What is the good and bad of cheese? The good: it tastes great, the bad: some of the nutrition components. Let’s take a more detailed look into these challenges.
One of the challenges with cheese is its nutrient profile. Depending on the variety of cheese the nutrient profile of cheese can vary widely. Cheeses contain different levels of protein, fat, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, vitamin A, B2, B12, D, etc. There are a few nutritional issues with cheese (fat, sodium) so let’s just focus on one today: sodium. Sodium plays a key part in cheese development- including food safety, flavor and functionality. So can cheese fit into a healthy diet? Yes it can with some awareness.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three cups per day of fat free or low fat milk and dairy products (cheese is considered a dairy product). But the Center for Disease Control actually stated that cheese is one of the top 10 sources of sodium in our food supply. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts it is about balance and moderation. The same idea can be applied to cheese. Depending on the cheese the amount of sodium varies. Let’s take a look at 15 different cheeses and their sodium amount per serving:
|Cheese Type||Average Amount Sodium (mg/1oz)|
|Parmesan (grated)||433 mg|
|Parmesan (hard)||390 mg|
|Blue (Bleu)||315 mg|
|Mozzarella (part skim)||175 mg|
|Monterey Jack||170 mg|
|Goat (soft)||130 mg|
|Cottage (low fat)||93 mg|
We can see that the lower sodium cheeses include Monterey Jack, Goat, Ricotta and Swiss. By being aware of which cheeses contain less sodium and how much cheese you are consuming, cheese can easily be incorporated into a healthy diet. One of my favorite cheeses right now is a Cheddar/Gouda from Trader Joes. This is a good option as these cheeses fall in the middle of the sodium chart.
If you’re interested in why sodium is added to cheese in the first place read on. In the production of cheese, dry salt is added or the cheese is brined in a sodium solution. Sodium helps to block pathogens, helps flora bacteria, regulates enzymatic activity during the ripening stage, affects texture, influences taste and flavor (very important) and allows for a longer shelf life.