What are the typical pH levels and phosphorus content in cheese?

In general, the softer the cheese, the lower the phosphorous content. Soft cheeses include cottage cheese and ricotta cheese. Harder cheeses such as cheddar and Swiss have more phosphorous. The actual phosphorus content of a few representative cheeses is listed below.

The pH value of cheese varies not only among types of cheese, but also between batches of the same variety. Typically, the pH of cheese ranges from 5.1 to 5.9 with a few exceptions such as Camembert which has a pH of 7.44.

What is Phosphorous?

Phosphorous is a mineral naturally found in food. The body binds phosphorous with calcium to form bones and teeth. It is also used in the body’s production of energy. Major whole food sources of phosphorus include cheese, milk, meats, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Processed foods, especially soft drinks, have a different form of phosphorous that is best avoided, as research indicates it may draw calcium out of the bones and cause it to be excreted.

What is pH?

The pH value of a substance is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. It is measured on a scale of 1-14. For instance, lemon juice, which is acidic, has a very low pH of 2.3 while baking soda, which is alkaline, has a high pH of 8.0. Distilled water has a neutral pH of 7.0. Fluids in the body have carefully-regulated pH ranges. For example, the pH of blood in our arteries is kept within a 7.35-7.45 range.” Reason: this range only applies to arterial blood. For some fluids, like urine, the pH ranges from 4.5-8.0. The body works hard to keep the pH in this tight range for optimum health.

How is Body pH Controlled?

Electrolytes (the minerals sodium, potassium, chloride and to some extent calcium and magnesium) affect a person’s acid-base balance. Eating a diet rich in the World’s Healthiest Foods will ensure that you have plenty of electrolytes—and your body takes care of the rest. Diseases that interfere with kidney and lung function can alter the blood pH, causing acidosis or alkalosis. When this happens, medical attention may be necessary to remove the primary cause of the problem and then to support the lungs and kidneys. Diabetes complications and starvation can also affect pH, causing an acidic condition which can eventually lead to coma and death if not corrected.

Why Might the Phosphorus Content and pH Value of a Food be Important?

In the mouth, pH plays a role in tooth decay. Bacteria in the mouth feed upon sugars and starch residue, producing acid in the process. The acid destroys tooth enamel, dissolving the calcium and phosphorus, which over time can cause cavities. To stop this from happening, the pH level in the mouth needs to be 5.5 or higher. Brushing your teeth can help achieve the proper pH. Eating a bit of cheese can also raise the pH favorably, although we don’t recommend substituting cheese for your toothbrush—cheese does other things besides alter pH.

Kidney stone formation can be affected by the pH of urine in people who have a history of forming stones. If you’ve had kidney stones that contained phosphorus, a low-phosphorus diet may have been recommended, as well as a diet that produces “acid ash.” Foods that produce “acid ash” include cheese as well as whole grains, meat, eggs, cranberries, prunes and plums. Struvite stones (those that contain the compound called magnesium ammonium phosphate) also call for a diet low in phosphorous and one that produces an acid ash.

Sometimes urinary urgency can be caused by acidic foods, in which case your health care provider may suggest that you avoid foods that are low in acid—therefore you would choose ones with a higher pH level.

For More Information….

It’s worthwhile to note that pH values of a food are determined in a laboratory, rather than after you eat them. What may be more important than the food’s laboratory pH value is whether the food, once inside your body, creates more of an acidic or alkaline state; this is difficult to predict because of individual variablity, and it is also a complicated issue that is controversial in scientific research. If you would like to read more about this issue, from a perspective that considers both western science and eastern philosophy, you might be interested in reading Herman Aihara’s Acid and Alkaline, (published by the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation in Oroville, California in 1980) which is part of the macrobiotic diet literature published by the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation.

Phosphorus and pH Values in Some Types of Cheese
Type of cheese Phosphorus/100g pH
Cheddar 512mg 5.90
Swiss 605mg 5.68-6.62
Mozzarella 463mg 5.25
Muenster 468mg N/A
Brie 188mg N/A
Gouda 564mg N/A
Monterey jack 444mg N/A
Feta 337mg N/A

Source: Food Processor for Windows, Version 7.60, Database Version December 2000, ESHA Research, Salem, OR.


U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition: http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/lacf-phs.html


This page was updated on: 2004-01-05 17:53:10
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation