What is cheese?
Cheese is a dairy product, derived from milk and produced in a wide range of flavors, textures, and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. It comprises proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep
In this article, we’ll give you all the information you need to make healthy choices about eating cheese.
The 7 different types of cheese
- 1 – FRESH (No rind) …
Typically 19-24% Fat
Classic Examples: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Cottage Cheese
- 2 – AGED FRESH CHEESE [wrinkled white to grey-blue rind] …
Typically 19-24% Fat
Classic Examples: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Cottage Cheese
- 3 – SOFT WHITE RIND (White Fuzzy Rind) … Typically 24-26% fat Classic Examples: Camembert, Brie de Meaux, Chaource, Chevre Log
- 4 – SEMI-SOFT (Fine to thick grey-brown rind or orange & sticky) …
Typically 26-28% fat
Classic Examples: Edam, Reblochon, Port Salut, Raclette, St Nectaire
- 5 – HARD (crusty, grey often polished, waxed or oiled) … Typically 28 – 34% fat Classic Examples: Cheddar, Pecorino, Beaufort, Manchego, Gruyere, Parmesan
- 6 – BLUE (Gritty, rough, sometimes sticky rind) Typically 28 – 34% fat Classic Examples: Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Picos de Europa
- 7- FLAVOUR ADDED (various)Typically 28 – 34% fat Classic Examples: Gouda with Cumin, Lancashire with Chives, Pecorino with Truffles
20 of the most popular cheeses and their origination
Mozzarella may be the most popular cheese of all. Mozzarella is a traditionally southern Italian cheese made from Italian buffalo’s milk by the pasta filata method. Fresh mozzarella is generally white but when seasoned it turns to a light yellow depending on the animal’s diet.
Parmesan, or Parmigiano-Reggiano, is considered to be among the top cheeses by cheese connoisseurs.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is an Italian hard, granular cheese produced from cow’s milk and aged at least 12 months. It is named after the producing areas, the provinces of Reggio Emilia, Parma, the part of Bologna west of the Reno, and Modena; and the part of Mantua on the right/south bank of the Po. Parmigiano is the Italian adjective for Parma and Reggiano that for Reggio Emilia.
Cheddar cheese, commonly known as cheddar, is a relatively hard, off-white, sometimes sharp-tasting, natural cheese. Originating in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset, cheeses of this style are now produced all over the world
Gouda is a sweet, creamy, yellow cow’s milk cheese originating from the Netherlands. It is one of the most popular cheeses worldwide. The name is used today as a general term for numerous similar cheeses produced in the traditional Dutch manner.
5. Swiss cheese
Swiss cheese is any variety of cheese that resembles Emmental cheese, a yellow, medium-hard cheese that originated in the area around Emmental, Switzerland. It is classified as a Swiss-type or Alpine cheese.
Emmental, Emmentaler, or Emmenthal is a yellow, medium-hard cheese that originated in the area around Emmental, in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. It is classified as a Swiss-type or Alpine cheese. Emmental was first mentioned in written records in 1293, but first called by its present name in 1542.
Brie is a soft cow’s-milk cheese named after Brie, the French region from which it originated. It is pale in color with a slight grayish tinge under a rind of white mould. The rind is typically eaten, with its flavor depending largely upon the ingredients used and its manufacturing environment.
Camembert is a moist, soft, creamy, surface-ripened cow’s milk cheese. It was first made in the late 18th century at Camembert, Normandy, in northwest France. It is sometimes compared in look and taste to brie cheese.
Gruyère is a hard yellow Swiss cheese that originated in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Berne in Switzerland. It is named after the town of Gruyères in Fribourg. In 2001, Gruyère gained the appellation d’origine contrôlée, which became the appellation d’origine protégée as of 2013
Feta is a Greek brined curd white cheese made from sheep’s milk or from a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk. It is soft, with small or no holes, a compact touch, few cuts, and no skin. It is formed into large blocks, and aged in brine. Its flavor is tangy and salty, ranging from mild to sharp.
11. Monterey Jack
Monterey Jack, sometimes shortened to Jack, is a Californian white, semi-hard cheese made using cow’s milk. It is noted for its mild flavor and slight sweetness.
Provolone is Italian cheese. It is an aged pasta filata cheese originating in Casilli near Vesuvius, where it is still produced in pear, sausage, or cone shapes 10 to 15 cm long. Provolone-type cheeses are also produced in other countries
Edam is a semi-hard cheese that originated in the Netherlands and is named after the town of Edam in the province of North Holland. Edam is traditionally sold in flat-ended spheres with a pale yellow interior and a coat, or rind, of red paraffin wax. Edam ages and travels well, and does not spoil; it only hardens.
14. Blue cheese
Blue cheese or bleu cheese is cheese made with cultures of the mold Penicillium, giving it spots or veins of the mold throughout the cheese, which can vary in color through various shades of blue and green. This carries a distinct smell, either from that or various specially cultivated bacteria.
Gorgonzola is a veined blue cheese, originally from Italy, made from unskimmed cow’s milk. It can be buttery or firm, crumbly and quite salty, with a “bite” from its blue veining
Roquefort is a sheep milk cheese from Southern France and is one of the world’s best-known blue cheeses.
Ricotta is an Italian whey cheese made from sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk whey left over from the production of other cheeses. Like other whey cheeses, it is made by coagulating the proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese, notably albumin and globulin.
18. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a simple fresh cheese curd product with a mild flavor and a creamy, non-homogenous, soupy texture. It is also known as curds and whey. It is made from cow’s milk by draining the cheese, as opposed to pressing it to make cheese curd—retaining some of the whey and keeping the curds loose.
Mascarpone is a soft Italian acid-set cream cheese. It is recognized in Italy as a Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale. Outside Italy, Mascarpone is sometimes mispronounced “marscapone”, even by food professionals.
Halloumi or haloumi is a semi-hard, unripened cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk, and sometimes also cow’s milk. It has a high melting point and so can easily be fried or grilled, a property that makes it a popular meat substitute
The most expensive cheese.
Pule donkey cheese is the most expensive cheese in the world. Produced by only one farm in the world, pule will cost you about $600 for a single pound. Making it requires more time and effort than most other cheeses.
Pule cheese or magareći sir, is a Serbian cheese made from 60% Balkan donkey milk and 40% goat’s milk. Pule is produced in Zasavica Nature Reserve, as conceived by Slobodan Simić, Zasavica Special Nature Reserve Manager and former Serbian MP.
8 Problems With Eating Cheese
1) Cheese Is Addicting
Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to stop after just one slice of melty, gooey cheese pizza?
This is more than a struggle of willpower. Cheese contains opiate-like compounds called casomorphins that have a similar effect on your brain as do certain addictive drugs.
And there’s a biological reason for casomorphins: to make sure growing baby calves drink their mom’s milk. The casomorphins in cheese can be up to 10 times more concentrated than in full-fat milk.
2) Cheese Probably Isn’t Good for Your Heart
If you look for studies that suggest cheese is good for, or are even neutral, regarding heart health, you’ll likely come across this meta-analysis that concludes a “neutral” effect.
However, three pro-dairy organizations funded this study— Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute, and Dairy Australia. The analysis authors were accused of cherry-picking data — they excluded any study in which participants had prior cases of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or other chronic diseases.
You might also come across this 2015 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which concluded that for 14 overweight, postmenopausal women, meat and cheese-rich diets were responsible for boosting HDL “good” cholesterol and were superior to low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets.
But considering that most of the carbohydrates in low-fat, high-carb diets are coming from things like sugar and white flour, this is hardly a ringing endorsement. Cheese may be healthier for you than white flour and high-fructose corn syrup — but that hardly makes it a healthy food. The study was, perhaps not surprisingly, fully funded by the dairy industry.
Given the strength of the link between saturated fat consumption and obesity and heart disease, and the fact that cheese is mostly made up of saturated fat, these findings, paid for by industries whose profits depend on the positive press, are highly suspect.
3) Cheese Can Increase Obesity Risk
Thanks to the globalization of the Western diet, much of the world is now familiar with eating a diet high in processed foods, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. This includes cheese.
4) Cheese Can Increase Cancer Risk
5) Cheese May Damage Your Brain
There’s no lack of research on the unhealthy effects of the standard American diet (SAD). This includes an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
This is mainly attributed to processed cheeses.
And the SAD isn’t just popular in the United States. For example, since Japan has begun to adopt many characteristics of SAD, the Japanese people have seen a 6% increase in Alzheimer’s disease rates.
6) Cheese Contains Compounds Your Body May Not Tolerate
Milk itself is one of the top eight food allergens.
Dairy also contains lactose, a sugar to which around 65% of the global population has an intolerance.
Lactase is the enzyme needed to break down lactose. It ensures that babies can drink their mother’s milk. But many people stop producing it after infancy, and if they continue gulping milk (and eating cheese) as adults, this can cause ongoing digestive distress.
7) Cheese Damages the Environment
When considering the health benefits of cheese, it’s also important to consider its impact on the health of the planet. And if you’re looking for sustainable foods, cheese doesn’t belong on that list.
And while we’re on the topic of sustainability, it takes 10 pounds of cow’s milk to make just one pound of cheese.
8) Cheese Production Poses Ethical Concerns
As is true for every other mammal, cows have to give birth to produce milk.
Industrialized dairy cows are forcibly impregnated. To prevent loss of consumer-bound milk, newborn calves are removed from their mothers within 24 to 48 hours. Mother cows can be heard calling for their calves for days.
Many of the male calves are turned into veal. And many dairy cows themselves live under considerable distress.
One study found that by the time they are killed (at around the age of five), 40% of cows are lame as a result of standing on concrete flooring and filth in intensive confinement. Many modern dairy cows never see a blade of grass in their lives.
The Best Cheeses
If you’re going to eat cheese, here are two labels to look for: organic and 100% grass-fed.
Organic cheese means the cows ate organically grown feed. But it says almost nothing about the conditions in which the cows lived.
The cows whose milk has been made into grass-fed dairy products, on the other hand, have not been confined in feedlots, and the cheese contains more omega-3 fats, vitamin E, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than their factory-farmed counterparts.
Does that make grass-fed cheese a healthy food? It’s an improvement, and if you are going to eat dairy cheese, this is probably the best way to go. But it’s still very high in saturated fat and sodium (not to mention lactose and casein).
3 Tips for Eating Less Cheese
If all this has you thinking, “I’m ready to cut the cheese!” — here are a few steps to help you transition with ease:
- Experiment with a non-dairy “cheese.” Most ones you’ll find are based around either nut (often cashews or almonds), coconut oil, and some form of starch, or tofu. Although these products may not contain saturated fat (unless they contain coconut oil), most of them are still packaged, processed, high-sodium foods. Look at the ingredients list to help you make the healthiest choices.
- Try nutritional yeast (“nooch”) as a cheese replacer. It’s a versatile and healthy way to add a nutty, cheesy flavor to dishes. Sprinkle it on salad, pasta, pizza, and soup, or use it as a base for homemade cheese as below.
- Experiment with making cheeses at home. They’re easy to make, only require a handful of ingredients, and can be pretty healthful. A few of my favorite recipes are below.
So, What is Cheese Good For?
It turns out that cheese is far from healthy food. In a society staggering under the weight of chronic disease and obesity, cheese is a major contributor to saturated fat and sodium. The proteins in cheese are associated with cancer progression. Not to mention, the dairy industry itself is a scourge on the planet.
Please let us know in the comments below:
- Do you eat cheese? Why or why not?
- What do you think? Is cheese good for you?
- Have you ever made your own non-dairy cheese?
- What recipe or ingredients did you use and how did you enjoy it?
Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We encourage you to do your own research. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.
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The Food Revolution