It’s easy to write off cheese as unhealthy, loaded with fat and too goddamn delicious to be good for you, but according to Karlien Smit, dietitian with Shelly Meltzer and Associates (dietitians associated with the Sports Science Institute of South Africa) those glorious blocks, cylinders and wedges of creaminess do in fact possess some nutritional wallop.
For starters, it’s a good source of protein (30g of hard cheese or 60g soft cheese = seven grams of protein). Then there’s its calcium and vitamin B12 content (30g hard cheese provides on average 20% of the RDA for B12). However, cheese can be high in fat (especially saturated fat) and sodium. “The combination of protein and fat is one of the reasons cheese makes such a satiating snack. The fat content of the cheese mainly depends on the milk used. Some cheeses are naturally low in fat, such as cottage cheese,” says Smit. The good news? Several manufacturers have introduced reduced-fat versions.
1 Soft cheese – cottage cheese
You need double the quantity to achieve the same amount of protein as hard cheese, but you score on saving more than half the fat. Sadly, cottage cheese is low in calcium, which means you need to eat two tubs (500g) of it to get the same amount of calcium (about 300mg) in a 40g portion of hard cheese. However, some other soft cheeses like ricotta are good sources of calcium.
2 Reduced-fat Cheddar
You save seven grams of fat per 30g (matchbox size) if you choose the Slimmer’s Choice Cheddar rather than regular Cheddar. The protein and calcium content is also higher per serving with the sodium content similar to regular cheese.
3 Goat’s cheese
To achieve the same amount of protein as hard cheese one needs to eat more (50g instead of 30g) and this provides the same amount of fat as regular cheese. Goat’s cheese contains more vitamin B12 though (one serving provides more than 50% of the RDA for adults).
4 Feta cheese
Simonsberg feta cheese has 33% less fat than regular feta cheese, which works out to a reduction of three grams of fat per 30g. The sodium content (which is the same as regular feta) is higher when compared to the rest in the sample.
5 Mozzarella cheese
You save three grams of fat per matchbox block when you choose mozzarella over Cheddar cheese. It’s slightly lower in sodium, but contains less calcium (124mg per serve). Woolworths also has a reduced-fat mozzarella (Slimmer’s Choice) that will save you a total of five grams of fat per serving compared to regular Cheddar cheese.