Say Cheese – Tips for Healthy Cheese Choices for Diabetics
Many diabetics are horrified to think that they may never again be able to enjoy cheese. In fact, most think that they have to avoid cheese altogether, but this is actually not true. Whilst you must be mindful of the type of cheese you eat and how much or frequently you consume cheese, if you are careful you needn’t remove it completely from your diet.
Cheese is a great source of calcium and protein, and it is recommended that 2-3 servings of reduced or low fat dairy products be included in daily eating plans. You must be mindful, though, that cheese is often a hidden source of fat and salt, and especially saturated fat.
If you want to include some cheese each day, always choose low fat cheeses. Higher fat cheeses should be saved for occasional use, or if a recipe needs the stronger flavor these cheeses provide. For very high fat cheese, you should limit it to one small 2cm cube per week.
The biggest factor to take into consideration when selecting cheeses is the fat content. This is important for both weight and blood glucose management. Too much fatty cheese could cause you to gain weight, and can also have a disastrous effect on your diabetes. The fat content of cheese can vary from 0.5% right up to 41%! For example:
- Reduced fat cottage cheese – 0.5%
- Feta – 16%
- Lite cream cheese – 16%
- Mozzarella – 18%
- Camembert or Brie – 22%
- Edam – 25%
- Parmesan – 30%
- Cheddar or tasty – 35%
- Cream cheese – 37%
- Blue cheese – 41%
Softer cheeses such as cottage, ricotta, mozzarella and feta generally have a lower fat content. These cheeses are typically bland in flavor, so they absorb other flavors well, making them an excellent choice for cooking.
Feta cheese is often high in salt because it is preserved in brine. Before using, rinse the cheese to try and remove some of the salty brine.
Parmesan is a strongly flavored (and strong smelling) cheese, and you don’t need to use a lot of parmesan in your food. Only 10g of parmesan cheese with a 30% fat content gives you less total fat than 50g of Edam cheese at 25% fat.
Because you need to eat cheese in smaller amounts, grating the cheese makes it go a lot further than slicing it. It is also better to freeze cheese when it is grated and takes less time to thaw than a sliced of block cheese.
When cooking with cheese, you do not need to add any salt, as there is already quite a high salt content in cheese. If you want a good cheese flavor in your recipes, opt for the stronger flavored cheeses in small amounts, as it will be more effective and better for you than having to add more and more cheese.
Remember that crackers are also high in fat, so restrict eating them with cheese. Because you have to eat cheese in smaller amounts, cut it into smaller quantities and freeze it to prevent it from going moldy before you have had a chance to finish the block.
Eating a smaller amount of high fat cheese only occasionally could be a better option than eating larger amounts of lower fat cheese often.
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