A piece of cheese before dessert is definitely part of French culture, as is the bread that accompanies it. But nutritionally speaking, is it that “good” for us? Why do some people choose to take it out of their diet?
Cheese is made from dairy products: cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk, cream or buttermilk. It can be fresh, melted, or refined: soft, uncooked or cooked pressed, or marbled. Choosing a cheese is not always easy as there are literally hundreds of them on offer. So which one should we choose?
On average, cheese contains 22g of lipids per 100g. It is for this reason that 30g of cheese constitute a portion: it is a food product which is relatively rich in fat, but it still has a right to be on our menus if we choose it well. Its composition varies according to the amount of water it contains: the more the cheese is hydrated, the less calorific it will be (and fat, it contains), but it will also contain less calcium.
In this category, you will find cottage cheese, Petits Swiss, ‘Faisselle’, as well as fresh goat cheeses or ‘Carré Frais’. These cheeses are not refined but have undergone lactic fermentation. Containing about 80% water, they are the most hydrated type of cheeses with the remaining 20% made up of “dry matter” (proteins, fats and minerals). These cheeses contain very little lactose and are therefore generally suitable for people who are lactose-intolerant.
They are made from raw or pasteurised milk and are generally aged from several months to several years. Cheeses such as Munster or Rouy have a washed rind flavoured with beer, wine, ‘de Marc’ or cider, which gives them a particular taste, and their distinctive orange colour.
Bacteria from these cheeses help our gut microbiota and are therefore beneficial to our daily health. However, be aware of their fat content: hard cheeses are the most fattening; with only 35% of water, they contain more fats than hydrated cheeses (normally, around 30%). Cheeses also contain a lot of salt as it is a key component in the ageing process. It is therefore recommended to eat cheese just once a day.
However, its the cheeses with the most fat that also contain the most calcium, so do not totally eliminate them from your diet! In amongst this category, you’ll find hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté.
These cheeses are often given to children, such as La Vache Qui Rit, and those used to accompany an aperitif, such as Apéricubes. They are, in fact, made from a mixture of cheeses which are left over from the manufacture of other classic cheeses, sometimes with added flavours. Thanks to their high water content (60% water) they are low in calories, but because of their added ingredients, are perceived to be of lower quality.
Regardless of the percentage of fat indicated on the packaging, you should look carefully at the quantity of fats listed in the nutritional information on the back of the cheese! This percentage is calculated on the dry matter of the product, in other words, on what is left when the water is removed, which, as we have already mentioned, varies considerably according to the cheese. The percentage, therefore, has little meaning.
To summarise: do not panic about eating cheese, you can continue to eat it on a daily basis, as long as it is eaten in small quantities. It is always a good idea to alternate between cheeses which have a high fat content (and rich in calcium) and cheeses which are light (and therefore contain less calcium). We have already mentioned their benefits, especially on the microbiota of children. That’s why if you like cheese, there’s no reason to completely remove it from your meals.
Be careful though if you are pregnant; for hygienic reasons, not all cheeses are recommended. We can help you select the right foods, that are adapted to your needs in our Pregnancy program http://www.maiabaudelaire.com/nos-menus-grossesse. in that way, you should feel more confident.