By Lora O’Brien
Ah, cheese! It’s an addiction for some, a passion for others, and simply disgusting to a handful of people too. And no wonder: frankly, there’s no need for humans to partake in the consumption of animal milks, and indeed, people in many cultures not only don’t eat it, but can’t tolerate it.
And yet…when people transit from vegetarian to vegan, one of the first things they often say they miss is cheese.
It’s ok to indulge a little bit in this Western world favourite – but the key here is ‘a little bit’. Like milk, cheese does contain calcium, protein, phosphorus, Vitamin A, Vitamin B and many minerals such as zinc – but unless it’s organic, it’s probably also full of hormones, antibiotics, and traces of GMOs (which are fed to cattle).
Remember that all cheeses are not created equally, either: goat’s milk cheese (aka chevre) has many advantages over cow’s milk cheeses. For one, it’s more easily digested and is non-mucous forming. Interestingly, a scientific study done on people who had lived beyond the age of 100 showed one common denominator – all the centenarians regularly consumed goat’s milk.
More good news about cheese is that milk contains tryptophan, one of the essential amino acids that can’t be manufactured by the body. The body produces serotonin from tryptophan – one of the chemical neurotransmitters responsible for wellbeing, good moods and healthy sleep. No wonder cheese is so moreish!
The bad news is that lactose intolerance seems to be growing, meaning more and more people can’t digest the carbohydrates found in milk. If this is your issue, you should know that lactose is lower in ripened cheese and aged cheeses, such as Cheddar, Manchego, and Parmesan varieties like Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Want to know which cheeses can be eaten guilt-free? Take a look below:
The Top 6 Healthiest Cheeses
1. Cottage cheese: This unpressed cheese curd has a seriously low saturated fat content, yet is high in protein.
2. Quark: Another form of unpressed cheese curd, Quark has even lower fat and higher protein than cottage cheese and is now widely available in supermarkets.
3. Ricotta: Its low fat content means that ricotta is generally considered to be one of the healthiest cheeses: 100 grams of Ricotta cheese has around 5 grams of saturated fat.
4. Parmegiano Reggiano: This is a high quality Parmesan cheese that has a lower fat and lactose content than many cheeses due to the processes used in its production.
5. Feta cheese: Made from goat’s or sheep’s milk, this is lower in lactose and is thus better tolerated by more people.
6. Halloumi: This Med favourite is low in lactose and made from goat’s or sheep milk. It’s also high in brain boosting Omega 3 and 6 oils. Just be careful, as this cheese also has a higher sodium content than most.
Many of the well known cheeses such as Brie and Mozzarella come in low fat or even fat-free varieties although many consumers complain that these really have little of the taste and texture of their full-fat varieties.
As a general rule, hard cheeses have a higher fat content than soft cheeses, but cream cheese has high saturated fat levels. Cheddar cheese is also one of the biggest culprits where fat content is concerned, but then again, aged cheddars are low in lactose content, great for those who are lactose intolerant.
The vegans amongst you are probably thinking: great, I can make these recipes, but just sub in vegan cheese instead! And of course you can. But just keep in mind that vegan cheese is pretty much junk food – most are made from processed oils, artificial flavourings and vegetable glycerin. Ick!
Ok, so now that you’re armed with that knowledge, let’s move on to some ooey, gooey, easy, cheesy recipes!
Now...check the link for the recipes...