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Thursday, October 7, 2010

How can you have your cheese and eat it too?

Whether you enjoy your pizza dripping in Mozzarella; a slab of Brie with crackers or some hearty cheddar on your sandwich, you would be pressed to find many people who do not enjoy some sort of cheese.

Unfortunately, there is no escaping the fact that even though it tastes so good, nor whether it is feta, cheddar, parmesan, ricotta or Brie - it is cheese, it is high in fat and most of us need to eat a little less of it than we do.
Nutritionally, cheese has a number of positive qualities. Cheese is extremely high in protein as well as calcium and other key nutrients involved in bone development including magnesium and phosphorus. A single serve of cheese provides 8g of protein and more than 200mg of calcium, making it an extremely nutrient rich food choice. The main issue is that regular cheese is 30-40% fat, meaning that it contains up to 10g of fat per 30g serve, a significant proportion of which is saturated fat. This is compared to “reduced fat” or “light” varieties of cheese which contain 25% less fat than the regular fat alternatives, leaving them with 5-6g of fat per serve or the “low fat”, somewhat rubbery varieties of cheddar which contain less than 3% fat. White cheeses including ricotta and cottage, but not including feta is also generally lower in fat, with ricotta cheese containing 13% fat or cottage cheese which has 5% fat.

So, how can you have your cheese and eat it too without gaining weight, or adversely affecting blood cholesterol levels? The best option is to try and limit your intake of regular cheese to at most, once each day. Aim for no more than a 30g serve which will give you roughly 10g of fat and 3-5g of saturated fat. Choosing a reduced fat variety of cheese will also help to lower your intake of saturated fat, without losing too much flavour which occurs when you choose a “low fat” cheese. Look for portion controlled serves of reduced fat cheese and team with fruit or wholegrain crackers for a filing mid morning or mid afternoon snack. Use grated reduced fat varieties for sandwiches and pizzas or crumble small amounts of reduced fat white cheese on salads or pastas for plenty of flavour without too much extra fat.

While it does mean that you may need to limit your Bries and full strength cheddars to special occasions, it does also mean that you can enjoy the lower fat ricotta and cottage cheeses more regularly and you do not need to ever revert to the bland low fat varieties of cheese, which really do not taste much like real cheese at all. And as is the case with many things in life, quality over quantity is a good mantra when it comes to enjoying your favourite cheese whether it is feta, Brie or good old cheddar at which ever time of the day or night you enjoy it most.

Cheese Per 30g serve Total Fat Saturated fat
Feta 7g 5g
Cheddar 10g 6g
Reduced fat cheddar 7g 5g
Ricotta 4g 3g
Cottage cheese 1g 0.5g
Brie 9g 6g
Haloumi 5g 3g
Camembert 8g 5g

*Ideally we should be aiming for no more than 40-60g of total fat each day, <15g of which should be saturated.