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The Cheese Conundrum - To Eat or Not
- Namrata Sundaresan

May 25, 2017

I love cheese, for me it's a magical word that can evoke a spectrum of reactions and emotions. A food recognized world over and an essential part of the daily diet in many countries, the earliest evidence of cheese making dates back to 5,500 BCE. Cheese was made to preserve milk, although today cheese has a place of its own in the culinary map. Feta, Camembert, Cheddar, Gouda, Halloumi, Mozzarella, Burrata, Blue, Emmental or Brie... the list runs into a couple of hundreds and each one has a region of origin and a story of its own. It's fascinating how a single ingredient, milk, can translate into so many variations with the aid of a microbe and rennet. The region of origin has a major role to play in giving the cheese its distinct character.

A question I get asked often is, "Is eating cheese healthy?" It's true that our taste buds love cheese but do our bodies love cheese as much. It is important to know where your cheese comes from, the type of milk used and making the distinction from processed cheese. Here are some facts and some tips on how to choose and eat right:

- Cheese from raw organic milk from grass-fed (not pasteurised) animals contains the powerful nutritional threesome of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K2, that channel calcium into our bones and teeth.

- Cheese with its omega-3 fat is also heart healthy.

- Cheese is an excellent source of protein, and we need 46 to 56 grams of protein a day. 100gms of fresh, unprocessed cheese provide about 30 grams of protein.

- When you include cheese into your diet, it could be 50 grams to 200 grams - it really depends on the rest of your diet.

So am I saying that cheese is all good and that there is no concern? No, not really! Choose well and eat healthy. Cheese can contain a lot of sodium; adults typically need just 180 to 500 milligrams of sodium a day. The more mature your cheese is the higher the salt content is likely to be.

Here are three quick recipes to integrate three of my favorite cheeses to your daily meal:

1. Halloumi
a. Dry roast some mint leaves and powder it with some salt and pepper. Slice the halloumi, about 1 inch thickness and coat it with the mixture.
b. Heat some olive oil and shallow fry the halloumi slices.
c. These can be made into a salad with chunks of watermelon or pineapple with fresh mint, a squeeze of lime, salt and pepper.

2. Mozzarella
a. Wash and pat dry lettuce leaves (romaine, iceberg, oakleaf...)
b. Dice your mozzarella into small chunks and toss it up with some cherry tomatoes, olive oil, some dry herbs, a clove or two of minced raw garlic, salt and pepper.
c. Spoon mozzarella mixture into the lettuce leaves and top it with some pesto.

3. Feta
a. Crumble fresh feta, mix in olive oil, dried oregano or fresh chopped herb (mint or parsley), salt and pepper to taste, apple cider vinegar - give it a mix.
b. Dice a bowl of green salad - cucumber, shallot, red bell pepper, carrot.
c. Pour the feta mixture on the vegetables and mix well. The feta gives a beautiful creamy texture to the salad.

Namrata Sundaresan is the founder partner of a strategy consulting firm Group IBI that specializes in international trade and investment. She is passionate about artisan food and is a staunch proponent of clean eating. A year ago, she started Käse, an artisan cheese making company with a friend. Käse was started as a social enterprise to train a team of differently-abled in cheese making.

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