People who cannot keep their blood glucose stable without the use of medication understand the struggle. Type 2 Diabetes affects almost every area of your life — your energy, mood, likelihood to develop other health problems, and food choices. If you love cheese, you might ask, “Is cheese good for diabetics?”
As you probably know, there are different opinions about cheese. Some associate cheese with heart disease, while many research studies prove otherwise. In a separate topic, we discussed whether cheese is a healthy option.
Today’s article focuses on cheese and Type 2 Diabetes. Are they compatible? If so, how much cheese can you have and which options are good for you?
Can People with Type 2 Diabetes Have Cheese?
The short answer is yes — cheese, particularly full-fat cheese, is a suitable option for Type 2 Diabetes and those with prediabetes. Note: Prediabetes is when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to have a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes [*].
Foods that are low in carbs and with a low glycemic index do not raise a person’s blood glucose. This makes cheese an excellent choice, along with other foods like low-carb nuts, eggs, meat, and fatty fish.
When it comes to cheese, stick to unprocessed low-carb cheeses with 1 gram of carbs per serving and generous amounts of protein and fat.
How Much Cheese Can People with Type 2 Diabetes Have?
Diabetics can eat up to three servings of cheese (one serving is equivalent to 1 oz, 28 grams, or a slice of cheese) without increasing their total carbohydrate consumption. Here’s more about the amount of cheese to eat when you’re on a keto diet for diabetes or general health.
Depending on their carb limit per meal, as per their doctor’s recommendation, they can also have more than three servings. Keep in mind to consider the number of carbs from other healthy foods you consume as well.
Here’s an example: Pair three slices of cheddar cheese with a serving of almond nuts at snack time for a total carb consumption of just 6.2 grams of net carbs!
Benefits of Cheese for People with Type 2 Diabetes
All natural cheeses offer various health benefits for diabetics. First off, the combination of low-carb and high protein in cheese stabilizes the blood sugar fluctuations that occur in diabetes. Keeping their blood sugar stable through the right foods means that they’re less likely to experience symptoms like weakness, dizziness, and changes in their vision.
Losing weight through cheese and other low-carb foods also helps control diabetes and prediabetes. Studies have shown that weight loss lowers the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes by 58% and reduces a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease [*][*].
The Best Cheese for People with Type 2 Diabetes
Selecting the best cheese for diabetics doesn’t have to be difficult. A good rule of thumb is to focus on natural or unprocessed cheeses. These cheeses have not been changed by adding other ingredients like vegetable oils and glucose syrup.
Here’s what to eat for blood sugar balance and better health:
One of the best cheeses for snacking, cheddar cheese packs 6 grams of protein per serving. Protein has been found to lower blood glucose after a meal and improve overall glucose control in Type 2 Diabetes, as studies suggest [*].
Lovers of gouda cheese will be glad to know that they don’t have to quit eating it for Type 2 Diabetes reversal. With its buttery and slightly sweet taste, gouda is best paired with other low-carb foods like spinach, asparagus, and ground beef.
3. Pepper Jack
Capsaicin is an active compound in chili peppers that may decrease blood glucose, helping people with diabetes [*]. Pepper Jack, a derivative of Monterey Jack, is flavored with various peppers including habañero chilies and jalapeños.
Another cheese that keeps your blood sugar in check, parmesan can be shredded or shaved on low-glycemic foods like broccoli and lettuce. It has a glycemic index of 0.
Feta cheese is a fermented cheese that also fits a diabetes-friendly diet. If your blood sugar dips too low at night, try eating feta cheese with low-carb avocado toast (bread that’s made from almond flour and coconut flour) as a bedtime snack.
Risk of Cheese for People with Type 2 Diabetes
The only reason to avoid cheese and dairy, in general, is if you cannot tolerate them. Having a dairy allergy means that you develop an allergic reaction to the protein in cow’s milk. Symptoms can occur within an hour or days, ranging from diarrhea and abdominal cramps to difficulty breathing [*].
Here’s a list of common questions and answers on the topic of cheese and diabetes:
Does cheese raise my blood sugar?
No. Cheese does not increase your blood glucose levels because it’s low in carbohydrates. Since it’s high in protein, it’s also a good option to prevent spikes after meal times.
What type of cheeses should people with Type 2 diabetes avoid?
Avoid processed cheeses like cheese spreads, dips, and pre-packaged slices. These options contribute to weight gain by being highly palatable (due to other ingredients in these products).
Is cheese low glycemic?
Yes. Cheese has a very low glycemic index (GI). Eating low-GI foods doesn’t only help with blood sugar control, but it also increases weight loss and lowers your risk of heart disease.
The Bottom Line
There’s no need to avoid cheese if you have Type 2 Diabetes. As one of the healthiest foods on the planet, cheese has very few carbs, meaning that it does not increase your blood sugar levels. Glycemic control is an important strategy to prevent your condition from progressing and complications.