Calcium in Cheese: Everything You Need to Know

Canadians care about their health, and are trying to eat better! A 2017 study found that:

  • 45% of Canadians pay attention to the latest trends in health foods
  • 35% of Canadians try to include a superfood (such as kale, broccoli or quinoa) in their meals
  • 80% of Canadian women try to eat healthily, and 72% of Canadian men

And a big concern for the health-conscious Canadian is how to get enough calcium. This mineral is essential for strong bones and teeth, which we need to function well throughout our entire lives. Calcium also contributes to the health of our muscles, nerves, and hormones.

The current recommended daily intake (RDI) of calcium for Canadians aged 19-50 years old is 1000 mg. And the best place to get it? Dairy products.

But what if you’re trying to eat lower fat foods–can you still get enough calcium if you eat reduced-fat or fat-free cheese?

Here’s the skinny on calcium content in all of your favourite cheeses.

Calcium in cheese.

There’s a lot of calcium in the average serving of regular, full-fat cheese. That’s why dairy products are at the top of the Government of Canada’s list of calcium sources.

The amount of calcium varies, depending on the brand and especially on what else is in the cheese. The more processed the cheese, the lower nutritional content you’ll likely get.

What kind of cheese has the most calcium?

Hard cheeses tend to pack the most calcium, because they have less water content.

According to Osteoporosis Canada, a 3 cm cube of hard cheeses like parmesan, cheddar, Swiss, Edam, gouda, Gruyere, or blue cheese has 245mg of calcium. That’s nearly a quarter of your recommended intake!

Just keep in mind that hard cheeses also usually have more sodium.

What kind of cheese has the least amount of calcium?

Soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert have about 50% less calcium in the same size serving as hard cheeses.

Fresh cheeses like cottage cheese, goat cheese, Ricotta, and Mascarpone have even less. To get the same amount of calcium as one 30 g serving of hard cheese, you would need to eat nearly 400 g.

The tradeoff is that these cheeses are typically lower in fat and sodium. Mozzarella is also rich in probiotics, and many people find goat cheese easier to digest.

How much calcium is in fat-free cheese?

You may have noticed that Canada’s Food Guide now specifically references dairy products that are lower in fat, because consuming trans fat and too much saturated fat is bad for your health.

New research has shown that some saturated fat, the type found in cheese, could actually be good for your heart. But there are other worthwhile reasons to reduce fat intake, like weight management.

So if you love cheese, but want to reduce your overall fat intake to improve your health, should you switch to fat-free cheese?

Low fat cheeses are still sources of calcium, it’s just less concentrated.

  • Partially-skimmed mozzarella cheese or marble cheddar are a good source of calcium (21% RDI per 25 g)
  • Half a cup of cottage cheese (4% or less milk fat) and 50 grams of ricotta cheese (10% or less milk fat) are sources of calcium, providing about 8% and 12% RDI respectively

Fat-free cheeses have the least calcium of all cheeses, but you can still get a small portion of your RDI.

  • 19 g (one serving) of a typical fat-free cheddar cheese slice provides the least calcium, around 10% RDI

To learn about other sources of calcium, check out our resource on Calcium-Rich Foods.

About BC Dairy

BC Dairy is a not-for-profit organization representing BC’s dairy farmers.