Should You Eat Cheese on a Carnivore Diet?

As of late, more and more people have hopped on the bandwagon of the carnivore diet in search of ways to enhance their overall health and wellness.

Those following this dietary approach will indulge in an assortment of animal-derived foods including beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and pork. But let's get to the burning question: is cheese a viable addition to the carnivore diet?

In this piece, we will explore the upsides and downsides of consuming cheese on the carnivore diet and dish out some pointers on how to select the optimal cheese for your dietary preferences.

Why Cheese Is a Great Addition to the Carnivore Diet

Cheese is a nutrient-dense food that can provide several benefits to those following a carnivore diet. Here are some reasons why you should consider adding cheese to your carnivore diet:

Cheese Is Nutrient-Dense

Cheese is an excellent source of protein and fat, as well as important vitamins and minerals such as calcium and Vitamin K2. These macro- and micronutrients can fuel your body and provide it with the energy it needs to get through the day.

Although meat is the most nutrient-dense food, cheese is not far behind, making it a valuable addition to your carnivore diet.

Cheese Is Delicious

With so many types and varieties of cheese, it's almost impossible not to find one that satisfies your palate. From the soft and creamy texture of brie to the salty and pungent flavor of blue cheese, there's something for everyone.

The combination of meat and cheese is irresistible to many people, and cheese pairs perfectly with fish on the carnivore diet.

It Can Improve Digestion

While some people with lactose intolerance may find it hard to digest dairy, adding cheese to a carnivore diet can help improve digestion for many others.

Cheese provides beneficial bacteria, as well as calcium and other minerals, which play a role in the healthy functioning of the digestive tract. However, moderation is key. Overconsumption of dairy can cause constipation and other digestive issues.

By adding cheese to your carnivore diet in moderate amounts, you can enjoy its digestion benefits without any adverse effects.

Reasons to Avoid Cheese on the Carnivore Diet

Although cheese can provide many health benefits on the carnivore diet, there are some reasons to consider avoiding it. Here are the main ones:

Some People Can't Digest Dairy Well

For people with lactose intolerance, cheese should be avoided in their carnivore diet, as they will be unable to digest the lactose in cheese. Additionally, some people who were not diagnosed with lactose intolerance still experience problems digesting dairy, such as bloating and gas.

For these individuals, eating dairy products such as cheese can cause digestive upset, which can be uncomfortable and hinder their ability to stick to the carnivore diet.

Cheese Is Addictive

Studies show that cheese triggers the same part of the brain as many drugs. Casein, a protein found in dairy products, can trigger the brain's opioid receptors, causing a feeling of pleasure.

Some people are more sensitive to these effects than others. If you find yourself eating a pound of cheese a day (like I did!), then it's very possible that you are addicted!

Eating cheese without being able to stop can cause weight gain and other health issues.

Cheese Can Cause Constipation

Some people find that eating cheese on a carnivore diet can lead to constipation. This is not something all people on a carnivore diet experience, but it is something to be aware of and consider if you are having digestive issues. The amount and type of cheese you are eating can also play a role in this.

Cheese Can Cause Weight Gain

Many cheeses are high in fat, and adding "just" a piece of cheese to your meals can add significant amounts of fat to your diet that you would not otherwise consume with just meat.

While many people cannot overeat fatty meat, cheese can be different. If you find yourself feeling full after a big steak and unable to eat more, cheese can be the exception. The combination of meat and cheese can be tempting and lead to overconsumption, which can result in weight gain.

If you are struggling with weight gain on the carnivore diet, consider that cheese may be playing a role. Reducing the amount of cheese or avoiding it altogether may help you maintain your weight and reach your dietary goals.

Best Cheese For Carnivore Diet

Almost all types of cheese can be included in a carnivore diet, but you can use this carnivore diet cheese list to make sure that you are eating the healthiest cheese for a carnivore diet.

  1. Cheddar - A natural, relatively hard cheese with a sharp flavor. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of Cheddar cheese provides 33g of fat, 25g of protein, and just 1.5g of carbs. It's also a rich source of calcium.
  2. Parmesan - An Italian hard, granular cheese aged for 12 months or more. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of Parmesan cheese provides 28g of fat, 35g of protein, and is a good source of calcium and other minerals.
  3. Gouda Cheese - A sweet, creamy cheese that originates from the Netherlands. Aged Gouda is also a popular choice. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of Gouda cheese provides 27g of fat, 25g of protein, and just 2g of carbs.
  4. Brie - A soft cheese made from cow’s milk, with a nutty and fruity taste. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of Brie cheese provides 28g of fat, 21g of protein, and 0.5g of carbs.
  5. Manchego - A cheese made from sheep's milk, aged for up to 2 years, which has an intense and zesty taste and crumbly texture. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of Manchego cheese provides 33g of fat, 23g of protein, and 0g of carbohydrates.
  6. Cream Cheese - A soft, mild-tasting fresh cheese that is made from milk and cream. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of cream cheese provides 34g of fat, 6g of protein, and 4g of carbohydrates.
  7. Gorgonzola - An Italian veined blue cheese made from unskimmed cow’s milk with a buttery texture and a salty bite. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of Gorgonzola cheese provides 29g of fat, 22g of protein, and 2g of carbohydrates.
  8. Camembert - A moist, creamy, and soft cheese made from cow’s milk. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of Camembert cheese provides 24g of fat, 20g of protein, and 0.5g of carbohydrates.
  9. Roquefort - A cheese made from sheep's milk, known for its sharp, tangy flavor and creamy texture. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of Roquefort cheese provides 31g of fat, 22g of protein, and 2g of carbohydrates.
  10. Muenster Cheese - A semi-soft cheese from the USA with a unique and delicious flavor described as mushroomy, eggy, garlicky, nutty, milky, and grassy. A 3.5oz (100g) serving of Muenster cheese provides 30g of fat, 23g of protein, and 1g of carbohydrates.
William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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