Cheese is one of those ingredients that can elevate a meal from a four to a solid eight out of ten. Personally, I gravitate towards the softer cheeses for a sandwich and the harder cheeses for a wine night with the girls. Actually, I just gravitate towards any form of cheese… but you see, hear is where the problem lies. It’s easy to overdo it on cheese because it tastes so damn good.
If you’re trying to lose weight or are concerned about heart health, cheese can be a bit of a “danger food”. Most cheeses are a high source of energy and salt in the diet. This can equate to weight gain if consumed in excess, or high blood pressure…eek! Today, we will run through some cheese differences and provide some strategies to make mindful cheesy choices!
When people think of ‘soft cheese’, their minds often jump to ricotta or cottage cheese. These cheeses are more likely to be lower in kilojoules, compared to their harder counterparts. If you’re adding a thin spread to a sandwich or cruskit, the kilojoule content will likely be less than 100kJ. If you were to use a harder cheese slice, that figure could jump up to 400-500kJ.
Interestingly, cottage cheese has slightly more protein than ricotta. Ricotta’s protein is a somewhat different type and is absorbed quickly into the body.
In general, the softer cheeses have a lower salt content, so if you’re worried about heart health, this is the better option. But, there’s always an exception to the rule, and in this case, it’s fetta. Fetta is absolutely delicious, so no need to cut it out entirely. Just be mindful.
As stated above, harder cheeses can be relatively high in energy and fat. Think parmesan and cheddar. Some of these cheeses can have a much stronger flavour, so less cheese is needed in a meal.
This holds true for the humble parmesan. You only need to add a small amount to a meal to get that intense flavour. It’s also relatively high in protein, which is a big plus! You can add a sprinkle of parmesan to your spaghetti, on top of crackers or even tomato. It’s always good to experiment.
A significant advantage of hard cheeses is that they contain more substantial amounts of calcium. We still need to be careful about exactly how much cheese we are having. If we overdo it, we may reach our calcium requirements and fall into an unhealthy weight category. And we do not want to create more problems than we have to.
Gouda cheese is also a good option for people looking to up their vitamin K intake. Gouda is actually highest in vitamin K2, which acts as a traffic controller and sends calcium towards the arteries and bones.
As a dietitian, I want to encourage a wide variety of colours, flavours, and textures. There’s no reason to avoid cheese, but we need to be mindful about how much we eat. If you have any questions or would like to talk further about cheese, contact us at CQ Nutrition and book a consult!
Here is a link to book in with one of our expert dietitians at any of our locations https://www.cqnutrition.com.au/booking/
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Written by Annabel Johnston, BAppSc&MDietPrac & GCertDiabSt