Whether you want more calcium or you’re watching your weight, there’s a type of cheese to suit you.
1 Swiss. 2 Blue
A delicious cheeseboard is always welcome – whether it’s served with drinks or after a meal. And a quick look at the supermarkets or gourmet stores will show there’s a growing range of choices. But what’s the best way to strike a healthy balance? And what are the nutritional differences between varieties?
The level of essential nutrients in cheese varies depending on the type of milk used and the production methods, but the major positive players include calcium, protein, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B12.
What’s A Serve?
Two cheese slices or 40 g counts as a serve of dairy. A simple way to judge this is to eye up a matchbox-sized portion which is around 30 g to 40 g.
3 Mozzarella. 4 Parmesan. 5 Cheddar. 6 Brie. 7 Ricotta
Cheddar & Cheddar Styles
GO FOR: Mild cheddar (aged 3 months), matured tasty (aged 3 to 12 months), vintage (aged over 12 months) and smoked hard cheese.
FACT: Research has shown that eating cheese like cheddar after a meal can help prevent dental decay. Casein (milk protein which is concentrated in cheese), calcium and phosphorus help to neutralise acid produced by plaque bacteria, as well as helping to form teeth and bone structure.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 158 kcal; protein 9.8 g; total fat 13.1 g (sat fat 8.6 g); calcium 305 mg; sodium 274 mg.
GO FOR: Soft-textured cheese, typically grilled and served warm.
FACT: Salt is necessary in cheesemaking to inhibit bacteria growth, improve structure and enhance flavour. However, haloumi has one of the highest salt contents, and is often paired with salty olives and antipasto, so eat it in moderation. (See Cookcards on page 122 for more haloumi recipes.)
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 100 kcal; protein 8.5 g; total fat 6.8 g (sat fat 4.4 g); calcium 248 mg; sodium 1,160 mg.
GO FOR: Soft-textured cheese with a stringy stretch when melted.
FACT: If you have been advised to cut back on salt, mozzarella is a good choice as it is naturally lower in sodium. For other cheese varieties, check sodium counts on the label, or go for reduced-salt varieties.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 125 kcal; protein 10.4 g; total fat 9 g (sat fat 5.7 g); calcium 242 mg; sodium 184 mg.
White Rind Or Mould Cheeses
GO FOR: Brie, camembert, double brie and triple cream cheese.
FACT: With a rich, creamy, oozing texture, it’s easy to presume that these cheeses have the highest fat content, when in fact the moisture levels mean the fat content can be lower than cheddar.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 123 kcal; protein 7.8 g; total fat 10 g (sat fat 6.6 g; calcium 194 mg; sodium 244 mg.
GO FOR: Full-flavoured, aged cheeses such as pecorino, Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.
FACT: Compared with other cheeses, parmesan has one of the highest calcium contents, along with zinc at 6.5 mg/100 g and magnesium at 42 mg/100 g.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 186 kcal; protein 16.2 g; total fat 13.3 g (sat fat 8.4 g); calcium 448 mg; sodium 601 mg.
GO FOR: Blue or blue vein moulded cheese like Stilton and Roquefort.
FACT: Despite the high salt content of blue cheese, the latest evidence shows that cheese consumption may be associated with a neutral effect on blood pressure. Interestingly, cheese peptides (building blocks of proteins) have been shown in one study to have a positive effect on blood pressure, similar to a commonlyprescribed blood pressure medication.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 141 kcal; protein 8.1 g; total fat 13 g (sat fat 8.3 g); calcium 204 mg; sodium 436 mg.
GO FOR: Varieties with a sweet, nutty flavour and characteristic holes like Swiss and Emmental.
FACT: Swiss cheese contains minimal amounts of lactose, because most of the lactose is removed when curds are separated from whey in the cheesemaking process.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 154 kcal; protein 11.4 g; total fat 12 g (sat fat 8.4 g); calcium 354 mg; sodium 170 mg.
GO FOR: Tubs of this low-fat and lowcalorie fresh un-ripened cheese.
FACT: Not all packaged cheese list the calcium content, so it can be tricky to compare. Call the customer information line to ask about your favourite brand, as cottage cheese is typically low in calcium.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 51 kcal; protein 6.2 g; total fat 2.3 g (sat fat 1.4 g); calcium 36 mg; sodium 111 mg.
GO FOR: Fresh blocks in brine, or sheep and goat’s milk feta, often marinated in oil and herbs.
FACT: Feta cheese has been part of the Mediterranean diet for centuries. Now emerging research is showing that despite the saturated fat content, eating cheese may not raise cholesterol levels as previously predicted.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 111 kcal; protein 6.7 g; total fat 9.1 g (sat fat 6 g); calcium 130 mg; sodium 443 mg.
GO FOR: Delicate, fresh whey-based cheeses that are used in savoury and sweet dishes.
FACT: When curds are separated into whey to make ricotta, the fat content is lowered.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 53 kcal; protein 4 g; total fat 3.5 g (sat fat 2.2 g); calcium 92 mg; sodium 75 mg.
GO FOR: Tubs of this spreadable cheese in original or light versions.
FACT: With about 60 per cent less fat than butter or margarine in regular cream cheese, you may like to make the smart switch on toast or in sandwiches.
TYPICAL NUTRITION PER 40 G: 132 kcal; protein 4 g; total fat 3.5 g (sat fat 2.2 g); calcium 92 mg; sodium 75 mg.
PHOTOS: JOHN PAUL URIZAR/BAUERSYNDICATION.COM.AU