Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein, but it can also be high in saturated fats and sodium. Should we be eating more cheese or less?
- There are thousands of types of cheese. “Cheese-flavored” food is not considered one of them.
- Many cheeses are high in sodium and fat, but the benefits may outweigh the disadvantages.
- Natural, low-fat, low-sodium cheese can make a healthful addition to most diets.
- Anyone with a lactose allergy should not eat any type of cheese, but some types may be suitable for those with a lactose intolerance
The Types of Cheese:
Whole-milk cheese contains between 6 and 10 grams (g) of fat per 1-ounce (28 g), serving. Of this, 4 g to 6 g is saturated fat.
Low-fat or reduced-fat cheese is made with 2 percent milk. Non-fat cheese is made with 0 percent or skim milk.
Fresh cheeses are cheeses that have not been aged, or matured. They usually have a higher moisture content, softer texture, and milder taste than aged cheeses. Examples incude ricotta, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and mascarpone.
Aged or mature cheeses are firmer in texture and tend to be aged for 6 months or longer. The longer the aging process, the more concentrated or sharp the flavor. Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, and Gruyère are examples of aged cheeses.
Processed cheese, such as cheese spread, American cheese, “cheese food” and “cheese flavored” products cannot be categorized as cheese, and the label must reflect this. These are shelf-stable products containing added ingredients such as flavor enhancers and emulsifiers.
Non-dairy cheeses, such as soy cheese and daiya, are suitable for people who do not consume dairy products, but they are highly processed.
Cheese can offer may health benefits, but those at risk of cardiovascular disease or weight gain should choose low-sodium, low-fat cheeses.
Processed cheeses and “cheese foods” are most likely to contain additional fat and salt, so choose natural but low-fat dairy products.
On the bright side, even high-fat cheeses, such as a blue cheese, can be used for adding flavor. Crumbling a little into a sauce or over a salad provides taste without too many calories.
Buying cheese made from organic milk may help reduce exposure to antibiotic and growth hormone-laden milk.
Benefits of cheese:
- Bone Health
- Dental Health
- Reduced blood pressure
- Healthy blood vessels
- Balances cholesterol levels
- Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids
- Builds and repairs cells
*Note: Anyone with a milk allergy must avoid all dairy products, including cheese.