Everyone needs to eat some carbs, since these provide you with energy and are the energy source your brain prefers. However, if you are following a low-carb diet to try to slim down or if you are diabetic, you might want to watch the number of carbs you eat. While grains, fruits and vegetables are the main sources of carbs, even dairy products like low-fat cream cheese and ricotta contain some carbs.
Low-fat cream cheese has more carbs than low-fat ricotta when you compare equal serving sizes, with 20 carbs per cup compared to 13. Of course while you might be likely to eat a cup of ricotta cheese, you probably won't eat that much cream cheese. A tablespoon of low-fat cream cheese has only 1.2 grams of carbs, making it lower in carbs per serving than low-fat ricotta.
Both low-fat cream cheese and low-fat ricotta contain some sugar from the lactose in the milk used to make them. However, cream cheese has a lot more naturally occurring sugar than ricotta cheese. Even so, neither of these products is likely to cause your blood sugar levels to spike after you eat them since dairy products are low on the glycemic index, which measures how much different foods increase blood sugar levels.
Best Dairy Options
If you are looking for the dairy products with the lowest carbs, The American Diabetes Association recommends non-fat dairy products including milk, plain yogurt, unflavored soy milk and light yogurt that doesn't have any added sugar. A 1-cup serving of milk or a 2/3-cup serving of plain yogurt contains only 12 grams of carbs.
Not only does low-fat ricotta have fewer carbs than low-fat cream cheese, it is also more nutritious, containing fewer calories, less fat and more calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium per cup. You can use it in both sweet and savory dishes as a substitute for cream cheese. Try mixing low-fat ricotta with almond extract, fruit and a small amount of sugar substitute to make a delicious low-carb dessert, or mixing it with eggs, Parmesan cheese, garlic and spices to make a low-carb frittata.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Cheese, Cream, Low Fat
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Cheese, Ricotta, Part Skim Milk
- American Diabetes Association: Carbohydrate Counting
- American Diabetes Association: Dairy
- MayoClinic.com: Carbohydrates: How Carbs Fit Into a Healthy Diet
- MayoClinic.com: Low-carb Diet: Can It Help You Lose Weight?
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.