Pregnancy: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention.”

Uptodate: “Probiotics: the basics?”

UW Health: “Low Tyramine Diet.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination

Get Diet and Fitness Tips In Your Inbox

Eat better and exercise smarter. Sign up for the Food & Fitness newsletter.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.