The health benefits of feta
Is feta good for you, is it high in salt and what does a healthy portion size look like? We asked a nutritionist to explain.
Crumbly, salty feta is a truly delicious ingredient – and eaten in the right portion sizes, makes a nutritious addition to a balanced diet. We asked nutritionist Nicola Shubrook to give us the lowdown.
What is feta?
Feta is a white, salty and crumbly Greek cheese which is traditionally made from sheep's and goat's milk. Classified as a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) product, any cheese sold as feta must adhere to certain requirements, including a minimum 70 per cent sheep’s milk that must come from local breeds of sheep or goats, which have been traditionally raised on local pastures and from designated parts of Greece. Feta cannot contain any additives or preservatives. When buying feta, look for a stamp or wording to indicate that it is PDO approved, and that it is clearly labelled ‘Greek feta’ and not feta-style cheese.
Cheese made with cow’s milk will originate from outside Greece and should be labelled as a ‘feta-style’ cheese.
Nutritional benefits of feta
A 40g serving of feta provides:
- 100 Kcal / 415 KJ
- 6.2g Protein
- 8.1g Fat
- 5.5g Saturated fat
- 0.6g Carbohydrate
- 144mg Calcium
Health benefits of feta
1. Source of bone-friendly calcium
Feta, like other dairy foods, is rich in calcium, a mineral we need for muscle and nerve function as well as for strong healthy bones and teeth. A portion of the cheese supplies a useful contribution towards your daily calcium needs, something which is important at all life stages. Feta is also a useful source of additional bone-friendly nutrients, including phosphorus and protein, which may help maintain bone density.
2. A useful source of protein
Being high in protein, feta makes a valuable dietary inclusion, especially for those following a lacto-vegetarian diet. Although be aware that traditional feta is not strictly vegetarian-friendly because it’s produced using animal-derived rennet.
Protein is essential for good health with muscle, skin and blood all formed from this essential macronutrient, and we need adequate amounts in our diet for cells and tissues to grow, develop and repair.
3. May support gut health
Feta cheese contains beneficial microbes including yeasts and bacteria, such as Lactobacillus plantarum, which may help support gut health. In fact, probiotic yeasts from feta have been seen to tolerate low pH levels which puts them at greater chance of surviving the harsh environment of the stomach and getting to the part of the gut where they can be of most value.
4. Contains beneficial fatty acids
Feta cheese contains good amounts of a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Animal studies suggest this fatty acid appears to improve body composition by reducing body fat and increasing lean mass. Cheese made from sheep's milk has higher levels of CLA.
5. May keep you fuller for longer
Healthy feta recipes
Roasted vegetable & feta tostada
Lemony three bean & feta salad
Chilli-stuffed peppers with feta topping
Puy lentil, spiced roast carrot & feta salad
Grilled peach, chicken & feta salad
Lentil kofta with orzo & feta
This article was last reviewed on 6 October 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a postgraduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the past 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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