Monday, May 17, 2010

Just in Queso, or not all cheese is created equal

Ah, cheese. So many varieties, so many flavors and from so many countries. While Gorgonzola can be wonderfully piquant, a nice creamy brie can be paired with some ripe pear slices. And a sharp Canadian cheddar is always welcome as a topping on your burger or with a glass of red wine. Whatever your choice, cheese is a delicious addition to any meal or hors d'oeuvres selection.

But cheese has fat, salt, lots of calories and that dreaded cholesterol. So what would be a good choice for us folks who are trying to lose weight? And how much can we eat before it does too much damage?

An ounce of cheese is considered one serving and provides 200 - 300 mg. of calcium. Most adults need 1,000 mg of calcium per day and people 50 and older need 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Since milk is the main ingredient, cheese provides a good source of protein and vitamin B2. (Information from American Dietetic Association).

There is no reason to avoid eating cheese but it is important to pay attention to the type and amount you eat.

  • If you like to eat hard cheeses, like cheddar, look for "fat free, "reduced fat" or "low fat" on the label.
  • If you're looking for a soft cheese, "low fat" (1%), part-skim or light might be a good choice.
  • You will even find low fat, low cholesterol cheese selections in your grocery store. They generally have 50 - 75 percent of the fat in whole milk cheeses. Experiment with some of these to find a brand you like.
    Cheese (1oz. Serving)Mozzarella**CheddarMonterey JackAmericanSwissColby-Jack
    Calcium content (% DV*)20%20%20%15%25%20%
    Calories (kcal)80110100110100110
    Cholesterol15 mg30 mg30 mg25 mg25 mg25 mg
    Fat5 g9 g8 g9 g8 g9 g
    Saturated Fat3 g5 g5 g6 g8 g7 g
    Protein8 g7 g7 g6 g8 g7 g
    Sodium170 mg180 mg170 mg400 mg60 mg190 mg
    * Percent Daily Value (DV) is based on a 2,000-calorie diet
    ** Mozzarella is part-skim.

Feta contains 20g of fat per 100g, 20%, as does mozzarella, Camembert 24%t, Brie has 29% , Parmesan 30%, Stilton 31%, Gruyère 33& and cheddar 35%.

Edam contains 26% fat, cottage cheese, has about 4g of fat per 100g, although you can get even lower-fat versions.

Moderation is the key.  Use more flavorful cheese, like feta, and a little goes a long way.

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