Different cheeses with title "low phosphorus cheese"

Low Phosphorus Cheese

Who doesn’t love cheese!? Whether it is cheese on a sandwich, a cheesy sauce, string cheese or a fancy French cheese plate, cheese is truly one of my favorite foods. But, does low phosphorus cheese exist? Is cheese a kidney friendly food?

Let me help clear this up for you.

Cheese On a Renal Diet

So, can you eat cheese on a kidney-friendly or low phosphorus diet? I have great news for you – yes! Cheese can fit into a healthy diet for kidney disease. But, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Absorption of Phosphorus in Cheese

Our bodies absorb phosphorus differently from different foods. Our bodies absorb very little phosphorus from plant foods such as whole grains, beans and nuts. On the other end of the spectrum, we absorb about 90% of phosphorus from meat, poultry and fish.

In terms of phosphorus absorption, dairy and cheese are closer to meat. We absorb about 80% of the phosphorus in cheese.(1) Because of this, cheese can contribute a large phosphorus load if you are not careful.

Portion Size of Cheese

To help control how much phosphorus you eat, portion size is key! Even a low phosphorus cheese can become a high phosphorus cheese if you eat a lot of it. Most of the phosphorus amounts in the table below are for a 3/4 ounce serving size. This is about 1 slice of cheese, or a chunk the size of 3 dice.

Cartoon picture of brie, a low phosphorus cheese choice
Brie is a low phosphorus cheese. 3/4oz of brie has 40mg of phosphorus.

Phosphorus Additives in Cheese

While 80% of the phosphorus in cheese is absorbed, nearly 100% of phosphorus is absorbed from phosphorus food additives. Some cheeses have phosphorus food additives in addition to the phosphorus that naturally occurs in cheese. Cheeses with phosphorus additives should be avoided.

In general, highly processed cheeses are more likely to have phosphorus food additives. These cheeses also tend to be higher in sodium. Some common highly processed cheeses are:

  • American Cheese (white & yellow)
  • Nacho Cheese Sauce
  • Velveeta Cheese
  • Canned Cheese
  • Macaroni & Cheese made from a box or powder

Understand more about how to find phosphorus food additives.

Processed cheeses like nacho or American cheese tend to have phosphorus additives. And, are higher in sodium.

Sodium in Cheese

Remember that a low phosphorus cheese isn’t necessarily a healthy choice for a renal diet. Cheese can be very high in sodium too.

Make sure to account for the sodium in cheese in your daily total. People who have kidney disease should limit sodium to 2,300mg per day.(2) Staying below 2,300mg of sodium might be difficult if you eat large amounts of very salty cheeses like feta, Asiago or Parmesan.

Potassium in Cheese

Potassium is a mineral that some people with kidney disease need to limit. Because cheese is made from milk, and milk is high in potassium, many wonder about potassium in cheese.

Most of the potassium in milk is lost during the processing of cheese. And, a portion of cheese in much smaller than a glass of milk. Because of this, most cheeses are relatively low in potassium. However, be careful of portion size here too. Large amounts of cheese can add up!

Different Phosphorus Needs For Different People

The most important thing to remember about a kidney friendly diet, is that it must be individualized. What is healthy for one person with kidney disease, might not be for someone else. How much phosphorus you should eat is based on your lab values.

For people with kidney disease, eating too much phosphorus can increase the risk of heart disease and weak bones. High phosphorus levels are even associated with faster progression of kidney disease and death.(3)

Always as you doctor or dietitian what is best for you based on your lab results and medical history.

Low Phosphorus Cheese

The amount of phosphorus in cheese varies quite a bit. Phosphorus ranges from 15mg up to 160mg per standard portion size of cheese. So, what cheeses are considered a “low phosphorus cheese”?

Check out this table to find your favorite cheese! Remember, the nutrition values provided are just a guide. The specific amounts of a nutrient can vary widely based on the brand of cheese you buy. Always make sure to check the nutrition facts label – especially for sodium! And, don’t forget to check for those phosphorus additive ingredients.

 Serving SizeSodiumPotassiumPhosphorusCalcium
American3/4 oz26962161289
Blue or Roquefort3/4 oz2415481111
Brie3/4 oz132324039
Cheddar3/4 oz1371696148
Chihuahua3/4 oz1311197138
Colby3/4 oz1282798146
Cotija3/4 oz3301697150
Cottage Cheese1/2 cup337126156108
Cream Cheese1 oz89373028
Edam3/4 oz20740114155
Farmer's Cheese1/2 cup31210315882
Feta3/4 oz2421472105
Fontina3/4 oz1681373116
Fresco3/4 oz1602782120
Havarti3/4 oz160986122
Goat (chevre)3/4 oz87337963
Gouda3/4 oz17426116149
Gruyere3/4 oz15017127212
Mascarpone1/4 cup25774854
Monterey (or Pepperjack)3/4 oz1261793157
Mozzarella3/4 oz14724112146
Muenster3/4 oz1322898151
Nacho Cheese Sauce1/4 cup5221999116
Parmesan3/4 oz37239135188
Provolone3/4 oz15329104159
Ricotta1/4 cup63110106153
Romano3/4 oz30518161227
Substitute, almond based3/4 oz1411513185
Substitute, cream cheese1 oz160411329
Substitute, mozzarella3/4 oz14496122128
Substitute, rice based3/4 oz14152185
Substitute, soy based3/4 oz18525126
Substitute, tapioca based 3/4 oz188282
Swiss3/4 oz4016126195

Happy Eating!


6 thoughts on “Low Phosphorus Cheese”

  1. Melanie thank you for including the substitute cheeses! There are some good ones on the market and it is good to see they fit into our lab values. Great article.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      I’d check the label! The few Daiya products I just spot checked had phosphorus additives!

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