Velveeta cheese is a popular processed cheese spread. Is it unhealthy?
For some people, Velveeta cheese is a comfort food and for some it approaches the status of an addiction. Whether creating a gooey grilled cheese sandwich from this soft cheese or spreading it on crackers, some can’t live without it’s soft, satisfying taste and texture. What about health benefits? Is Velveeta cheese bad from a health standpoint?
What is Velveeta?
Although Velveeta cheese advertises itself as a soft cheese, if you study the label you’ll see it’s actually a ‘processed cheese food”. A closer inspection of the Velveeta cheese label shows that the only mention of cheese is the last item on the list which is labeled “cheese culture”. Other ingredients include milk, milk fat, whey protein, and alginate which is a gum found in seaweed. It also contains sodium citrate and coloring. If you’re looking for a natural food product, Velveeta isn’t a good choice since it’s undergone a fair amount of processing.
Despite the fact that Velveeta contains only cheese culture, it’s a surprisingly good source of protein at five grams per serving. This is due to the milk and whey in Velveeta which is nutritionally dense and high in protein. Whey is a by product of the cheese making process and whey protein is frequently used by body builders because it’s a complete protein with all of the essential amino acids needed for building lean body mass.
The Fat and Calories
In terms of calories and fat, a serving of Velveeta cheese has six grams of fat, of which four grams is saturated. In contrast, a single serving of some cheddar cheeses made with whole milk can have up to fourteen grams of fat per serving. Velveeta is lower in fat than most standard cheeses and cheese spreads and has no trans fat. A single serving has eighty calories, less than most standard, whole milk cheeses.
Other Nutritional Information
Because it’s processed, Velveeta cheese is high in sodium with 410 milligrams per serving. This is almost a quarter of the recommended daily sodium intake in a single serving. It’s definitely not a good chioce for those with blood pressure issues or heart problems. It’s also lower in cholesterol than most standard dairy based cheeses.
One nutritional benefit of eating whole cheese is the high CLA (conjugated lineoleic acid) content. CLA has been shown in some studies to protect against cancer. Despite the fact that Velveeta is not a true cheese, it’s a good source of CLA, containing more than most whole milk cheddar cheeses. It’s also a good source of calcium.
The Bottom Line
If you want a natural product, Velveeta processed cheese spread isn’t for you. Not only is it processed, but it contains enough preservatives that it can be safely stored in the cabinet unopened without refrigeration. In terms of fat content, calorie content, and overall nutrition, it’s not as bad as might be expected for a processed product, although the high sodium content is a drawback. Because of the preservatives and high sodium content, it may be best to eat dairy based cheese in moderation and avoid Velveeta.