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American cheese vs Cheddar - Nutrition, calories and health impact

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Introduction

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.

Classification

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).

Production

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).

Appearance

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.

Nutrition

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.

Calories

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. 

Carbohydrates

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.

Vitamins

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.

Minerals

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.

Glycemic Index

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.

Acidity

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.

Health Impact

Health Benefits

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.

Cardiovascular 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).

Diabetes

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).

Cancer

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

Cancer

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).

Neurological Health

Frequent cheese and dairy consumption might lead to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease and its more rapid progression (18, 19).  

Summary

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.

Sources.

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282804567
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335990511
  3. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=133.173
  4. https://www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/234/76591/cheese.pdf
  5. USDA Commodity Requirements Document
  6. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/93/5/984/4597984
  7. https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/10/5/917S/5569504
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258057916
  9. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306086644
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/45450821
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4006120/
  12. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1051/dst/2009022
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6855942/
  14. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/meat-fish-and-dairy/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30374967/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5998914/
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25527754/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5496517/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5610862/
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Profession: Yerevan State Medical University
Last updated: May 31, 2021

Infographic

American cheese vs Cheese infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
3
Cheese
Contains more Iron +350%
Contains more Calcium +47.2%
Contains more Potassium +73.7%
Contains more Copper +53.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +40.9%
Contains more Zinc +46.2%
Contains less Sodium -60.9%
Equal in Magnesium - 27
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 24% 314% 12% 19% 16% 68% 275% 218%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 6% 213% 7% 20% 10% 100% 195% 86%
Contains more Iron +350%
Contains more Calcium +47.2%
Contains more Potassium +73.7%
Contains more Copper +53.3%
Contains more Phosphorus +40.9%
Contains more Zinc +46.2%
Contains less Sodium -60.9%
Equal in Magnesium - 27

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
6
Cheese
Contains more Vitamin E +12.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +28.8%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +36.4%
Contains more Vitamin A +31.4%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +93.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +82.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +22.2%
Contains more Folate +237.5%
Equal in Vitamin D - 0.6
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.41
Equal in Vitamin K - 2.4
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 57% 16% 18% 4% 54% 2% 25% 13% 188% 7% 6%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 75% 15% 18% 8% 99% 2% 25% 16% 138% 6% 21%
Contains more Vitamin E +12.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +28.8%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +36.4%
Contains more Vitamin A +31.4%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +93.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +82.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +22.2%
Contains more Folate +237.5%
Equal in Vitamin D - 0.6
Equal in Vitamin B5 - 0.41
Equal in Vitamin K - 2.4

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

Summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfils human daily needs, the more the summary score is
Vitamin Summary Score
32
American cheese
35
Cheese
Mineral Summary Score
118
American cheese
79
Cheese

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Protein
109%
American cheese
137%
Cheese
Carbohydrates
4%
American cheese
3%
Cheese
Fats
147%
American cheese
154%
Cheese

Comparison summary table

Pay attention at the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
American cheese Cheese
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Sugars ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable in case of diets?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
American cheese Cheese
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

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Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Cheese
Cheese is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 1mg)
Which food contains less Sugars?
Cheese
Cheese contains less Sugars (difference - 1.78g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Cheese
Cheese contains less Sodium (difference - 1018mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Cheese
Cheese is lower in glycemic index (difference - 27)
Which food is cheaper?
Cheese
Cheese is cheaper (difference - $0.4)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
American cheese
American cheese is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.81g)
Which food is richer in minerals?
American cheese
American cheese is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be definitely stated which food is richer in vitamins. See charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

In the column "Opinion" we made some assumptions which could be controversial. For instance we are assuming that less saturated fats is good for you. Please ignore this column if you have your own opinion.We marked the nutrients, comparison of which we considered as not meaningful, as "N/A"
Nutrient American cheese Cheese Opinion
Calories 371 404 Cheese
Protein 18.13 22.87 Cheese
Fats 31.79 33.31 Cheese
Vitamin C 0 0
Carbs 3.7 3.09 American cheese
Cholesterol 100 99 Cheese
Vitamin D 23 24 Cheese
Iron 0.63 0.14 American cheese
Calcium 1045 710 American cheese
Potassium 132 76 American cheese
Magnesium 26 27 Cheese
Sugars 2.26 0.48 Cheese
Fiber 0 0
Copper 0.046 0.03 American cheese
Zinc 2.49 3.64 Cheese
Starch
Phosphorus 641 455 American cheese
Sodium 1671 653 Cheese
Vitamin A 945 1242 Cheese
Vitamin E 0.8 0.71 American cheese
Vitamin D 0.6 0.6
Vitamin B1 0.015 0.029 Cheese
Vitamin B2 0.234 0.428 Cheese
Vitamin B3 0.076 0.059 American cheese
Vitamin B5 0.403 0.41 Cheese
Vitamin B6 0.054 0.066 Cheese
Vitamin B12 1.5 1.1 American cheese
Vitamin K 2.6 2.4 American cheese
Folate 8 27 Cheese
Trans Fat 1.144 0.917 Cheese
Saturated Fat 18.057 18.867 American cheese
Monounsaturated Fat 8.236 9.246 Cheese
Polyunsaturated fat 1.286 1.421 Cheese
Tryptophan 0.232 0.547 Cheese
Threonine 0.772 1.044 Cheese
Isoleucine 0.938 1.206 Cheese
Leucine 1.716 1.939 Cheese
Lysine 1.516 1.025 American cheese
Methionine 0.475 0.547 Cheese
Phenylalanine 0.939 1.074 Cheese
Valine 1.187 1.404 Cheese
Histidine 0.546 0.547 Cheese
Fructose 0 0

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links of the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. American cheese - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171290/nutrients
  2. Cheese - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173414/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.