Cheese with low sodium: checking salt content in popular cheeses

The kinds of cheese with the most amount of sodium

This chart representing sodium levels in popular varieties of cheese speaks for itself (click on the image to see a bigger version). Starting at the top, we have cheeses with the most amount of sodium: Parmesan, Asiago, Low Fat American, Blue cheese, American, Romano, Feta, Edam. Slightly lower in sodium are Provolone, Camembert, Gouda, Fontina. Pretty much the same sodium levels can be found in Mozzarella, Brie, Muenster, Mexican blend, Cheddar, Havarty and many others. All these varieties have just under 200 mg per 1 oz serving or one slice. Cheese found on your typical pizza can also be found in this middle of the road category.

Medium levels of cheese.

A few cheeses weigh in at 100 to 125 mg: Neufchatel, Goat cheese, Gruyere. Consider that the varieties at the top of the list have nearly 4 times the amount of sodium than these cheeses! If you enjoy their flavors, these cheeses can probably considered as an occasional delicacy of a not too strict low sodium diet. Remember that Gruyère cheese is technically a variation of Swiss cheese.

Cheeses with the least amount of sodium

Finally, the winners. Swiss cheese (be sure to read more about it) is considered low sodium, followed only by Ricotta. Keep in mind, of course, that for some people Ricotta is hardly a cheese at all 🙂 The same can be said about cottage cheese, not present in this chart.

Note also that products in the middle of the chart tend to be consumed in large amounts. Mozzarella, for instance,  is in most cases the main ingredient in pizza. Parmesan, on the other hand, being perhaps the saltiest cheese in common use, is hardly ever shows up in alarming quantities. But if you like Swiss cheese, you are in better shape. This is not a coincidence. The reason why most cheeses are high in sodium content has a lot to do with the manufacturing process. Salt is supposed to remove excessive moisture from cheese (apart from giving it a lot more taste). The way Swiss cheese is made, it uses a different process to remove the moisture, so salt is simply not needed. Again, soft cheeses like Ricotta retain the moisture by design, so they also don’t need extra salt.

A way to simplify this chart, is to think of all hard cheeses as the saltiest, while soft cheeses usually have less sodium. Swiss and Gruyère are two important exceptions, because of the manufacturing process that simply does not require salt.

Important to know

This chart also demonstrates that products designed to be low in fat and calories are often higher in sodium than their supposedly less healthy counterparts. It suffices to take a look at American cheese and Low fat American cheese. The “healthier” cheese contains significantly more sodium compared to its generic sibling. This happens because manufacturers have long ago discovered that a very way too easy to improve the taste of their products, at the expense of other ingredients that are more noticeable on product labels and seen as unhealthy by most people (fat and sugar, for instance). Large cheese manufacturers simply increase the sodium content and people get hooked! Sadly, salt does this to us every time. This is exactly the way so much sodium finds its way into our diets. Buyer of low sodium foods, beware!

Finally, it is crucial to remember that nothing stops manufacturers from adding more salt to their products. I have seen Swiss cheese with plenty of sodium. Always check the labels.

As usual, check the labels and trust no one. Your health is at stake!