Health Benefits of Cream Cheese

Cream cheese may promote healthy bones and support immune function, but there are also drawbacks.

Some people think of cream cheese as a decadent splurge, while others view it as beneficial in the same way they regard Greek yogurt as a healthful option.

Cream cheese is a dairy product made mainly from milk, cream, and salt. However, plant-based cream cheese alternatives are also available. Cream cheese is used as a popular spread—on bagels, bread, or crackers—as an ingredient in dips, and in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.

While cream cheese may not have great nutritional value, it may still offer some health benefits. If you're a fan of cream cheese, here's some info about how the spread or dip may impact your health.

Getty Images

Benefits of Cream Cheese

Cream cheese isn't particularly nutrient-rich, but it does have some benefits.

Promotes Healthy Bones

Dairy products are generally considered good for bone health because they contain calcium and vitamin D. Calcium helps you build bones and teeth and maintain your bone strength as you age.

Getting enough calcium is important, especially as you get older. If you're getting enough calcium, you'll be helping to lower your risk for osteoporosis and broken bones.

Vitamin D is also important for bone health. It helps your body maintain the right levels of calcium and phosphorus, which are needed to build and maintain bones.

Regular cream cheese has some calcium but is lacking in vitamin D. To get some vitamin D into your meal or snack to promote bone health, consider pairing cream cheese with certain fish. Fatty fish like trout, salmon, tuna, mackerel, and fish liver oils are rich sources of vitamin D.

Similar to dairy products, plant-based cream cheeses can also benefit your bones. These cheeses are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Supports Immune Function

Vitamin A is an important micronutrient. As an antioxidant, it supports immune function. Vitamin A is also important for vision, cell functions, and bone health. Cream cheese actually contains a decent amount of Vitamin A.

Nutrition of Cream Cheese

The ingredients in standard commercial cream cheese are simply pasteurized milk and cream, salt, carob bean gum, and cheese culture. A 1-ounce portion provides the following nutritional value:

  • 99 calories
  • 1.74 grams of protein
  • 9.75 grams of fat—5.73 grams is saturated fat
  • 1.56 grams of carbohydrates
  • 87.3 micrograms of vitamin A

This portion size contains about 12% of the daily value of vitamin A for females and nearly 10% of the daily value for males. Vitamin A isn't the only micronutrient you'll find in cream cheese. Cream cheese also has some calcium and smaller amounts of B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Risks of Cream Cheese

Regular cream cheese is considered a full-fat dairy product, meaning none of the fat content has been removed. Cheese is high in saturated fat. Limiting the amount of saturated fat in your diet can lower your chances of getting heart disease and gaining unwanted weight.

Plant-based cheeses can contain unhealthy fats too. Researchers in a 2022 study tested 245 different plant-based cheeses and found more than 60% of them had high levels of saturated fat. If you're looking for the lowest levels of saturated fat and sodium, go for cream cheeses made from cashews. These varieties also had the highest levels of protein.

Other research showed that cream cheeses—both animal-based and plant-based—perform rather poorly when it comes to nutritional value. This research also confirmed the high-fat content of these cheeses.

Is Lower-Fat Cream Cheese Healthier?

If you're wondering if lower-fat cream cheese is a healthier choice than regular cream cheese, here's the lowdown.

According to the American Heart Association, reducing total fat—for instance, eating a low-fat diet—is not recommended as part of an effort to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). That said, you can reduce your risk of CVD by reducing your intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fat.

In other words, simply using lower-fat cream cheese may not be as beneficial as replacing saturated fat calories with those from plant fat, such as avocado or nuts. One way to do that if you enjoy cream cheese is to combine a lower-fat version with other plant-fat foods. For example, you might use lower-fat cream cheese in a layered dip that also includes guacamole, or in a dip that contains chopped walnuts.

Lower-fat cream cheese, including Neufchâtel, is widely available. Originating from Normandy, France, Neufchâtel is a soft creamy cheese made from cow's milk. A 1-ounce portion offers the following nutritional content:

  • 72 calories
  • 2.59 grams of protein
  • 6.46 grams of fat—3.63 grams is saturated fat
  • 1 gram of carbohydrate.

The ingredients in commercial Neufchâtel are pasteurized milk, cream, and salt, and it has more gums (xanthan, carob bean, and guar gums) and cheese culture.

Heathier Plant-Based Cream Cheese

Replace saturated with unsaturated fat by opting for nut-based cream cheese, such as Kite Hill Plain Almond Milk Cream Cheese Style Spread. Made primarily from almonds, this cheese packs the following nutrients into a 2-tablespoon portion. Plus, it doesn't have any saturated fat:

  • 70 calories
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 6 grams of fat—with 0 grams as saturated fat
  • 2 grams of carbohydrate with 1 gram of fiber

The flavor and texture are similar to traditional cream cheese. These alternative cream cheeses can be substituted for cream cheese in recipes—from nut-rolled cheese balls to no-bake cheesecake—in a one-to-one ratio.

Tips for Consuming Cream Cheese

Regardless of which type of cream cheese you use, the healthiest way to incorporate it is to combine it with whole, nutrient-rich foods, including veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and pulses—the umbrella term for beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas.

Here are some ways to incorporate cream cheese into a healthy diet:

  • Spread cream cheese on whole grain bread at breakfast, topped with bagel seasoning and veggies, such as sliced tomato, cucumber, red onion, and spinach.
  • Season plain cream cheese with a touch of maple syrup, cinnamon, and freshly grated ginger as a dip for fresh fruit.
  • Fold in savory seasonings, like garlic and herbs or pico de gallo, and scoop up with fresh veggies like red bell pepper strips, carrots, celery, and cucumber.
  • Add in seasonings and nutritional yeast, form into balls, and roll them in chopped nuts or seeds, like chia or sesame, served with whole grain crackers.
  • Spread corn tortillas with cream cheese and fill them with black beans, salsa, avocado, and shredded cabbage.
  • Enjoy cream cheese in desserts that incorporate healthful add-ins, such as pumpkin cheesecake or mini fruit tarts.

A Quick Review

Regular dairy-based cream cheese may not be the most healthful option, but some people simply prefer it. Some plant-based alternatives can give you the same texture and taste as regular cream cheese, without the unhealthy fats.

Enjoy your cream cheese as part of a diet that's proportionally higher in whole plant fats, such as avocado, olives, and nuts. Pair it with naturally nutrient-rich unprocessed foods to create balance to get the greatest health benefits.

Was this page helpful?
10 Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MyPlate U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dairy.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: cheese, cream.

  3. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D.

  4. Craig WJ, Mangels AR, Brothers CJ. Nutritional profiles of non-dairy plant-based cheese alternatives. Nutrients. 2022;14(6):1247. doi:10.3390/nu14061247

  5. MedlinePlus. Vitamin A.

  6. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin A and carotenoids.

  7. Pointke M, Pawelzik E. Plant-based alternative products: are they healthy alternatives? Micro- and macronutrients and nutritional scoring. Nutrients. 2022;14(3):601. doi:10.3390/nu14030601

  8. American College of Cardiology. AHA presidential advisory on dietary fats and CVD.

  9. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: cheese, neufchatel.

  10. Kite Hill. Cream cheese alternative.

Related Articles