The Deep Cut on Cheese

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Can this volatile ingredient be part of a healthy diet?

To quote a certain small robot, America is leaning on cheese. Cheese is a commonly enjoyed food, and you can tell just by walking through the frozen dinner aisle at your local grocery store. Odds are good that the majority of frozen entrees contain cheese. However, in dietary terms, cheese is a bit of a complicated matter. Being a dairy product, it’s obviously got a high fat content, and if you’re lactose intolerant (which quite a few people around the world are), it’s a complete non-starter. But despite its wacky nature, there is room for cheese in a good diet. After all, cheese is rich in protein, calcium, and more. You just have to be mindful of what kind of cheese you’re eating.

If salt’s your concern, then cheese is already a touchy subject. Since salt is a vital component in the creation of commercial cheeses, most of them have a decently-sized sodium content. The trick here is to go for softer, lighter cheeses, as they use less salt in their processing. Swiss, ricotta, and Parmesan are all nice, light cheeses that won’t give you a salt shock.

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If fat’s the problem, then once again, cheese doesn’t look so good. Dairy and fat go pretty much hand-in-hand, after all. What you want here are naturally produced cheeses. Parmesan or mozzarella containing skim milk are good options. What you don’t want are cheeses that advertise “reduced fat” on the package, as those usually substitute the fat with funky preservatives.

If you’re lactose intolerant, that’s when things get their trickiest. Whether you’re only a little bit intolerant and get some gas and bloating, or full-on intolerant and get actual intestinal distress, it’s probably not something you want to put up with. However, some cheeses actually have the majority of their lactose removed during their processing, so while they may make you a little tooty, they shouldn’t cause any notable problems. These cheeses include things like cheddar, Colby, and mozzarella.