Is String Cheese Healthy? Nutrition, Benefits & Downsides [UK] 2023
String cheese has been a staple in school lunch boxes for years. It’s fun, it’s filling, it’s safe during pregnancy, and most of all, an excellent snack for people who say that life would not be worth living without cheese.
The downside of tasty fun snacks is that they are often unhealthy. So, where do the long stringy fibers of the occasional cheese stick fit in? Is string cheese a healthy snack?
While on the one hand, cheese has a good nutrient profile and is high in lean protein; on the other, it contains a lot of salt and saturated fat. Let’s look at all the health benefits and possible adverse effects so you can decide if string cheese is a healthy choice for you and your family.
Is It Healthy For You To Eat String Cheese?
Overall, string cheese is relatively healthy for you, provided you consume it in moderation. Most recipes call for them to be doused in panko crumbs and deep fried, which is not recommended for health. String cheese provides numerous vitamins and minerals, and the food’s macronutrients are low in refined carbohydrates and high in protein and fat.
As a high protein snack between meals, it can help you to feel full, helpful if you are trying to lose weight, and it contains calcium, vitamin B12, and selenium.
String cheese sticks are not soft cheese or blue cheese, both of which are at high risk of becoming contaminated with listeria. It is mozzarella cheese. Therefore, it is safe for young children and pregnant women to consume.
The main downside to string cheese sticks; the majority of the fats are saturated (the unhealthy fats), with a 28-gram serving containing 3.3 grams of the 5.9-gram fat total. If you have been told to avoid saturated fat or are lowering your fat intake, there might be a better snack for you. It is also high in sodium. Most cheeses are high in salt, and if you are on a low-sodium diet for health reasons, it is essential to talk about what you are consuming with your healthcare provider to ensure you are not maxing out your daily limits.
Like most whole foods, string cheese sticks and regular cheese can be healthy when eaten as part of a balanced diet. As long as you are not allergic to milk, that is!
A single serving of a cheese stick weighs around 28 grams or 1 ounce and has the following nutrition facts (this may vary between brands of string cheeses):
- Calories: 85 kilocalories
- Fat grams: 5.8 grams
- Sodium: 198 milligrams
- Carbohydrates: 1.3 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugars: 0.5 grams
- Protein: 6.7 grams
- Calcium: 196 milligrams
- Selenium: 7.6 micrograms
- B12: 0.47 micrograms
- Sodium: 148 milligrams
A 28-gram serving of string cheese contains 85 calories, predominantly from milk proteins and fat. The tiny amount of carbohydrates in the cheese, from the sugar naturally present in dairy, makes it a good snack for those on a low-carb or keto diet.
The 5.8 grams of total fat consists of 3.3 grams of saturated fats, 1.3 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 0.2 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Protein is a huge 6.7 grams, making it about on par with other protein sources per 100 grams, such as chicken.
String cheese contains other vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts than calcium, selenium, and vitamin B12, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. The nutrient profiles will vary depending on the brand and whether or not it has been fortified with added minerals.
A serving of string cheese also contains vitamin D but in minimal amounts. Vitamin D is found in therapeutic quantities with sunlight exposure or supplementation. The small amount of vitamin D in cheese may aid in the absorption of calcium.
Healthy Benefits Of String Cheese
There is a multitude of possible health benefits to incorporating this portable snack into your diet in moderation. String cheese is mozzarella cheese, so it is usually lower in fat, salt, and calories compared to other kinds of cheese. Studies have even found that it contains active strains of probiotics, which are excellent for the health of your digestive system.
Promotes Bone Health
String cheese sticks (and cheese in general) are an excellent source of calcium and B12, which help support increased bone density and reduce the risk of fractures and cavities.
Calcium is well known as the primary nutrient needed to build healthy bones, with 99% of the calcium in the body found in bones and teeth. String cheese contains high levels of calcium, with synergistic nutrients to help with its absorption. If dairy isn’t your thing, plenty of calcium supplements on the market have been formulated with synergistic vitamins and minerals. You might benefit from trying one of them to reduce your risk of osteoporosis as you age.
Males and females 19-50 need 1,000 mg of calcium daily, and one mozzarella stick has 196 mg, a substantial amount contributing to your daily needs. The recommended daily intake, or RDI, for B12 for males and females over 19 is 2.4 micrograms, and one mozzarella stick has .47 micrograms, another significant contributor to our nutritional health.
Supports Blood And Heart Health
The B12 in a string cheese stick is crucial for creating healthy red blood cells and preventing anemia. B12 is primarily found in animal products and cannot be synthesized in the body, so you need to get it from your diet. String cheese can provide up to 20% of your RDI for B12.
Vegans are a high-risk group for vitamin B12 deficiency and should be taking B12 in supplement form, or they risk complications such as anemia, infections, and nerve issues.
Some studies of the effect of full-fat dairy eaten in moderation on heart health have shown a positive impact, possibly due to their high nutrient profile.
Supports Immune System Health
Selenium found in mozzarella cheese sticks is an essential trace element that acts as an antioxidant in the body. It scavenges free radicals and helps to provide support to the immune system. Selenium in food is usually determined by the amount that is in soil, and unfortunately, that amount is drastically dropping. Selenium deficiency is thought to affect 1 billion people globally as of 2017.
B12’s role in creating healthy red blood cells also supports the immune system, as red blood cells are part of your immune system’s response to attack pathogens.
The type of fat found in a mozzarella cheese stick contains a compound called conjugated linoleic acid, which has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and have a positive effect on heart health and weight management when consumed in moderation.
Is String Cheese Healthy For Weight Loss?
Cheese sticks can be a balanced snack for people trying to lose weight. Due to the high protein content, one cheese stick can help to balance your blood sugar and keep you feeling satiated for longer. This helps with food cravings and reducing caloric intake, which can help if you maintain a healthy weight.
Light string cheese is an option for those on a lower-fat diet who find the fat content of regular string cheese off-putting, though one cheese stick isn’t contributing too much to your daily fat intake.
While a string cheese stick can be a great, nutritious snack for some, it isn’t so great for others. Consuming string cheese can have adverse effects, particularly if you are lactose intolerant or need to avoid salt. They are also high in saturated fats, which is even worse if you deep fry them. Saturated fats should be avoided for people on a low-fat diet and for anyone concerned about their heart health.
People who are lactose intolerant should not be consuming much dairy if any at all. Lactose intolerance affects a huge portion of the population. Not to be confused with a cow’s milk allergy, which has a more serious immune response, eating string cheese when lactose intolerant can produce uncomfortable digestive symptoms like gas, diarrhea, or constipation.
This intolerance can be minimized by taking the enzyme lactase, known by the brand name Lactaid. This product can be taken orally or dissolved in milk to break down the lactose so you can avoid the lactose-intolerant symptoms associated with dairy consumption.
A single-serve string cheese stick contains a very small amount of lactose and is sometimes safe for people with mild lactose intolerance. You should not consume even one cheese stick if you have a cow’s milk allergy.
High In Sodium
Cheese products are often very high in salt. If you have issues with blood pressure or your healthcare provider has recommended a low-sodium diet, you should reduce your consumption of cheeses, including string cheese. The average healthy adult should limit their daily sodium consumption to 2,300 mg per day as recommended by the American Heart Association.
Excessive consumption of salt has been linked to hypertension, changes in the structure and flexibility of arteries, and cardiovascular morbidity. You can find ‘healthy string cheese’, which comes in low-sodium varieties, but it is still processed cheese and will not be the perfect snack. Be aware of this if you have high blood pressure, and check the label when you are purchasing to make sure you are buying high-quality cheese sticks.
So, should you be eating string cheese? Is string cheese necessarily healthy? The answer is somewhere in the middle, depending on your own body composition and dietary needs. It is better than potato chips, but not as good as something like fresh fruit with greek yogurt, a more ideal snack. One cheese stick here and there, and it is perfectly fine.
As a general rule, in moderation, string cheese and other dairy products can be a great filling snack for healthy individuals but should not be consumed in excess (and don’t deep fry with seasoned tomato sauce!). They have a decent nutrient profile and are considered to be whole food. They are low in sugars and carbohydrates and won’t cause spikes in blood sugar or trigger insulin responses.
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