American cheese vs Cheddar - Nutrition, calories and health impact
Cheese is an incredibly versatile dairy product with dozens of distinct varieties. Each of these varieties is set apart by its differing appearance, taste, texture, nutrition and much more. Today, we will be comparing American cheese and cheddar to see which is the more favourable option in terms of nutrition and health.
Cheddar cheese originated in and was named after the town of Cheddar in England. Earliest records of this cheese date back to the 12th century (1). Today, the requirements for cheddar cheese are a minimum of 50% fat content and a maximum of 39% moisture content (2). In other words, cheddar is a hard and dry cheese.
American cheese is a type of processed cheese, made from cheddar cheese, washed curd cheese, Colby cheese, granular cheese or any mixture of two or more of these (3). This cheese is relatively young with the first commercial processed cheese being produced in 1911, surprisingly not in the US but Switzerland (4). American cheese has similar requirements to cheddar cheese, which are a minimum of 50% milkfat content and a maximum of 40% moisture (5).
Traditionally, cheddar is made from cow milk. The manufacture of cheddar consists of preparing and standardizing milk, adding starter culture with rennet, coagulating milk, cutting the coagulum into small cubes, heating and agitating the cubes, removing the whey, fusing the curd into slabs, continuously stirring the curd, salting, and finally pressing․ After this long process, cheddar is required to be aged from two months to two years before consumption (2).
American cheese processed from natural cheeses by melting and emulsifying with suitable salts. Later reformed and packaged into slices (4).
Both of these cheese types come in shades of yellow, orange or white. The yellow pigment is usually the result of a food colouring called annatto.
Cheddar usually comes in blocks, while American cheese is pre-packaged into slices.
Taste and Use
The taste of cheddar is often described as sharp and creamy. American cheese, on the other hand, has a milder taste and a slightly salty flavour.
Cheddar and American cheese have the same melting point of 150°F (66°C). This makes them perfect for grilled cheese or as ingredients in various cooked meals.
The nutritional values in this article are presented for pasteurized, processed American cheese, with no added vitamin D, and cheddar cheese.
Macronutrients and Calories
Cheddar cheese is relatively more dense in nutrients compared to American cheese. Cheddar consists of 37% water, while American cheese contains 40% water.
American cheese and cheddar both have the same average serving sizes, equal to 1oz or 28.35g.
Both of these types of cheese are high calorie foods, however, cheddar is higher in calories. A 100g serving of American cheese contains 371 calories, while the same serving size of cheddar provides 404 calories.
Protein and Fats
Cheddar is richer in both protein and fats.
For every 100g serving, cheddar provides 5g more protein when compared to American cheese.
Cheddar and American cheese are both high in all essential amino acids. However, cheddar is richer in almost all essential amino acids, except for lysine.
Cheddar is only slightly higher in fats, however, American cheese is higher in trans fats and cholesterol.
The predominant fat type found in both cheddar and American cheese is saturated fat, followed by monounsaturated fat, leaving polyunsaturated fat in the last place.
While both of these foods are not very high in carbohydrates, American cheese contains a higher level of sugars.
The sugar content of American cheese is made up of mostly lactose and some galactose. In addition to those, cheddar also contains glucose.
Cheddar and American cheese do not contain dietary fiber.
Although American cheese and cheddar have similar vitamin contents, cheddar is richer in more vitamins. Cheddar provides over three times more of the daily value of folate needed. Cheddar is also richer in vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6 and vitamin A.
American cheese, on the other hand, contains higher levels of vitamin B12, vitamin B3 and vitamin E.
Cheddar and American cheese contain similar amounts of vitamin D, vitamin B5 and vitamin K. Both of these foods are completely absent in vitamin C.
American cheese wins in the mineral category. American cheese contains over 4 times more iron, as well as more calcium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, manganese and choline.
At the same time, cheddar is richer in zinc and selenium. Cheddar is also significantly lower in sodium, containing 2.5 times less sodium compared to American cheese.
The glycemic index of most types of cheese is incredibly hard to measure, as they are very low in carbohydrates.
Based on the numbers from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cheddar cheese has a glycemic index of 0, while the glycemic index of low-fat processed cheese is equal to 10 (6).
As we can see, while both of these foods have very low glycemic index values, the glycemic index of American cheese is higher when compared to cheddar.
If you’re interested in reading more about the glycemic effect of cheddar cheese on blood glucose levels you can visit our “Cheddar cheese” page.
The required range for the pH values of process American cheese is 5.3 to 5.8, making American cheese acidic (5).
Traditional cheddar has a pH of around 4.9 but nowadays there are cheddars present with a pH up to 5.3 (1).
Most cheddar cheese is slightly more acidic than American cheese.
An alternative way of measuring acidity is the potential renal acid load of foods. The PRAL value demonstrates the ability of the food to break down to acids or bases inside the organism.
The PRAL values for cheddar and American cheese are 16.5 and 15.6 respectively. This shows us that cheddar is slightly more acid-producing than American cheese.
Weight Loss & Diets
American cheese and cheddar are both high calorie foods, however, cheddar contains relatively more calories than American cheese.
Between these two foods, American cheese is the better option for a low calorie and a low fats diet. At the same time, cheddar is the preferred choice for low carb and low glycemic index diets.
Cheese is often avoided on weight loss diets due to its high fat content. However, some studies have found cheese consumption to not promote weight gain, furthermore, to potentially reduce body fat and augment muscle mass (7).
Low intake of both fresh and processed cheese has demonstrated a higher prevalence of excess weight compared to higher consumption of cheese, showing an inverse association between cheese consumption and excess weight (8).
Cheese is relatively low in carbohydrates, therefore, both cheddar and American cheese are acceptable to consume in moderation on a keto diet.
While cheddar can be consumed in moderation on Mediterranean and some forms of paleo diets, both diets exclude processed products, such as American cheese.
Despite the negative attention cheese gets due to its high saturated fat and calorie content, both cheddar and American cheese can have positive effects on health.
Dairy and cheese consumption overall has been inversely associated with the risk of cardiovascular diseases (9, 10, 11).
Due to its high calcium content and certain bioactive peptides, cheese has also been found to have a positive effect on high blood pressure (10). However, due to the high sodium content of American cheese, cheddar may be the better choice for people with high blood pressure.
Consumption of processed cheese has been studied to improve markers of cardiovascular disease in animal studies (12).
Cheddar and American cheese are very low glycemic index foods, however, the glycemic index of cheddar is lower.
Some studies have found an inverse association between cheese consumption and type 2 diabetes mellitus risk, while others find no associations between the two (13).
There is strong evidence that dairy consumption decreases the risk of colorectal cancer (14).
Intake of fermented dairy products, such as cheese, has also been found to significantly decrease bladder and esophageal cancer risk (15).
Downsides and Risks
While cheese consumption can have a protective effect against some forms of cancers, both American cheese and cheddar have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer (16).
Due to the high calcium content, high cheese intake might also increase the risk of prostate cancer (17).
Frequent cheese and dairy consumption might lead to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease and its more rapid progression (18, 19).
To sum up, cheddar is denser in nutrients and therefore higher in calories, protein and fats. However, American cheese contains more carbohydrates.
Cheddar is richer in vitamins, such as folate, vitamins B1 and B2, while American cheese has more minerals, such as iron, calcium, copper and potassium.
While both types of cheese can have a positive impact on health, cheddar may have a more beneficial effect as it is a natural cheese with a lower content of sodium and trans fats.
- USDA Commodity Requirements Document
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Rich in minerals|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values