Feta cheese is the brined cheese from Greece widely marketed for its low-calorie profile, high vitamin, calcium, protein, and phosphorus contents, and the support it offers bones. However, it is high in sodium, may have harmful bacteria, and is thus not recommended for pregnant women.
Feta cheese is a Protected Destination of Origin (PDO) cheese from Greece. This means that it comes from specific parts in Greece and follows certain stringent standards in its manufacture. It is prepared using sheep milk or sheep and goat’s milk mixture. Although it originates from Greece, feta cheese is widely popular in the US as one of the leading calcium sources. What is feta cheese, and how is it made? What are its potential benefits and associated drawbacks? Peer into this article to get the answers to these questions.
Understanding feta cheese
Feta cheese is soft, white, cubed cheese that comes in brine solutions and has Greece as its destination of origin. It is prepared in specific parts of Greece whose unique environmental conditions favor this cheese. Sheep’s milk is the common ingredient used in preparing feta cheese, although a mixture of goat and sheep’s milk can be used. When using the latter, goat’s milk percentage must be lower than 30%.
The feta cheese cubes are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine because they add a unique creamy mouthfeel to appetizers, desserts, and other meals. You will notice that the feta cheese blocks are firm to touch but easily crumble upon cutting. Of course, the creamy texture they add to dishes is something you don’t want to miss out on. You can choose sheep’s milk feta cheese for a sharp feel or feta cheese from a mixture of goat and sheep milk for a milder taste. Either way, rest assured to benefit from the cheese’s high calcium and vitamin contents.
Feta cheese- how is it prepared?
Feta cheese can be prepared using sheep’s milk or a sheep and goat’s milk mixture. The milk in question is first pasteurized, although it can also be used when raw. The next stage involves adding lactic acid starter cultures to isolate protein whey from the curd, mainly protein casein. This is followed by adding rennet to the protein casein to set it. Whey is then drained to shape curd, which is then put on molds for 24 hours, after which it should be firm. Next, the curd is salted and transferred to metal containers or wooden barrels, wherein it stays for 3 days. The final stage is 2-month refrigeration in a salted solution, during which the curd matures into feta cheese blocks. Afterward, they are ready to be packaged in the brine and distributed to whoever wants them.
The nutritional profile of feta cheese
Feta cheese is a healthy pick because it has a rich nutritional profile. An ounce (28 g) of the cheese has 74 calories, 1.1 g carbs, 4 g protein, 6 g fats, 14% RDI calcium and riboflavin, 13% RDI sodium, and 6% selenium and vitamin B6, among other vitamins and healthy compounds. For instance, it is laden with modest amounts of folate, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A and K.
Furthermore, unlike parmesan and cheddar, feta cheese has fewer calories, making it even healthier. As such, it is a good pick for anyone trying to work out to lose weight. An ounce of cheddar or parmesan cheese has 110 calories, 36 more units than feta cheese! What’s more, compared to ricotta, goat, or cottage cheese, feta cheese is packed with more calcium, giving you every reason to try it.
Health benefits associated with feta cheese
Feta cheese is good for health and potentially benefits the body in several dimensions. For instance;
i. It may promote bone health
If you are looking for a dairy product that will do justice to your bones, feta cheese blocks should top your list. In fact, feta cheese is the US’ leading source of dietary calcium. Apart from being rich in calcium, this cheese cube has several proteins, phosphorus, and vitamins that add mineral content to the bones, boosting their mass and strength. As if that’s not enough, the phosphorus and calcium ratio in feta cheese is well balanced, making this dairy product ideal for boosting bone health.
ii. It may help promote gut health
The gut is an important component of the human system, whose health means good health and well-being, and the reverse is also true. Studies show that since feta cheese is rich in Lactobacillus plantarum, a type of good/beneficial bacteria, it goes a long way to promote gut health. Besides, the high percentage of the healthy bacteria (48% of the total bacteria in the feta cheese) means that the cheese is better placed to improve the body’s immune system and reduce inflammation risks, as well as the severity of inflammatory symptoms.
iii. It may be a good source of healthy fats
Feta cheese is rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) fats, which are responsible for several beneficial roles in the body. For instance, CLA helps the body gain lean mass, lose out unnecessary (unhealthy) fats, and boosts the body composition. Feta cheese, especially that prepared from sheep’s milk, has as much as 1.9% of CLA. This is found in just an ounce of the cheese.
Potential downsides linked to feta cheese
Despite the several health benefits described above, there are several downsides linked to feta cheese, including;
- Maturing and packaging the cheese in salt (brine) solution makes it have more sodium than necessary
- Feta cheese made from unpasteurized milk may carry Listeria monocytogenes, a type of dangerous bacteria, making it unfit for pregnant women
- Feta cheese only takes two months to mature, making it unripened and rich in lactose, which many people are intolerant to
Feta cheese is the soft, white, salted cheese cubes prepared from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk, and whose origin is Greece. It is low in calories but rich in vitamins A, B, K, selenium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and trace amounts of other minerals. As such, it can promote bone and gut health and may also make a good source of healthy CLA fats. However, brining it makes it have too much sodium, and its lactose concentration is also high, making it less ideal for lactose-intolerant people.
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