Cheese is a food rich in protein, fat and calcium. Its nutritional contribution will depend on the type of cheese or variety. We tell you which are the most famous and their benefits.
We talk about cheese when we choose a cream cheese, ready to spread on the bread; when we melt one and eat raclette; when chopping a few taquitos of a good manchego; when we enjoy a dessert with cottage cheese; or if we prepare a risotto with parmesan. So, really, when we talk about cheese, we are referring to a food that has many varieties and that, therefore, has different nutritional compositions depending on what type of cheese it is. Let’s see.
What is cheese?
Well, nothing is more specific than the definition of cheese from the CAE (Spanish Food Code), which understands by cheese “the fresh or matured, solid or semi-solid product, obtained from milk, from milk, wholly or partially skimmed, from cream, from buttermilk or a mixture of some or all of these products, totally or partially coagulated by the action of rennet or other appropriate coagulants, before draining or after partial elimination of the aqueous part, with or without prior hydrolysis of the lactose, provided that the ratio between casein and serum proteins is equal to or greater than that of milk ”.
This is the adjusted definition, but as we can understand through it, cheese is a dairy derivative that includes many possible variants, as it can be fresh or ripened , it can be obtained from the mixture of different dairy products, etc. And this is what makes it possible for us to observe such a wide variety of cheeses on the market.
Nutritional composition of cheese
We must bear in mind that the cheeses that are more cured and, therefore, drier, will have a lower amount of water and, therefore, the rest of the nutrients will be more concentrated . On the other hand, in a fresh cheese the amount of water is much greater and the rest of the nutrients will be in less proportion. That is why, while a usual portion of fresh cheese can be considered to be about 80 or even 100 g, if we consume a cured cheese the portion would be set between 20 and 30 g. We can observe notable differences in the following table:
We must bear in mind that the artisanal elaboration of many of them makes the nutritional composition quite variable, even among copies of the same style of cheese.
Proteins, fats and calcium
As can be seen, the nutrients that we are going to highlight in a cheese are fundamentally proteins, fats and calcium. As for the fat content, it is highly variable, but in all cases with a predominance of saturated fats, so it is not advisable to abuse more fatty cheeses. On food labels, the fat content of cheeses is specified as a percentage and this can help us compare them with each other.
We will also take into account the amount of proteins they provide us, which are of good quality and can be useful for people with increased needs or intake problems that make it difficult to reach daily requirements. We specify this because protein malnutrition is fundamentally due to health problems , since the general population does not suffer from protein deficiencies but rather from excess consumption.
Finally, it is true that cheeses have a high calcium content and it may also be interesting in some cases, as long as adequate and not excessive consumption is made , since, as we have seen, the cheeses with the highest calcium content are also the more fatty.
Types and varieties of cheese
There are many different cheese specialties and there are quite a few that are regulated by what we know as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), which is nothing more than the regulation of the exact conditions of production, the production area, etc. Let’s see some of the best known examples of cheeses:
One of the best-known and most consumed Spanish cheeses, made from La Mancha sheep’s milk that has a PDO. If it is made with raw milk, it must indicate that it is an “artisan” Manchego cheese. Sheep’s milk and maturation give it its characteristic intense flavor .
Although the mouse that has taken this name is almost better known today than the cheese itself, Stilton is a PDO protected English cheese that is not exactly cheap. It is produced from cow’s milk and is eaten with a spoon.
- Torta del Casar
This is another cheese with PDO, which in this case can be made in different regions of Cáceres. It is a sheep cheese that, like Stilton, is eaten with a spoon .
- Queso de la Serena
In this case we are talking about a cheese also with PDO, made in different areas of Badajoz. It is made from merino sheep’s milk and vegetable rennet from the thistle flower is used . The rind is very hard and waxy in color, but the paste is soft and unctuous.
- Brie cheese
This is a soft French cheese made from raw cow’s milk and covered with a layer of whitish edible mold . Its texture is creamy and its characteristic flavor.
This Swiss cheese, also protected with a designation of origin, is a cow’s cheese , made from pressed and cooked paste, made in the small town of Gruyère , according to a traditional recipe.
It is a French cheese, traditionally made with raw cow’s milk , although pasteurized milk is currently used. The general term Camembert is not protected, but the Camembert de Normandie.
- Queixo Tetilla
One of the symbols of Galician gastronomy is this cheese with a creamy or pasty consistency and a characteristic shape. It is a cow cheese and also has a PDO.
cheese This cheese is known and characterized by PDO for being part of the Greek salad , although it is also commonly consumed in Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania … It has an intense flavor, a brittle texture and a characteristic white color.
- Parmigiano reggiano
This Italian cheese obtained from cow’s milk has a very hard and grainy consistency , it is used to grate, to make risottos, etc. It is a highly concentrated cheese and its flavor is very intense. It also has a PDO.
- And many, many, many more
The fresh from Burgos, the buffalo mozzarella, the Cabrales, the San Jorge cheese from Azores, the Roquefort, the Emmenthal, the Gouda, the Mahón cheese, the Cottage cheese, the Idiazábal, the Gorgonzola , Munster, Chédar, Gouda, Havarti, Raclette cheese, Maasdam, Roncal, Provolone, etc, etc, etc.
What you should know…
- There are many different varieties of cheese that have different culinary applications, but also great differences in nutritional composition.
- Cheeses are especially rich in protein, fat, especially saturated, and calcium .
- As there are so many varieties and being products, in many cases, still quite traditional, there are many varieties regulated by the protected designation of origin .