Good Cheeses Vs. Bad Cheeses

Camembert cheese
Slices of brie cheese on a cutting board with grapes. (Image: tashka2000/iStock/Getty Images)

Cheese sometimes has a bad reputation as a high-fat food. The Center for Science in the Public Interest states that a diet high in cheese is partly the cause of cardiovascular disease in the United States. Cheese also has many nutritional benefits, however, as it is a good source of calcium and protein. Choosing the right type of cheese can help limit your total fat consumption.

Watch the Fat Content

Full-fat cheeses are often high in saturated fats, making them an unhealthy inclusion in a daily diet. But regularly consuming low-fat cheeses and saving higher-fat cheeses for special occasions can be a healthier option. For example, light cream cheese or cottage cheese are naturally lower in fat. Eating these more often than higher-fat varieties, such as blue cheese or Parmesan, means you'll limit your consumption of saturated fat and moderate your risk of heart disease.

Calcium-Rich Choices

All cheeses are good sources of calcium, an essential mineral. Calcium keeps your bones and teeth healthy while helping your body’s nerves send signals. Choosing the right type of cheese can help you meet your daily calcium requirement without having to eat large quantities of cheese. A 50-gram serving of Brie cheese has only 92 milligrams of calcium, while the same size serving of Swiss cheese has 480 milligrams. In some cases, low-fat alternatives contain more calcium than their full-fat counterparts. A 1/4-cup serving of partly skimmed ricotta has 136 milligrams of calcium, while the same size serving of full-fat ricotta has only 103 milligrams.

Choosing for Flavor

A flavorful cheese means you can use less cheese when cooking and still get the same amount of flavor. With high-flavor cheeses, a small bit can go a long way to providing richness and taste to a dish. Cheeses such as Parmesan and Asiago can be used in small quantities for dishes, such as stews, pasta sauces and soups, where they will provide a significant addition in flavor with only a small serving size.

Raw Vs. Pasteurized

Made from unpasteurized milk, raw-milk cheeses are legally available for sale in some states if they have been aged a minimum of 60 days. But the Food and Drug Administration does not recommend raw-milk cheese for pregnant women, children or those with compromised immune systems. According to Macalester College, proponents of raw-milk cheese argue that the food is safer than many make it out to be because the cheeses are produced on a smaller scale. Macalester notes that raw-milk cheeses contain potentially beneficial pathogens, which are otherwise killed off during the pasteurization process. Raw-milk cheeses, in general, have a deeper, more complex flavor, so you may reap the added benefits of eating less cheese, leading to lower fat and calorie intake.

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