Saturday, January 5, 2013

My New Year's Resolution - Eat More Cheese!

Hello everyone!

Thank you for your patience as I slowly recovered from my flu. I am feeling 100% better today and I couldn't wait to get to my blog! As promised, I am going to talk about some of the health benefits of eating cheese. I want to preface this post with this one fact - I AM NOT A DOCTOR. When it comes to your health and diet, you need to listen to your doctor, not me - your local cheese enthusiast :). 

That being said, most of my knowledge surrounding this subject comes from Max McCalman's' wonderful book - Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager. I used this book as my main source of studying for my Certified Cheese Professional exam and I must say, Mr. McCalman knows his stuff. If you're a food nerd like me, you really need to check this book out. It's chock full of incredible cheese information. 

Max McCalman's book that I quote throughout this post. Buy it and read it!
His first chapter of the book is dedicated to the fact that "cheese is good - and good for you". In fact, that is the title of the first chapter :). Cheese in and of itself is a wonderfully dense and nutritious food. To quote Max, "A 4-ounce piece of solid farmhouse cheese, for example, supplies more than half the adult nutritional requirements for protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus as well as significant portions of vitamins A, B2, and B12. If you compare the nutritional content of a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) chunk of a hard, aged cheese such as Cheddar or Emmental to an equivalent amount of chicken eggs (two eggs are about 100 grams), the cheese contains about twice as much protein and one quarter the cholesterol." (McCalman 20) The two vital things that humans need to survive that cheese does NOT have is fiber and vitamin C. If you use cheese as your main source of fat and protein, you will be better off than using eggs or meat because you're getting more nutrients per ounce. If you're looking for a little more proof, look at the Mediterranean diet - "...olive oil, wine, plenty of fruit and vegetables, less meat, more whole grains and nuts, some fish and espouses the notion of 'more is less'. It is interesting to note that three of the world's highest per capita cheese-consuming countries - Greece, Italy, and France - have some of the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease and some of the longest-lived populations." (McCalman 22) Pretty interesting right?

A lot of customers come to my counter and lament about the fact that they can't eat cheese because it is so high in fat. The key here folks is moderation. I know that a lot of people do not like this word, but I consider myself a pretty fit individual and I eat a lot of cheese. But to balance this out, I don't eat as much meat and I try to eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables to provide the fiber and vitamin C that I need. If you view cheese as a protein source and you are aware of your portions - you should be okay. One other fun fact is that cheese has been already partially digested for you by the bacteria and enzymes that help create the wonderful textures and tastes of the cheese. This is why most cheeses that have been at least slightly aged are easier to digest - even if you're lactose intolerant!

Now I know that all of this information sounds great, but I do want to give you a few words of advice before you go and gorge yourself on cheese. First, it is very easy to eat a lot of cheese is one sitting. Don't! Listen to your body when you eat cheese. Your body will let you know when it's satisfied and no matter how tasty the cheese is, you can always come back for more a different day. I've found that if I have an assortment of a 3-4 cheeses and I cut myself a 1 oz piece of each, I'm more than satisfied after finishing those cheeses.

While more than 3-4 cheeses, these pieces are about 1 oz size pieces. I used this plate while preparing for a wine and cheese pairing class that I was going to be teaching.  

Also, keep in mind from one of my previous posts that a 1 oz piece of a triple creme cheese and a 1 oz piece of a harder cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano have a very different level of fat. According to the label, the triple creme cheese has 75% butterfat while the Reggiano only has 35% butterfat. But you must keep in mind that these percentages are based on solid content... not total weight. Since the triple creme has more water activity, it actually does not have more fat than the same weight of Reggiano. The Reggiano has barely any water activity so you're actually getting more fat per ounce there than in a triple creme. Crazy huh? So make sure that you keep this in mind when eating hard or soft cheeses.

Parmigiano Reggiano
Delice de Bourgogne - a triple creme cheese
While I find this information very fascinating, this may be one of my more wordy/boring posts to you and for that I apologize. I hope you learned at least a little something that you didn't know before from this post. If you want to learn more about this topic, please read Max McCalman's book that I referenced above - it really is amazing. If you have any questions regarding any of this information, please leave a comment or email me at 

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Look for my next post soon. Until then, eat, drink and be happy!