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Savoring the Mediterranean: Discovering the Magic of Diet-friendly Cheese

mediterranean diet cheese

The Mediterranean Diet: An Overview

Well-known for its heart-healthy benefits, the Mediterranean diet is a balanced and diverse eating plan that draws inspiration from the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Understanding the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. It encourages replacing butter with healthy fats like olive oil and using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods. One of the unique aspects of this diet is the inclusion of dairy products, particularly cheese and yogurt, in moderate amounts.

Fish and poultry are preferred over red meat, and wine is consumed in moderation, usually with meals. Physical activity and enjoying meals with family and friends are also significant components of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

To learn more about the components of the Mediterranean diet, visit our comprehensive guide on the Mediterranean diet.

The Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Numerous studies have found that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. It’s also been linked with a lower level of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, improved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and increased longevity.

One of the key elements contributing to these health benefits is the diet’s focus on whole, unprocessed foods rich in monounsaturated fats, fiber, and antioxidants. The diet’s allowance for moderate amounts of cheese and other dairy products offers additional health benefits, as these foods are excellent sources of calcium and other vital nutrients.

Health Benefit Explanation
Reduces Heart Disease Risk High in monounsaturated fats and fiber, low in saturated fat and red meat
Protects Against Certain Cancers Rich in antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and red wine
Lowers Diabetes Risk High in fiber and healthy fats, low in refined sugars
Helps Weight Control Emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods and physical activity

For more in depth information on the potential health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, check out our article on Mediterranean diet benefits.

The Role of Cheese in the Mediterranean Diet

Cheese, a staple in many diets around the world, holds a special place in the Mediterranean cuisine. Its diverse flavors and textures, as well as its nutritional value, make it a versatile ingredient in the Mediterranean diet. In this section, we will delve into the nutritional value of cheese and understand how cheese fits into the Mediterranean diet.

Nutritional Value of Cheese

Cheese is a rich source of vital nutrients. It provides high-quality protein, essential for muscle repair and growth. It’s also packed with calcium, crucial for bone health, as well as other minerals like zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. In addition, cheese contains vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin), and B12.

Here’s a general nutritional breakdown per 100g of cheese:

Nutrient Amount
Protein 25g
Calcium 700mg
Vitamin A 330IU
Vitamin B2 0.38mg
Vitamin B12 1.1μg

How Cheese Fits into the Mediterranean Diet

In the context of the Mediterranean diet, cheese is more than just a source of nutrients. It’s a key part of the culinary tradition and a testament to the diet’s emphasis on enjoying a variety of foods in moderation.

Cheese is often used in Mediterranean cooking to enhance flavor and add richness to dishes. It’s found in salads, pasta, and on antipasti platters, often paired with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. It’s also enjoyed on its own as a snack or dessert.

While cheese is a regular part of the Mediterranean diet, it’s important to remember the principle of moderation. Cheese, particularly some varieties, can be high in saturated fat and salt. Therefore, it should be consumed in reasonable amounts, keeping in mind the overall balance of the diet.

Cheese’s role in the Mediterranean diet underscores the notion that healthy eating can be both nutritious and enjoyable. It’s not about strict restrictions, but rather about balance, variety, and pleasure in eating. For those interested in exploring the Mediterranean diet, incorporating cheese is a tasty way to enjoy the journey towards healthier eating.

Typical Mediterranean Diet Cheeses

Cheese is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, adding both flavor and nutritional value to various dishes. When it comes to mediterranean diet cheese, there are certain types that are more commonly used than others due to their unique characteristics and nutritional profiles. Here are four typical cheeses found in the Mediterranean diet: Feta, Ricotta, Mozzarella, and Halloumi.


Feta is a well-known cheese that originated in Greece and is cherished for its tangy and salty flavor. It’s typically made from sheep’s milk or a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk. Feta is a rich source of calcium and protein, with a moderate amount of fat. This cheese crumbles easily, making it a perfect addition to salads and other dishes.

Nutrient Amount (per 100g)
Calories 264
Protein 14g
Fat 21g
Calcium 493mg


Ricotta is an Italian cheese that’s typically made from the whey left over from the production of other cheeses. It’s a low-fat cheese that’s high in protein and calcium, making it a nutritious choice for those following a Mediterranean diet. Ricotta has a mild, sweet flavor and a creamy texture that works well in both savory and sweet dishes.

Nutrient Amount (per 100g)
Calories 174
Protein 11g
Fat 13g
Calcium 207mg


Mozzarella is another popular Italian cheese that’s typically made from buffalo’s milk, although cow’s milk variants are also common. It’s a high-protein, moderate-fat cheese that’s also high in calcium. Mozzarella is cherished for its mild, milky flavor and its unique stretchy texture when melted, making it a favorite choice for pizza and pasta dishes.

Nutrient Amount (per 100g)
Calories 280
Protein 28g
Fat 17g
Calcium 505mg


Halloumi is a cheese originating from Cyprus, typically made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk. It’s a high-protein, high-calcium cheese with a moderate amount of fat. Halloumi is unique for its high melting point, allowing it to be grilled or fried without losing its shape. This cheese has a salty flavor and a squeaky texture.

Nutrient Amount (per 100g)
Calories 314
Protein 21g
Fat 25g
Calcium 700mg

These four cheeses are just a selection of the variety of cheeses incorporated into the Mediterranean diet. Each one contributes not only its unique flavors and textures but also significant nutritional value, making them a valuable part of a balanced and health-conscious diet. To discover how to incorporate cheese into your Mediterranean diet, explore our collection of mediterranean recipes.

How to Incorporate Cheese into a Mediterranean Diet

Cheese, a staple in the Mediterranean cuisine, can be incorporated into your diet in various enjoyable ways. This section will highlight how to use cheese in Mediterranean recipes, and provide tips on pairing cheese with other Mediterranean foods.

Using Cheese in Mediterranean Recipes

Cheese plays a significant role in the Mediterranean diet. It adds flavor, texture, and nutritional value to a multitude of dishes. Here are a few ways to incorporate Mediterranean diet cheese into your meals:

  • Salads: Feta or mozzarella cheese can be sprinkled on salads for a tangy twist.
  • Pasta: Ricotta cheese can be used in pasta dishes, providing a creamy texture and a mild, sweet flavor.
  • Grilled Dishes: Halloumi cheese holds up well to grilling and can be a delicious addition to kabobs or grilled vegetable dishes.

Our collection of Mediterranean recipes provides further inspiration for incorporating cheese into your meals.

Pairing Cheese with Other Mediterranean Foods

Cheese pairs excellently with many other foods common in the Mediterranean diet. Here are some pairing suggestions:

  • Fruits and Nuts: Feta or ricotta cheese can be paired with fresh fruits like figs, pears, or apples and a handful of nuts for a satisfying snack or dessert.
  • Olives and Crackers: Mozzarella can be served with olives and whole grain crackers for a quick and easy snack.
  • Grains and Greens: Halloumi cheese can be added to grain bowls featuring quinoa or couscous and a variety of greens for a balanced meal.

Remember, while cheese is a flavorful addition to the Mediterranean diet, it should be consumed in moderation due to its high fat and sodium content. Check out our Mediterranean diet meal ideas for more tips on creating balanced and delicious meals.

Incorporating cheese into a Mediterranean diet is not only a tasty choice, but it also adds nutritional value to your meals. Whether it’s used in recipes or paired with other food items, cheese can enhance your enjoyment of the Mediterranean diet.

Things to Consider When Choosing Cheese for a Mediterranean Diet

While cheese plays a significant role in the Mediterranean diet, it’s crucial to consider several factors when incorporating it into your meal plan. These include fat content, sodium content, and portion control. Taking these into account will ensure you get the most out of your Mediterranean diet cheese choice while adhering to the principles of this healthful eating plan.

Fat Content

Cheese can vary significantly in fat content, depending on the type and processing method. Because the Mediterranean diet emphasizes low to moderate fat intake, it’s important to choose cheeses that align with this guideline. Opting for low-fat or reduced-fat versions can be a smart choice. However, remember that even the healthiest cheese should be consumed in moderation due to its calorie content.

Cheese Type Fat Content (per 100g)
Feta 21g
Ricotta 13g
Mozzarella 22g
Halloumi 25g

Sodium Content

Sodium is another factor to be mindful of when choosing cheese for the Mediterranean diet. Some cheeses can be high in sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure when consumed in excess. Opt for cheeses with lower sodium content and consider using other flavor-enhancers, like herbs and spices, in your Mediterranean recipes.

Cheese Type Sodium Content (per 100g)
Feta 1116mg
Ricotta 84mg
Mozzarella 373mg
Halloumi 1400mg

Portion Control

Lastly, portion control is key when incorporating cheese into a Mediterranean diet. Despite its nutritional benefits, cheese is calorie-dense, so moderation is crucial. A serving size is typically 1 ounce (28 grams), but this can vary depending on the type of cheese and the specific recipe you’re preparing. For more tips on portion control and meal planning, check out our Mediterranean meal plan.

When considering Mediterranean diet cheese, remember that balance and variety are core principles of this eating pattern. Cheese can provide valuable nutrients like calcium and protein, but it should be part of a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. By considering fat content, sodium level, and portion size, you can make cheese a delicious and healthful part of your Mediterranean diet.

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Photo by Iina Luoto on Pexels
Katherine Hurst
Sarah Goran
Sarah Goran is not just an author but also a workshop leader, educator, and an acclaimed blogger, specializing in holistic living, healthy eating, and wellness. Her expertise extends to nurturing well-rounded lifestyles and encouraging mindful choices.

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