Cheese vs Milk - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Cheese and milk are dairy products that are usually consumed daily. Cheese is a derivative of milk that comes from cattle thus classifying it as dairy. Therefore, both cannot be consumed in a vegan diet.
For individuals who do not consume dairy products, vegans, for example; non-dairy versions of cheese and milk are available. It is important to note that vegan versions of cheese and milk will not be discussed in this comparative analysis.
Given that there is a large variety of cheese worldwide, we will be focusing on cheddar in this analysis. We will also be focusing on low-fat milk throughout the article.
In this text, we will look into the differences and similarities of milk and cheese, and how they impact our health.
Processing of milk into cheese
To make cheese, milk should undergo a process. First, the milk should be heated, and acids should be added. This will cause the proteins to solidify and transform the milk into curds.
The curds are mostly composed of casein, which are proteins present in milk. These curds are collected, salted, dried, forming cheese. The processing may take long durations, thus aged cheese is classified in that category.
Processing and consumption of cheese and milk date back to 7000-6000 years ago. Cheese and milk are consumed by all cultures around the world.
Cheese is considered one of the most used elements in the culinary world and can be used for savory foods as well as sweet foods. Milk is considered one of the base elements that are required for cooking. It is also the main source for all dairy derivatives.
Cheese and milk are one of the fundamental elements in worldwide gastronomy.
They are among the foods that contain the highest amounts of calcium.
The following section will cover their differences related to nutritional data.
Cheese is higher in calories compared to milk. Cheese has 404 calories per 100g, while milk has 42 calories per 100g.
Cheese contains 3.09g of carbs, on the other hand, milk contains 4.99g of carbs. The amounts of carbs are low in both of them, as they make up to 2% of the daily required values.
Milk contains higher amounts of lactose compared to cheddar cheese. Milk is composed of 4.99g of lactose which is most of its carbohydrate content
Cheese is obtained after processing (curdling) milk and solidifying its protein. Meaning that cheese has a high protein content compared to milk. Cheese contains 23g of protein while milk contains 3g. The protein amount is approximately 7.6x higher in cheese compared to milk.
Cheese also has higher amounts of fat compared to milk.
Cheese contains 33g of fats which makes up 51% of the daily recommended value, subdivided into 19g of saturated fats constituting 95% of the daily recommended value.
Whereas, the amount of fat in milk is negligible, as it has 1g of fat per 100g.
For cholesterol, cheese contains 99mg of cholesterol which makes 33% of the daily recommended value. Whereas, milk contains 5mg of cholesterol, which is considered negligible.
Both cheese and milk are categorized as low glycemic index foods, although there is a difference between them. The glycemic index of cheese is 27 while the glycemic index of milk is 38.
Cheese is richer in Vitamins B2, B12, and A compared to milk. Cheese is also considered a good source of vitamins A and B2.
Milk is richer in vitamin D compared to cheese. However, this amount is not very high compared to other foods.
Similar to the vitamin content, cheese is richer in calcium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, selenium, and magnesium.
Consumption of cheese should be monitored for patients with hypertension and kidney impairment due to its high sodium content.
Cheese is considered to be in the top 5% of foods that are rich in calcium and satisfies 71% of the required daily value. However, milk has less calcium compared to cheese since it only satisfies 12% of the required daily value.
Weight loss and diets
Cheese and milk are excluded from vegan diets because they are dairy products.
In the keto diet, milk can be consumed by minimal amounts. Whole milk is recommended to be used due to it’s higher fat content, however 1 cup of whole milk contains 50% of the carbohydrate amount allowed to be consumed while on a keto diet.
On the other hand, cheese is a keto-friendly food that can be consumed due to its low carb high fat composition.
People who are lactose intolerant, cannot digest lactose which is present in both cheese and milk. Although with scientific advancements, this obstacle is somehow resolved by giving pills that contain lactase enzymes that digest lactose. However, this doesn’t help all lactose intolerant individuals. (1)
For weight loss, consuming milk is the perfect choice as it is low in calories. Although one should not cut out cheese consumption completely even if on a weight loss diet because of all the essential nutrients present in it like vitamins and minerals specifically calcium. Consumption in low to moderate amounts is key so that malnourishment doesn’t take place.
Most dairy foods are hard to digest, mostly due to lactose. As previously mentioned, milk contains more lactose than cheese, which makes it harder to digest. This creates bloating and indigestion. However, consuming milk constantly over a period of time leads to the decrease of these symptoms. This is due to the digestive system getting adapted to the content of lactose sugars that are being consumed, thus it provides adequate amounts of lactases leading to better digestion and less bloating.
It is important to note that this is a phenomenon in individuals that are not diagnosed with lactose intolerance but have infrequent consumption of dairy products.
Moderate consumption of dairy including cheese and milk has been shown to reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases. (2)
Consumption of dairy products, in moderation, which are rich in calcium and phosphorus, in this case, cheese, has proven to have beneficial effects on decreasing hypertension in patients with high blood pressure. (3)
Consumption of low-fat milk has shown that it doesn’t increase the risks of developing cardiovascular diseases. (4)
Studies have shown that moderate consumption of dairy, including cheese and low-fat milk, decreases the risks of developing type 2 diabetes. (5)
Both cheese and milk having low glycemic indices meaning that they do not increase risks of developing type 2 diabetes. (6)
Consumption of dairy has shown decreased risks in developing colorectal and bladder cancers. (7)
Downsides & Risks
Consumption in moderate amounts has shown that consumption of milk and cheese can have neutral or positive effects on cardiovascular health.
Although, overconsumption of cheese that contains higher amounts of fats and sodium might have negative effects on cardiovascular health and hypertension.
Consumption of milk increases the risk of developing prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and breast cancer.
In addition to that, cheese is associated with an increased risk of breast and prostate cancers. (8)
Frequent consumptions of dairy including cheese and milk have a slight positive correlation in increasing the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Intolerance and allergies
As stated above, lactose intolerant individuals cannot consume milk and cheese. Lactase pills are available to help them digest. However, this doesn't help all cases.
In summary, cheese has higher amounts of protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins B2, B12, and A. Whereas, milk has negligible amounts of fats and cholesterol.
Levels of sodium and fat in cheese have to be taken into consideration.
Moderate consumption of both is considered beneficial.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Rich in minerals|
|Rich in vitamins|
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