Why We Love Cheese

Happy National Cheese Lover's Day! Find out why we love cheese, and how it can be a part of a healthy diet.

From ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwiches to fancy shmancy cheese and crackers, there are so many ways to love cheese. Worried about your waistline? We’ll tell you how you can incorporate all types of cheeses in a healthy and enjoyable way.

Cheese 101

When I was growing up, my parents owned a cheese store on Chambers Street in New York City. There were so many cheeses, I couldn’t keep them straight but it was sure fun sneaking a taste every time I sliced a piece for a customer. Luckily I learned a thing or two while working for my parents about the various cheeses.

Cheese is categorized by their texture as unripened (or fresh) and ripened. Unripened cheeses are usually slightly tangy with a mild and creamy texture. They include cream cheese, mascarpone, mozzarella and ricotta.

Ripened cheeses can be categorized as soft, semi-soft, firm or hard. Soft cheese is characterized by thin skins and creamy centers.  Brie, camembert and boursin are three of the more popular varieties. Semi-soft cheeses include many mild flavored varieties that have a smooth and easily sliceable texture. They include fontina, gorgonzola, Havarti, Roquefort and stilton.

Firm cheeses are usually either similar to the consistency of cheddar or they’re dense and holey like emmenthaler. Some other popular firm varieties are manchego, jarlsberg, monetary jack and provolone. Hard cheeses are carefully aged for a long period of time and are less moist than the other cheeses. Varieties include asiago, parmesan and pecorino romano.

The Nutrition Scoop

An ounce of whole milk mozzarella has 84 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 4 grams of saturated fat (that’s almost 20% of your daily recommended quota).  It also provides 6 grams of protein and a hefty dose of calcium, vitamin B12 and phosphorus.

Part-skim versions are available to help shave off calories and fat. One cup ounce of part-skim mozzarella has 71 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 4 grams of saturated fat. It has an extra gram of protein with 7 grams and even a bit more calcium.An ounce of parmesan has 110 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 5 grams of saturated fat. Luckily, you only need a little to enjoy the full-flavored taste of these hard cheeses. It also has 10 grams of protein and close to 30% of your daily recommended amount of calcium.

How to Use Cheese

Going for the fat-free varieties may cut calories, but it just doesn’t taste as good as the real deal and also doesn’t melt well. Part-skim mozzarella and ricotta are available at supermarkets and are a great substitute for their whole milk counterparts in lasagna, pizza, stuffed shells and grilled cheese.

For firmer cheeses like cheddar, 1 ½ ounces is a reasonable portion. If you’re having a dish with several high fat ingredients like fajitas or an omelet, use 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese.  For the very potent cheeses like blue or parmesan, a little goes a long way. Aim for about 1 or 2 tablespoon per serving.

Cheesy Ideas
Here are a few ideas on how to enjoy various cheeses:
TELL US: What’s your favorite way to eat cheese?
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