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Milk vs Cheese - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Milk
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Cheese

Introduction

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.

History

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.

Culinary 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. 

Nutrition

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.

Calories

Cheese is higher in calories compared to milk. Cheese has 404 calories per 100g, while milk has 42 calories per 100g.

Carbs

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. 

Lactose

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 

Proteins

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.

Fats

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.

Glycemic index

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.

Vitamins

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. 

Minerals

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. 

Calcium

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

Vegan

Cheese and milk are excluded from vegan diets because they are dairy products.

Keto

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.

Lactose intolerance 

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)

Weight loss

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.

Digestion

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.

Health impacts

Health benefits

Cardiovascular health

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)

Diabetes

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)



Cancer

Consumption of dairy has shown decreased risks in developing colorectal and bladder cancers. (7)

Downsides & Risks

Cardiovascular health

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.

Cancer

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)

Neurologic

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.

Summary

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.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27706451/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26786887/
  3. https://journals.lww.com/jhypertension/Abstract/2018/10000/Relations_between_dairy_product_intake_and_blood.4.aspx
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31089735/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23945722/
  6. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/76/1/274S/4689498
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22081693/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6352799/
Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Profession: Haigazian Medical University
Last updated: March 23, 2021

Infographic

Milk 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
Milk
2
:
6
Cheese
Contains more Potassium +97.4%
Contains less Sodium -93.3%
Contains more Iron +366.7%
Contains more Calcium +468%
Contains more Magnesium +145.5%
Contains more Copper +200%
Contains more Zinc +766.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +378.9%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 2% 38% 14% 8% 4% 12% 41% 6%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 6% 213% 7% 20% 10% 100% 195% 86%
Contains more Potassium +97.4%
Contains less Sodium -93.3%
Contains more Iron +366.7%
Contains more Calcium +468%
Contains more Magnesium +145.5%
Contains more Copper +200%
Contains more Zinc +766.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +378.9%

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
Milk
2
:
9
Cheese
Contains more Vitamin D +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +57.6%
Contains more Vitamin A +533.7%
Contains more Vitamin E +7000%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +45%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +131.4%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +13.6%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +78.4%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +134%
Contains more Vitamin K +2300%
Contains more Folate +440%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 12% 1% 36% 5% 43% 2% 22% 9% 59% 1% 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% 75% 15% 18% 8% 99% 2% 25% 16% 138% 6% 21%
Contains more Vitamin D +100%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +57.6%
Contains more Vitamin A +533.7%
Contains more Vitamin E +7000%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +45%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +131.4%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +13.6%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +78.4%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +134%
Contains more Vitamin K +2300%
Contains more Folate +440%

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
16
Milk
35
Cheese
Mineral Summary Score
15
Milk
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
20%
Milk
137%
Cheese
Carbohydrates
5%
Milk
3%
Cheese
Fats
4%
Milk
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.
Milk Cheese
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Sugars ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok

Which food is preferable in case of diets?

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

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Milk
Milk is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 94mg)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Milk
Milk contains less Sodium (difference - 609mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Milk
Milk is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 18.234g)
Which food is cheaper?
Milk
Milk is cheaper (difference - $1.4)
Which food contains less Sugars?
Cheese
Cheese contains less Sugars (difference - 4.72g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Cheese
Cheese is lower in glycemic index (difference - 31)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Cheese
Cheese is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Cheese
Cheese is relatively richer in vitamins

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 Milk Cheese Opinion
Calories 42 404 Cheese
Protein 3.37 22.87 Cheese
Fats 0.97 33.31 Cheese
Vitamin C 0 0
Carbs 4.99 3.09 Milk
Cholesterol 5 99 Milk
Vitamin D 48 24 Milk
Iron 0.03 0.14 Cheese
Calcium 125 710 Cheese
Potassium 150 76 Milk
Magnesium 11 27 Cheese
Sugars 5.2 0.48 Cheese
Fiber 0 0
Copper 0.01 0.03 Cheese
Zinc 0.42 3.64 Cheese
Starch
Phosphorus 95 455 Cheese
Sodium 44 653 Milk
Vitamin A 196 1242 Cheese
Vitamin E 0.01 0.71 Cheese
Vitamin D 1.2 0.6 Milk
Vitamin B1 0.02 0.029 Cheese
Vitamin B2 0.185 0.428 Cheese
Vitamin B3 0.093 0.059 Milk
Vitamin B5 0.361 0.41 Cheese
Vitamin B6 0.037 0.066 Cheese
Vitamin B12 0.47 1.1 Cheese
Vitamin K 0.1 2.4 Cheese
Folate 5 27 Cheese
Trans Fat 0.917 Milk
Saturated Fat 0.633 18.867 Milk
Monounsaturated Fat 0.277 9.246 Cheese
Polyunsaturated fat 0.035 1.421 Cheese
Tryptophan 0.043 0.547 Cheese
Threonine 0.143 1.044 Cheese
Isoleucine 0.174 1.206 Cheese
Leucine 0.319 1.939 Cheese
Lysine 0.282 1.025 Cheese
Methionine 0.088 0.547 Cheese
Phenylalanine 0.174 1.074 Cheese
Valine 0.22 1.404 Cheese
Histidine 0.101 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. Milk - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170872/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.