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People across the globe enjoy (sometimes passionately) cheese, a food product with a tradition dating back thousands of years. It has a reputation, however, for causing health issues because of fat and sodium content. So is cheese healthy, or is cheese bad for you? To the surprise of many, there actually are healthy cheese options that you can incorporate into any meal.
Scientists have recently discovered properties found in cheese that can reduce LDL or low-density lipoproteins that cause “bad” cholesterol to form in the body. Most of us consider cheese to be a uniformly fatty, dairy-rich substance, but in reality, some cheese types are better for us than others.
For those who can tolerate dairy, consider healthy cheese types such as feta, goat cheese, mozzarella, and Swiss. These selections are among the healthiest cheese options when you feel the need to add flavor your favorite dish.
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Healthy Cheese Option #1: Feta
Feta cheese usually comes to mind when discussing the healthiest cheese options. From its association with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets, feta has been used as a healthy alternative in salads and other meals. Traditionally, feta is made from sheep or goat’s milk; more recently it has been made using cow and Mediterranean buffalo milk for added protein benefits.
When choosing feta, ensure that it is made with cow’s milk, as scientists at the American Heart Association discovered in 2011 that the proteins found in cow’s milk aid in preventing the risk of strokes and high blood pressure. Add feta cheese to your diet by trying a traditional Greek salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, kalamata olives and feta.
Healthy Cheese Option #2: Goat Cheese
Goat cheese shares many of the same health benefits as feta, including low cholesterol and a high protein content. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study in 2008 that found goat’s milk can produce therapeutic aid in the form of cancer fighting proteins and beneficial insulin. While goat’s milk has been used for thousands of years in folk remedies, researchers are now able to conclude its potential benefits. Try another delicious meal by adding goat cheese to a traditional Greek sesame bagel with tomato slices and basil leaves.
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Healthy Cheese Option #3: Mozzarella
Another healthy cheese, mozzarella is traditionally made with Italian buffalo milk, which makes this cheese protein-rich. However, in your local supermarket, you typically will find partly skimmed cow’s milk mozzarella, which can provide a low-fat alternative for cheese lovers.
Researchers for the Journal of Dairy Science conducted a study on the properties of Italian buffalo milk and found that the milk fat present in traditional mozzarella has low trans-fatty acids, which can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
When purchasing mozzarella, choose authentic Italian buffalo milk or cow’s milk to ensure high protein benefits. You can incorporate mozzarella into your diet with grilled chicken breasts stuffed with mozzarella cheese, spinach and thyme.
Healthy Cheese Option #4: Swiss
Typically made with whole milk, this European cheese is full of protein-rich nutrients and healthy fats. Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center found that the dairy milk used to make Swiss cheese has naturally occurring antioxidants that can aid in healthy brain maintenance. Their research suggests that dairy consumption supports bone and muscle growth with the high levels of calcium present in milk.
Dairy milk also contains an antioxidant known as glutathione, which has the potential to defend the brain against Alzheimer’s disease. Glutathione acts as a buffer against oxidative stress, which can have damaging affects on the overall health of the brain. To ensure you’re getting enough milk protein and glutathione, try a Swiss cheese and broccoli quiche.
ZUCCHINI AND PEPPER MOZZARELLA FRITTATA
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. olive oil cooking spray
1 small onion
1 zucchini, diced
6 large eggs
60 ml heavy cream
30 g mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 pinch chili pepper
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small orange bell pepper, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spray 8 small ramekin dishes with olive oil cooking spray.
- Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers and zucchini to the pan and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until softened.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with cream, salt, pepper, chili pepper and mozzarella. Add the cooked vegetables to the bowl and stir.
- Place egg mixture into the 8 small ramekins dishes on a baking tray, spaced apart. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the centers are firmly cooked.
BAKED FRENCH EGGS WITH SWISS CHEESE
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 10 to 12 minutes
8 large eggs
½ cup (120 ml) of heavy cream
40 g swiss cheese, grated
½ medium red pepper, finely chopped
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Butter, to grease tin
100 g baby spinach, washed
50 g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- Preheat the oven to 430°F/390°F fan (220°C/200°C fan).
- Use a muffin tin and grease each hole with butter.
- Divide the chopped red onion and pepper between each muffin hole.
- Carefully crack the egg on top, and drizzle each egg with 1 to 2 tsp. of heavy cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and sprinkle with Swiss cheese.
- Place the eggs into the oven and cook 7 to 8 minutes for soft yolks, 9 to 10 minutes for semi-soft and 11 to 12 minutes for firm centres.
- Divide the baked eggs between 4 and serve on a bed of baby spinach and cherry tomatoes.