Will Sodium & Fat Reduction Efforts Lead to a Healthier Cheese?

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A very interesting article published in the New York Times earlier this week goes into a detailed description of the efforts undertaken by the dairy industry to improve the nutrition profile of cheese. As sworn turophiles, our ears perked and our tongues salivated with joy. Cheese, with thousands of flavors, textures, and names, is notorious for high levels of saturated fats, and in many formats is also high in sodium. Unfortunately, there have been few success stories:

“We’ve made some progress in that arena,” said Gregory D. Miller, president of the Dairy Research Institute. “But we have not been able to crack the code.”

Dr. Miller, whose group is financed by the dairy industry, was referring to efforts to reduce salt, but he had a similar appraisal of the challenges of low-fat cheese. “When you take a lot of the fat out, essentially cheese will turn into an eraser,” he said. Read more from the NY Times…

Apparently, cheese is not cheese without salt and fats. Removing them means adding other stuff instead. And those additives affect the flavor profile, mouthfeel, or shelf life of the product. While scientists continue to explore, we’d like to make a revolutionary suggestion that can cut sodium and saturated fat consumption in half:

EAT LESS CHEESE!

That way you can still have your favorite brie or cheddar, enjoy the luxurious flavor, and not fuss over the nutrients. An easy way to do this is to stop coating foods with cheese (mac n’ cheese, cheese sauces over veggies, etc…). But of course that’s not a solution that the dairy industry would like us to embrace.

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  • Sarah W.

    Ha, your solution is far more realistic. A suggestion for replacing cheese sauce over veggies: Combine one part miso and one part tahini, then add water until you reach the desired thickness. Still tangy and tasty, same yellowish hue, but healthier by far.

  • Laura

    Real cheese, preferably raw milk, artisan or farmstead, in moderate consumption is healthy. Processed cheese slathered on already unhealthy foods is no where near the same thing.

    • EVIL food scientist

      Enjoy your greatly increased risk from Salmonella, Listeria, STEC E-coli, Brucellosis, and other exciting potentially life ending or permanently injuring infections from raw milk cheese!

      • Phatmatt

        Hypochondriacs have different apps. Fooducate doesn’t need to go there.

        • curious

          What are these numbers at the end of everyone’s comments?

      • Laura

        You eat raw milk cheese already you just don’t realize it. Parmigiano Reggiano, Gruyere etc. Real cheese has the best safety record of almost any food. Far better than veggies, meats, shellfish and fruit.

  • Violet

    This is not the first time I’ve noticed sodiumbashing at Fooducate, but … why all the hate on salt? Doesn’t science currently suggest that some sodium is necessary for survival, and that most people are able to eliminate any extra sodium they consume, and it is a doctor who can best advise an individual about any need to limit (or increase) daily sodium consumption? So isn’t the whole “low sodium” thing just another opportunity for misleading marketing and packaging of processed foods? Doesn’t unqualified sodium bashing just fuel that marketing fire? Does Fooducate consider the labeling rules for sodium to be adequate consumer information (compared to, say, “added sugar”)?

    • iluvfooducation

      Yes, SOME sodium isn’t bad for you… but with the rates it is added to food at(as a presevative, for flavor, etc..) it is extremely bad for you. Just be mindful of what you’re eating and the sodium content and you shouldn’t have a problem. And I’m sure Mr. Fooducate didn’t hurt sodiums feelings so don’t worry : )

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      We’re not bashing sodium. A certain amount is required for proper bodily function. Unfortunately, the average American consumes always twice the maximum daily recommendation. About 70% from processed foods. So we are recommending that people consume much less. One of the ways is to consume less processed foods.

      • Violet

        I am all for people eating fewer processed foods, though the fact that we do is why Fooducate exists … My point is to draw attention to a tendency here at Fooducate to overhyping sodium’s health concerns (especially as I understand sodium is only a problem for a small percentage of people, and even though I do understand most americans are consuming more salt than they absolutely require) … which is exactly the kind of nutritional hype food manufacturers take advantage of with marketing “lower sodium” type claims on labels, etc. … which is exactly the hidden topic of this post — how the cheese industry can hop on the “reduced sodium” marketing bandwagon — so this is a good place to mention any amount of anti-salt bias … because this is exactly the type of (mis)information Fooducate is usually so good at helping consumers sort out … but not always when it comes to sodium (a notable exception being the excellent point, often made by Fooducate, that sodium is added to many sugary beverages to help balance out the too-sweet flavor).

  • Tiffany

    Moderation. What a novel idea! So many people want to eat the lowfat, etc versions of everything, that are not necessarily more healthy. Eating foods in moderation allows us to enjoy more high fat/high sodium/high sugar foods, we just have to eat less of them. And while we’re on that note, how about eating real food versus the overly processed junk found down the aisles of grocery stores.

  • carol

    eat cheeses that are more flavorful and you won’t need to eat as much to get the same flavor/satisfaction

  • http://www.fatguyweightloss.com Fat Guy Weight Loss

    Sodium has a U curve for health risks. Too little is not good for you and way too much not good for you either. Given the too much is in excess of 6000mg unless you eat breakfast/lunch/dinner at fast food restaurants this can be hard to reach.

    As for fat, this is really the only good thing for you in cheese why remove this?