Is Cheese Low FODMAP?
Is Cheese Low FODMAP? This is a great question and while it has a nuanced answer, you will understand what you need to know when choosing a cheese by the end of this article – whether it has been lab-tested by Monash University, FODMAP Friendly, or not at all.
It is worth re-stating that the low FODMAP diet is NOT a dairy-free diet. It is lower in lactose.
Also, as it is always recommended that you work through the low FODMAP diet with a Registered Dietitian, you can discuss with them whether they think you need to be tested for lactose malabsorption, which his article does not address.
Let’s Talk Cheese
This article addresses real dairy cheeses, made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk and/or sheep’s milk (you might sometimes come across blends).
Many cheeses have been lab tested for FODMAP content and you can look them up on the Monash Smartphone App for instance and have that info at your fingertips, such as:
Brie: low FODMAP at 1 ½ ounces (40 grams) per serving.
Cheddar: low FODMAP at 1 ½ ounces (40 grams) per serving.
Cottage Cheese (creamed): low FODMAP at 2 Australian Tablespoons (40 g) per serving.
Cream Cheese: low FODMAP at 2 Australian tablespoons (40 g) per serving.
Feta: low FODMAP at 1 ½ ounces (40 grams) per serving.
Goat cheese (such as Montrachet): low FODMAP at 1 ½ ounces (40 grams) per serving.
Havarti: low FODMAP at 1 ½ ounces (40 grams) per serving.
Monterey Jack: low FODMAP at 1 ½ ounces (40 grams) per serving.
Mozzarella: low FODMAP at 1 ½ ounces (40 grams) per serving.
Ricotta: low FODMAP at 2 Australian tablespoons (40 g) per serving.
Swiss: low FODMAP at 1 ½ ounces (40 grams) per serving.
What About Cheese That Have Not Been Lab Tested?
But what about blue cheese and Roquefort? Or Gruyere, Jarelsberg or Parmesan? Fontina and Provolone? These are just a few of the cheese that are currently not lab-tested and many FODMAPers are wondering if they can eat them.
The Answer Is YES!
The answer is YES, you can eat these cheeses! And, as usual, you have to read labels, specifically the black and white FDA Nutrition Facts Label (this information below can be extrapolated for labels in other countries).
Note that when you buy from a cheese store or specialty department, their cheese is cut to order and will not have the FDA label. We chose cheeses for our images that are prepackaged so that you can see the FDA Nutrition Facts Labels.
FODMAPs In Cheese
The FODMAP that we are concerned with when it comes to cheese is lactose, which is sometimes referred to as milk sugar. It is a “double sugar” (hence the “d” for “disaccharide” in the FODMAP acronym).For dairy products you can use the FDA Nutrient Facts Label to help assess FODMAP content. Click To Tweet
If the Total Carbohydrates, and/or Total Sugars on the FDA Nutrition Facts Label is 1 gram or less per serving, you can assume that the dairy product is low FODMAP per serving. This is because Monash University’s cut-off for a low FODMAP serving for lactose is 1 gram per serving.
As always, you must pay attention to the serving size.
Let’s Eat Cheese! Read Those Cheese Labels
Let’s look at an American domestic blue cheese label below. You can see that the Total Carbs per serving is less than 1 g. This means that you can enjoy this blue cheese even during Elimination in the serving size stated.
For you blue cheese fans, here is a label below from an aged Roquefort cheese. Total Carbohydrates per serving is 0 g. Again, this is safe while on the low FODMAP diet, per serving.
Here is a Gruyere cheese label below complete with its information that there are 0 g Total Carb.
On the Jarlsberg label below you can see that they have very helpfully stated that the cheese is “naturally lactose free”. The FDA Nutrition Facts Label shows us that per serving the Total Carbs are 0 g. Safe for you to eat from a FODMAP perspective.
Here below we have a Provolone label, which is also low FODMAP at 0 g per serving.
Parmesan cheese is one of the most beloved and we use it in many recipes. The Parmesan label below shows less than 1 g per serving Total Carbs. Low FODMAP!
And finally, below, I took a picture of Danish Fontina for you. Total Carbs 0 g and safe for Elimination Phase.
Look For 0 Grams Total Carbohydrates
You can see that in every instance that the Carbohydrates and Sugars – the Total Carbs – are less than 1 gram per serving, therefore they fall within the low FODMAP designation set by Monash University, the developers of the low FODMAP diet.
If you see blue cheese or Gruyere cheese in a recipe, or any other cheese, do some math and calculate the serving sizes and you will be able to tell if the recipe is low FODMAP (in reference to the cheese). Of course you will need the nutrition label to refer to, or do this in the store as you shop.
At FODMAP Everyday® we have done this work for you. If you see our kiwi icon , that means the recipe has been designated as low FODMAP per serving and is safe to eat even during Elimination – complete with cheese.
How Dairy Cheese Becomes Low FODMAP
You might have noticed that in the initial list of cheeses (up top) that there are a few soft fresh cheeses listed such as cream cheese, cottage cheese and ricotta as well as harder, aged cheeses, such as cheddar and Swiss.
Soft and hard cheeses are made differently, but all of them have low FODMAP amounts.
Understanding how they are made will help you understand their FODMAP content from a different perspective than reading labels.
Making Soft, Fresh Cheeses
Making ricotta can be as easy as heating milk, adding a coagulant (such as vinegar or lemon juice), watching curds form, separating the curds from the liquid whey and then draining the curds in cheesecloth for a brief period of time. The lactose is in the whey and a good quantity of it is drained away.
The resulting drained curds are the ricotta, but since the ricotta is still fairly wet, some lactose remains in the ricotta – assuming you have used regular whole milk as commercial ricotta producers’ use. (Our ricotta recipe begins with lactose-free milk, so it is naturally lactose-free. Our recipe also also illustrates all of these steps in images, which you might find helpful to see).
Making Hard, Aged Cheeses
Making hard, aged cheese, such as cheddar, is a bit more involved. Once the curds are separated from the whey, the curds are placed in presses. This is what makes a large cheese wheel round, for instance; the press frame is round. The curds are shaped in the press and also exposed to pressure (hence the term “press) during which much more whey (and therefore lactose) is removed and drained away than during the fresh, soft cheese making process, such as the ricotta described above. This is why these harder cheeses are lower in lactose than fresh, soft cheeses.
For a breakfast or snack treat, try the Low FODMAP Olive Oil Muffins with Goat Cheese & Raspberries.
Whether a cheese has been lab tested or not, you can assess its FODMAP content by reading the black and white FDA Nutrition Facts Label (or equivalent). Monash University has told us that a dairy product is low FODMAP if the lactose content is low enough (1 gram or less per serving). This can be calculated by reviewing the Total Carbs comprised of the Carbohydrates and Sugars on the label of the cheese in question.
If the Total Carbs on the FDA Nutrition Facts Label is 1 gram or less per serving, you can assume that the dairy product is low FODMAP per serving. This is because Monash University’s low FODMAP serving for lactose 1 gram per serving.