Cheese should be included in any balanced diet. More specifically, 2-3 servings of dairy should be consumed each day, as cheese is a good source of calcium, protein and other nutrients. Calcium also helps to break down body fat. A single serving of cheese is 1 ounce, which is equivalent to about one thin slice or two small cubes, roughly the size of a pair of dice.
Of course there are so many different kinds of cheeses based on various farm animals, aging and processing methods used. So most cheeses are high in calories, fat and sodium, but you can still find healthy cheeses to aid in weight loss, prevent heart disease and osteoporosis (deterioration of the bone).
Healthiest Types of Cheeses
Mozzarella is typically lower in sodium and calories when compared to other cheeses.
Originally from Italy, it is made from the Italian Buffalo or Cow’s milk and is known to have probiotics that strengthen your immune system.
There are different types of Mozzarella on the market, such as full fat, low-moisture, part-skim etc. However, if your goal is to lose weight, I do not recommend that you have Mozzarella cheese as it may still have a bit too much saturated fat. However, if maintaining your weight and you find that you have space for a few fat calories, a part-skim Mozzarella can be consumed. In Jamaica, you can find shredded low-moisture, part-skim Mozzarella with 15% saturated fat in Supermarkets such as John R Wong, Sovereign and Loshusan.
I would love to see the fat-free shredded Mozzarella in the supermarkets though!
Feta cheese, soft like Mozzarella, originated from Greece. Hence why you probably first saw it in a Greek salad. It can be added to eggs, pizzas and mixed into a dip to eat with fresh vegetables too.
It is definitely lower in calories compared to other cheeses, but tends to be higher in sodium because of how it is usually packaged to preserve freshness.
Feta is also known to have Conjugate Linoleic Acid (CLA), a fatty acid that has been linked to reducing body fat and improving body composition.
If trying to lose weight, I suggest a reduced fat Feta. Unfortunately, at the moment, you cannot source reduced fat Feta in Jamaica ot a Feta that has less than 20% or 25% Saturated fat, which is way too much. If maintaining your weight, Ruby Goat Dairy located in Trelawny, visits the Ujima Natural Farmer’s Market in Liguanea, Kingston (22 Barbican Road; 9am-3pm) each Saturday and sells low lactose cheeses. You will not see a nutrition label, but it should still be less fatty than the Feta sold in our supermarkets.
Good news though! You know Suga’s got you. One of our favourite farm to table vegetarian and vegan providers are working on the formula to offer Vegan Feta soon! Can’t wait because Feta is the type of cheese you need with a sharp, pungent taste, where you only need a small amount to be satisfied.
3. Goat Cheese
Goat Cheese a.k.a Chèvre, another soft cheese, is tangy and of course, made from goat’s milk.
As mentioned earlier, Goat Cheese is lower in lactose. So it is usually easier to digest compared to cheeses made from cow’s milk. Great for persons who are lactose intolerant.
Goat Cheese contains less acidic proteins, which also aid in the digestive process and since it is absorbed quickly into the body, it is less likely to be stored as fat.
Ricotta, another Italian cheese, creamy in texture, is made from the watery parts of cow, goat, sheep, or Italian water buffalo milk that are left over from making other cheeses.
Ricotta cheese, also available from Ruby Goat Dairy in Jamaica, is usually a great addition to pastas, lasagna, salads, scrambled eggs, creamy dips or can be served with fruit.
Low-fat Ricotta can be sourced in our local supermarkets as well.
Ricotta is a cheese with a high source of protein, mostly whey, which may promote muscle growth and lower blood pressure.
Last but not least, Parmesan! One of my faves. Parmesan, unlike the others, is a hard, aged cheese. It’s made from raw, unpasteurized cow’s milk that’s aged for about 12 months to kill harmful bacteria and produce a unique flavour.
Parmesan is rich in Calcium and low in lactose, so it should promote healthy bones.
It is best to have fat-free, or low-fat grated Parmesan and feel free to add it to your veggie or fruit salads, pastas, pizzas and even your burgers.
Have you tried Stush in the Bush’s Vegan Parmesan? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!
Fat-free Cheeses are on the market, but tend to be sliced, processed cheeses. It is best to stay away from processed foods. Cheese can be a great nutritious addition to a healthy, balanced diet, but it is important to keep an eye on your intake, as some cheeses can be high in sodium and/or fat. Everything in moderation right! Just remember, Cheddar is the devil 😈
By: Gabrielle Burgess (Certified Personal Trainer amd Sports Nutritionist)
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