Personally I choose to eat limited dairy products as I don’t believe my body needs too much to stay healthy. There are several health concerns* (a whole other subject) caused by dairy that I simply feel are not worth it… for me, but that’s not to say I never eat it (as I do enjoy goat and feta cheese), and it certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
This is a personal choice, and as you know I’m all for doing what is right for you and your body. Today I’m talking specifically about cheese. Here in France cheese is part of the culture and I’ve found that most British people eat far more in France than they ever did in the UK. For the purposes of both losing weight and restoring and maintaining good health it is certainly worth considering your level of consumption and the best options available.
So what are the choices?
Cheese comes either as pasteurised or raw. Let me explain the simple difference.
Pasteurised cheese is made from milk which has been subjected to a heating process which kills off dangerous bacteria.
Raw (unpasteurised) cheese is produced using untreated raw milk.
Which is best?
This is a heavily debated topic in the scientific arena. Those in favour of pasteurised cheese say it is safer to consume as all the bad bacteria has been killed off whereas those in favour of raw cheese say that the risk is no different as the risk only comes if hygiene practices are poor which apply equally to pasteurised milk. In the EU rules are very stringent so any such risk is minimal.
Raw cheese certainly has more going for it as it also boasts a higher nutritional content; the heating process in pasteurised milk destroys many of the nutrients such as the B vitamins and the natural anti-microbial proteins which protect against infection. Raw cheese also contains no additives as the milk literally goes from the animal to the cheese making vat. It is also generally easier to digest so a better choice for those that recognise that their digestive system reacts negatively to cheese.
Cow, goat or sheep?
A personal choice but what is probably most important here is that you look for organic cheese or perhaps a local producer where you can verify the production and hygiene process.
What about the fats in cheese?
I know this confuses the issue more but again this is very much debated. We do need fats in our diet so although you may be tempted to opt for ‘low fat’ everything, this isn’t usually the best idea. It is more important to opt for a high quality product because ‘low fat’ foods are often topped up with other unwanted ingredients that fill that ‘fat’ gap.
To help you make your choices you need to consider your priority right now. Is your priority weight loss or are you equally or more concerned about the health implications?
Lactose intolerance is a result of your body’s inability to properly digest or absorb lactose, a natural sugar found in milk and milk products.
Many lactose intolerant people avoid dairy products. Whilst I wouldn’t want to encourage you to introduce dairy if you’ve already eliminated it from your diet, it’s only fair that you know that there are in fact some cheeses that are lactose free. This could be helpful to you if you have any health issues as it could be an intolerance to lactose that you are unaware of. I would encourage you in that case to go dairy free for a couple of weeks, or if you are not yet ready to go that far, try lactose free dairy and monitor how you feel.
Lactose free or low in lactose cheeses are generally ones that have the lowest sugar content on the label. These include: Tilsiter, Roquefort, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Mimolette, Roomano and Gouda.
What if I’d like to replace cheese completely?
Vegan cheese alternatives are available but be sure to check the nutritional content as you don’t want to replace one food with another unhealthy one!
Nutritional yeast is a great alternative for the cheesy flavour as it can be used in most recipes where cheese is called for, especially in sauces, toppings etc.
But for some completely new tastes try out some of these ideas to replace cheese:
At first you may miss the distinct flavour of cheese. It is one of the hardest foods for people to give up, but trust me… after you make other changes to your diet your palette will change and you’ll actually appreciate different tastes. So even if right now you don’t like an alternative, try it again in a few months or a year. This goes for any new food in fact – you’ll be very surprised at what foods you’ve come to enjoy as you wean yourself off the sugary and salty foods.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on cheese consumption. Do you eat it or avoid it? Do you have favourites? Do you know you eat too much? Do you find eating cheese affects your health or your weight? Please let me know in the comments.
*Health concerns include increased risk of cancer, allergies, sinus problems, ear infections, Type 1 diabetes, chronic constipation, skin problems, anemia.