The tangy varieties of feta cheese and goat cheese are often confused. Although they are similar in appearance and texture, the taste and nutrition of the two cheeses is quite different. Once you learn about their individual characteristics, it’s easy to distinguish between the two and decide which is the healthier cheese for you.
What Is Feta?
Feta is a sharp, dominantly salty-tasting cheese traditionally made in Greece from sheep's milk. Feta cheese often contains a mixture of milk from sheep and goats, but the legal limit of goat's milk must be less than 30 percent for the product to be classified as feta cheese.
Feta is aged longer than goat cheese to allow it to ripen. Sold in firm blocks that can be sliced or crumbled, feta cheese is synonymous with many Greek dishes and delicacies.
What Is Goat Cheese?
Traditionally from France, goat cheese is made from 100 percent goat's milk and normally does not require aging. Both cheeses are white when cut, but fresh goat cheese is softer and generally tastes sweeter than feta. However, the flavor and complexity of goat cheese can become stronger if aged. Goat cheese can be eaten plain, hot or cold. It can be used in salads and is popular in French cooking.
Feta — Lower Calorie Count
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily caloric intake ranging from 1,600 to 2,400 calories for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 calories for adult men, depending on age and level of activity.
Feta cheese has fewer calories than goat cheese. One ounce, or 28 grams, of feta cheese contains 75 calories, while the same amount of semi soft goat cheese packs 103 calories. If you're cutting calories to lose weight, it’s wise to limit your serving size. For reference, 1 ounce of feta cheese is about the size of a pair of dice.
Carbohydrates and Cholesterol
The cholesterol content for the two types of cheese is similar, with feta containing 25 milligrams and goat cheese containing 22 milligrams per ounce. Most cheese is high in cholesterol but, according to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, there's no confirmed link between eating cholesterol-rich foods and high blood cholesterol levels.
Feta — Lower in Fat Content
USDA recommends that 20 to 35 percent of your calories come from fat, with an intake of not more than 10 percent from saturated fat. Feta cheese is lower in total fat content compared to many other types of cheese with 6 grams per ounce — 3.8 grams coming from saturated fat. Goat cheese has 8.5 grams of fat — 5.9 grams being saturated fat — which contributes to about 30 percent of your daily value in just 1 ounce.
However, the type of fats in feta and goat cheese is medium-chain triglycerides. This type of fatty acid is metabolized differently than long-chain triglycerides. They are quickly broken down and absorbed into your bloodstream for an instant energy source. As a result, the fat is generally not stored in the body and has a potential to aid in weight loss.
Goat Cheese — Higher in Vitamins
Goat cheese and feta both contain B vitamins, but overall, feta cheese is a better source by providing more riboflavin, thiamine and vitamins B6 and B12. Goat cheese contains more niacin and folate. The B group of vitamins is necessary for the release of energy from food and contributes to the health of your nervous system.
Feta for Calcium
The mineral content differs between goat cheese and feta, especially when it comes to calcium. Feta is the best source, supplying 140 milligrams per ounce, or 15 percent of your recommended daily intake. Goat cheese has 84 milligrams of calcium in the same amount. Calcium is important for building bones and teeth as well as helping your blood clot.
Red Alert — Sodium
Goat Cheese — More Protein
Ten to 35 percent of your calories should come from protein, which would be an average of 46 grams for adult women and 56 grams for men. Protein is necessary for many critical roles in your body, including building and repairing bone, muscle, cartilage and skin. Goat cheese contains 6.1 grams of protein while feta cheese provides 4 grams of protein per ounce.
Role of Casein Protein
The majority of protein in both feta and goat cheese is a form of complete protein called casein. Casein is an insoluble protein that supplies all the amino acids required by your body. Feta cheese made from sheep’s milk contains the most casein protein — almost twice as much as goat cheese.
Casein has two variants — A1 and A2 beta-casein. Cow’s milk contains the undesirable A1 form, which may be linked to Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, infant death, autism and digestive problems, according to Gene Food. The A2 form is preferred and considered safe and healthier. Sheep's milk and goat's milk contain the more easily digestible A2 beta-casein.
Allergic Response and Intolerance
For people with a milk allergy, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety suggests that sheep's milk and goat’s milk, which is the most similar to human milk in composition, may promote lower allergic sensitization, making them an ideal substitute for cow's milk. A reason is that the protein structure in both milks is different from cow's milk. They have a concentration of fat globules that are smaller than those in cow’s milk (with goat’s milk being the smallest), making them easier to digest.
Although cheese from both sheep's milk and goat's milk contain lactose, with sheep’s milk containing the most, a 2016 study published in Nutrition Journal found that some symptoms of lactose intolerance may stem from inflammation triggered by the type of casein in the dairy product. Findings were that A1 beta casein may be the culprit in worsening gastrointestinal symptoms in lactose intolerant subjects more than the lactose content. A2 casein did not cause the same negative effects.
The researchers reported that the symptoms of lactose intolerance may be avoided by consuming milk that contains only the A2 type of beta casein. This would indicate that feta and goat cheese could possibly be acceptable foods for anyone who is lactose intolerant.
Linoleic Acid Health Benefits
The polyunsaturated fat in sheep's milk and goat's milk contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), with sheep's milk containing the higher level. CLA is an essential fatty acid found in dairy products and important for good health. Potential health properties include anti-carcinogenic, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic, antioxidant, and immunoregulatory effects, according to a 2017 article in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.
- NDTV Food: What Is Feta Cheese? 6 Reasons Why You Should Include It in Your Diet
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cheese, Feta
- Dietary Guidelines 2015: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day by Age, Sex and Physical Activity Level
- Dietary Guidelines 2015: Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cheese, Goat, Semisoft Type
- Gene Food: Dairy Dangers: Is Sheep and Goat Dairy Healthier Than Cow Dairy?
- Wiley Online Library: Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: Sheep Milk: Physicochemical Characteristics and Relevance for Functional Food Development
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium
- Nutrition Journal: Effects of Milk Containing Only A2 Beta Casein versus Milk Containing Both A1 and A2 Beta Casein Proteins on Gastrointestinal Physiology, Symptoms of Discomfort, and Cognitive Behavior of People With Self-Reported Intolerance to Traditional Cows’ Milk
- Nutrition Mythbusters: Food Sources of Medium Chain Fatty Acids
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides on Weight Loss and Body Composition
- USDA: Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee
- CNN: Nutrition Comparison of Cheeses
- Mayo Clinic: Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit