When you think of cream cheese, what comes to mind might be cheesecake, bagels, dips, or frosting. These foods don’t exactly symbolize a healthy diet. In many cases, they are terrible for you if you eat them in excess. However, cream cheese is its own food; therefore, we should look at it on its own to determine its nutritional value. As with many foods, determining if cream cheese is healthy depends on the type you choose.
Is Cream Cheese Healthy
The nutrition content of cream cheese will vary based on the kind you purchase. It is usually sold in three main varieties: fat-free, low-fat (light), and regular. There are also various flavors like strawberry or blueberry, but to keep things simple let’s only look at plain cream cheese.
Two tablespoons of regular cream cheese contain 102 calories, light has 60 calories, and fat-free has about 40 calories. Although approximately 100 calories or below is not necessarily considered unhealthy, the serving size is small at only two tablespoons. You will likely eat much more than this eating cheesecake or something frosted with cream cheese.
Two tablespoons of regular cream cheese contain about 10 grams of total fat and 5.8 grams of saturated fat. Light cream cheese generally has 4.5 grams of total fat and 2.7 grams of saturated fat. You would expect fat-free cream cheese to be, well, fat-free. However, fat-free will typically have total fat of .5 grams or less with .23 saturated fat.
While fat in your diet isn’t necessarily unhealthy, it should be limited. Based on a 2000 calorie diet, the recommendation is for total fat of 65 grams with 20 grams or less saturated fat. Selecting a light or fat-free cream cheese can better help you keep within this recommendation.
Plain cream cheese is low in carbs. In fact, it is an acceptable food during phases of the low-carb Atkins diet. Two tablespoons of regular cream cheese have 1.60 grams of carbs, 2.44 grams for light, and 2.76 grams for fat-free.
There is no benefit of fiber in cream cheese.
Cream cheese is made from milk. Mammal milk (cow, goat, sheep, etc.) contains a natural sugar known as lactose. This is the same lactose that causes lactose intolerance or lactose sensitive in people. While the label will not typically list sugar as an ingredient for plain cream cheese, the nutrition facts will indicate about 2 grams of sugar. This is the lactose (sugar) in the milk and is likely not sugar added by the manufacturer unless indicated as an ingredient. Generally, plain cream cheese is a very low sugar product.
There is typically about 1 to 2 grams of protein in cream cheese. Although there is some protein in cream cheese, it is minimal. The recommended protein per day for adult women (not pregnant) is about 45 grams and approximately 55 grams for men.
You might assume there is a decent amount of calcium in cream cheese given that it is a dairy product. However, two tablespoons of cream cheese only contain about 2 percent of your recommended calcium.
Cream cheese is by no means a healthy food and the nutrients it provides are minimal. However, if you stick with the light or fat-free varieties the calories are relatively low. Obviously, the amount you consume matters. We used a two tablespoons serving size for the nutritional figures listed above. This is not a lot of cream cheese and it is a food that is very easy to overindulge without realizing it. Is cream cheese healthy? The answer is no. But, in moderation, as with many foods, it is Okay to consume from time to time.