Dairy products are more complex than you might expect. There are those who believe it is bad for your body, those who avoid them for moral reasons, those who believe that it is simply not tasty, and there are also those who cannot go a day without consuming dairy.
Regardless of how dairy products make you feel, during Shavuot week it seems impossible to avoid meals rich in cheese and dairy products, so we decided to check which cheese is the best for health, and which is less so.
Note that the following rankings deal only with animal cheeses, not vegan substitutes. The reason for this is that vegan cheeses are composed in a completely different manner, usually from a base from nuts, almonds, or soybeans, so their nutritional value is always high, even if fattening.
The highlights: Ricotta, cottage and 'fromage blanc'
Cheeses have quite a few health benefits, but unfortunately, the most popular cheeses have far too much salt, too little calcium and more than a little fat. And these are exactly the sections that are examined when looking for healthy cheese. The one that does not fall into these categories, and at the same time is also delicious and indulgent, is ricotta cheese. Ricotta cheese (5-9% fat) can contain up to 620 mg of calcium in a serving of three tablespoons (100 grams), where 1,000 mg of calcium is the recommended daily amount for an adult.
In ricotta cheese, the amount of sodium (salt) is low to medium: 100 to 300 mg of sodium, and the amount of cholesterol ranging from 3-27 mg is also low. Ricotta is also rich in quality whey protein, so it's always a good choice. In fact, ricotta (Italian for "re-cooking") is a cheese created from the water left over from the process of making another cheese. But don't let that discourage you, this is a particularly delicious cheese, both for spreading on bread and for combining in recipes for cheesecakes and pies.
Second place goes to "simple" white cheese (also known as maquée or fromage blanc), assuming you take a moment to choose the right one. Various white cheeses contain calcium in an amount ranging from 85 mg to 230 mg calcium per 100 grams. That is why it is very useful to read the food label of seemingly identical products, and choose the cheese with the higher amount of calcium.
In 100 grams of white cheese, the amount of fat and calories is relatively low (about 0.5-9% fat, about 64-100 calories) and the amount of protein is relatively high (about 9-10 grams of protein per 100 grams). The amount of sodium in white cheeses varies from 200 mg to even 40 mg per 100 grams, an amount considered low in sodium. The amount of cholesterol is also low.
And third place in the list of recommended cheeses goes to cottage cheese. This is one of the most popular cheeses in Israel. Cottage cheese contains relatively little fat per 100 grams and the amount of calories is relatively low, about 100 calories per 100 grams. The cheese contains a high amount of protein (about 10.5-11.5 grams of protein per 100 grams). 100 grams of cheese will provide a moderate amount (about 350 mg per 100 grams) of sodium and calcium.
Which cheeses are better to avoid?
Although there have been quite a few studies on the health benefits of fatty cheeses, it is recommended to minimize their consumption. You don't have to remove them from the menu completely, certainly not for Shavuot, but it is important that you know what is in them, and choose the amounts you eat wisely.
Yellow cheeses for example, including cheddar and gouda, are high in protein and calcium (700 to 900 mg calcium per 100 grams and about 18-30 grams of protein) but usually the percentage of fat in them is extremely high (28 to 60% fat per 100 grams) of which there is a high amount of saturated fat. In addition, the yellow cheeses contain a high amount of cholesterol and sodium.
Parmesan has a lot of calories (about 330) and a high percentage of fat, about 23 percent fat per 100 grams, of which about 14 grams are saturated fat and about 70 mg of cholesterol. The amount of sodium is also very high (about 800-1,000 mg per 100 grams), so it is not recommended for people with high blood pressure.