The 12 best and worst cheeses for your health

Who doesn't love cheese?

The beloved dairy item can be found in all your favorite foods -- pizza, grilled cheese and more! -- and serves as an excellent source of vital nutrients such as calcium, protein and vitamin D.

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The best and worst cheeses for you
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The best and worst cheeses for you

WORST: Parmesan

The Italian cheese is filled with calories and sodium. While people tend to use it sparingly -- grating it on top of a pasta dish here and there -- an ounce of Parmesan contains 1/3 of your daily sodium allowance. 

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BEST: Feta

The beloved salad topper has fewer calories than other cheeses, only 75 calories per ounce, so it’s a good choice for those trying to eat healthy. The Greek cheese is also rich in flavor, so a little goes a long way!

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WORST: Blue Cheese

The spotted blue cheese has 8 grams of fat and 100 calories, per one-ounce serving -- making it one of the worst you can eat.

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BEST: Cottage Cheese

The healthy cheese is a go-to for dieters everywhere. The neutral taste is also a plus, meaning you can top it with something sweet or savory. It’s rich in protein, which helps keep you full, and low in fat and calories. A 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains only 81 calories and 1 gram of fat, with 14 grams of protein.

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WORST: Cream Cheese

Out of all the soft, white cheeses on the market, cream cheese is the unhealthiest. The cheese most commonly used on bagels has almost 10 grams of fat and 99 calories per ounce.

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BEST: Mozzarella

While mozzarella often gets a bad rap because of it's association with pizza, the cheese is a good source of protein. Mozzarella sticks (not the fried alternative) are a quick and easy snack for when you're on the go.

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WORST: Gruyere 

The hard yellow cheese, named after the town of Gruyères in Switzerland, contains a whopping 117 calories and just over 9 grams of fat per ounce.

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BEST: Swiss

Unlike Gruyere, you can reap a bunch major health benefits from a little amount of Swiss -- just two slices alone contain 44 percent of your daily calcium intake, and 15 grams of protein. 

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WORST: Fontina

The Italian cow's milk cheese has a whopping 110 calories and almost 9 grams of fat per 1-ounce serving. The cheese is quite pungent in flavor. The Swedish and Danish versions are often found in US grocery stores, and can be distinguished from Aostan Fontina by their red wax rind.

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BEST: Ricotta

The cheese most commonly used in Italian cuisine contains 14 grams of protein and 25 percent of your daily calcium needs in a half-cup serving. It’s also low in sodium and high in phosphorus, B vitamins, vitamin A, and zinc.

WORST: American

There's definitely something about American singles that probably gets you nostalgic about your childhood. However, it's not doing your health any favors -- it's made up of mostly processed ingredients, including food dyes that give it an unnatural yellow-orange color.

BEST: Cheddar

The light taste of cheddar makes for a lower-calorie, versatile cheese that goes well with many meals.

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Ricotta, cottage cheese and cheddar are some of the protein-filled cheeses perfect for dieters and healthy eaters alike. However, there are definitely some cheeses that you should stay away from.

Out of all the white, soft cheeses on the market, cream cheese is the worst for your waistline. The cheese most commonly used on bagels has almost 10 grams of fat and 99 calories per ounce. Similarly, blue cheese also ranks high in the fat content category, with 8 grams of fat and 100 calories, per one-ounce serving.

Check out the slideshow above for the 12 best and worse cheeses for your health.

RELATED: The best and worst meats for you:

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The 10 Best Meats And The 10 Worst Ones
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The 10 Best Meats And The 10 Worst Ones

The Best

It's important to know your health priorities when selecting the proper meat. There are meats you can enjoy that won't affect your cholesterol or send your sodium levels through the roof. Read on to learn more.

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Pork Tenderloin

While pork can definitely be considered a heavy food, lean cuts of pork can be pretty nutrient rich and even low in calories. A three ounce serving of pork tenderloin has 122 calories and three grams of fat.

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Buffalo

Buffalo (also known as bison) can be a great healthy alternative to red meat like steak or beef. The taste of buffalo is comparable to that of more common red meats and it has half as much fat and fewer calories.

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Roast Beef

If you can’t bear to give up deli meats, which are notorious for nitrates, then roast beef is your best bet. It’s leaner than most deli meats, lower in saturated fat and offers about seven grams of protein per slice.

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Chicken

Chicken can be an exceptionally lean meat and impressively low in saturated fat when consumed without the skin. Chicken is also filled with nutrients like selenium, vitamin B6 and Vitamin B3. Traditionally white meat has been lauded as the healthier part of the chicken, but while white meat is lower in calories, dark meat contains more zinc and B vitamins than white meat does. Did you know that chicken can actually be a natural anti-depressant as well?

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Ostrich

Ostrich is another great choice for those trying to eat less red meat but who still crave the taste. It’s technically poultry and actually contains half the fat of chicken with 2.8 grams in comparison with chicken’s 7.4. A three-ounce serving has 123 calories and over 24 grams of protein.

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Turkey

It’s not Thanksgiving without turkey and the good news is that you don’t even have to feel guilty about enjoying it! A four-ounce serving of white meat turkey without the skin has 158 calories and 34 grams of protein. Turkey is also filled with vitamins B3 and B6 in addition to maintaining a low saturated fat content.

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Pheasant

Pheasant is another type of bird that has a lot of nutrients and not too many calories. Enjoying this one with the skin is a bit more fattening, but at least there are a lot of minerals in the bird to make up for it.

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Lamb Shank

This meat comes from the shank half of the lamb and if it's very well trimmed it can be a reasonably healthy meat to enjoy. A lean three-ounce serving of lamb shank has about 153 calories and under six grams of fat. This size serving of lamb shank also contains about 50 percent of the daily recommended intake of zinc for women and 36 percent for men.

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Veal

Yes, veal has more cholesterol than beef. However, if you enjoy leaner cuts of veal like sirloin you'll be consuming 150 calories or less per three-ounce serving.

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Pork Chop

A boneless pork chop has about 147 calories per serving and 23 grams of protein. The sodium levels are also pretty low on this meat.

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The Worst

Try to consume these meats in moderation since their nutritional profile isn't as impressive.

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Corned Beef

Corned beef is generally made of the fattier areas of brisket, which should give you a pretty good image of its health profile. It has 16 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 960 mg of sodium, not to mention nitrates. Savor this meat on special occasions.

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Prosciutto

Even if it seems light and thin, just a two-ounce serving of prosciutto contains over 10 grams of fat and four grams of that fat is unhealthy saturated fat. In addition to its unsavory fat content, prosciutto is also salted, which makes the sodium content a whopping 973 mg per serving when the daily recommended limit is 1500 mg. Enjoy this one sparingly.

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Ham

When eating ham spring for the leaner versions because it is a high fat food. A three-ounce serving of boneless roasted ham has 7.7 grams of fat with 2.7 grams made up of saturated fat.

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Salami

If you want to knock out 17 percent of your daily recommended sodium intake with one slice, then try salami. Of the six grams of fat in that slice, two are saturated fat. Savor this one on special occasions.

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Bacon

It's a shame that such a popular food isn't very nutritionally beneficial since it is both high in sodium and saturated fat. Try sprinkling bacon on dishes as a condiment instead, or give turkey bacon a shot.

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Bologna

This classic lunch meat is definitely one that should be enjoyed sporadically. One slice contains 300 mg of sodium and 3 grams of saturated fat.

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Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are a very common processed meat. Processed meats can contain nitrates and are frequently high in sodium.

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Mortadella

Roughly two ounces of mortadella contain 14 grams of fat and 560 mg of sodium. That's 23 percent of your daily recommended intake of sodium.

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Chicken Nuggets

This childhood staple is sadly not very healthy. Sometimes chicken nuggets contain very little chicken and the ingredients that end up in a nugget can be icky. Plus the signature breaded exterior only adds calories. Your best bet is to make your own chicken nuggets from scratch.

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Duck

Duck actually has a lot of nutrients in it, but if it's not prepared properly it becomes a very fattening meal. Try to keep the duck lean by cooking it skinless, trimming the fat and not using a lot of oil. Of the six grams of fat in a serving, there are 2.3 grams of saturated fat, so there's no need to add more.

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