If you’re following the Mediterranean diet, you know that cheese can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your meals.
But with so many varieties available, it can be challenging to know which ones to choose.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the best cheese for the Mediterranean diet.
We’ll explore the top ten cheeses that are perfect for this eating plan, and explain why they are a great choice.
So whether you’re a cheese lover or just starting to incorporate it into your diet, keep reading to discover the best cheeses for the Mediterranean diet.
Criteria for Choosing Cheeses
When selecting cheeses for the Mediterranean diet, there are a few important criteria to consider.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you’re choosing the healthiest and most flavorful options:
- Strong Flavor: Choose cheeses with strong and distinct flavors, such as feta or Parmesan. These cheeses tend to be more flavorful, which means that you’ll need less of them to achieve a satisfying taste.
- Natural Cheeses: Opt for natural and minimally processed cheeses, and avoid processed cheeses like American cheese or cheese spreads. Natural cheeses tend to be lower in sodium and have fewer additives.
- Nutrient-Dense: Select cheeses that are high in nutrients like calcium, protein, and healthy fats. This includes cheeses like mozzarella, which is high in protein, and goat cheese, which is rich in healthy fats.
- Fermented: Choose cheeses that are fermented, such as yogurt or kefir. Fermented foods are known for their gut health benefits, and can aid in digestion.
Top 10 Cheeses for the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is renowned for its health benefits, but it can be difficult to find the right type of cheese.
Here we look at the top ten types of cheeses that are perfect for a Mediterranean diet, each offering their own unique flavor and texture:
- Feta: Originating from Greece, feta is a crumbly cheese made from sheep’s milk. It is high in protein, calcium, and vitamin B12, and has a tangy, salty flavor that pairs well with Mediterranean dishes like Greek salads and stuffed peppers.
- Parmesan: Hailing from Italy, Parmesan cheese is a hard, aged cheese that is rich in flavor and nutrients like calcium and protein. Its sharp, nutty taste makes it an excellent addition to pasta dishes, salads, and roasted vegetables.
- Mozzarella di Bufala: This Italian cheese is made from the milk of water buffaloes and is a good source of protein and calcium. Its mild flavor and creamy texture make it a versatile cheese that can be used in salads, pizzas, and sandwiches.
- Ricotta Salata: This salty, crumbly cheese comes from Italy and is made from the whey of sheep’s milk. It is lower in fat than most cheeses and is a good source of calcium and protein. Ricotta salata is an excellent addition to salads and pasta dishes.
- Halloumi: This cheese is from Cyprus and is a firm, salty cheese that can be grilled or fried without melting. It is high in protein and calcium, and its unique texture and flavor make it an excellent addition to Mediterranean-style sandwiches and salads.
- Pecorino Romano: This hard, salty cheese comes from Italy and is made from sheep’s milk. It is high in calcium and protein and has a sharp, tangy flavor that pairs well with pasta dishes and roasted vegetables.
- Manchego: Hailing from Spain, Manchego is a semi-hard cheese made from sheep’s milk. It is a good source of protein and calcium and has a nutty, buttery flavor. Manchego is a perfect accompaniment to olives, bread, and wine.
- Gorgonzola: This Italian blue cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a sharp, pungent flavor. It is high in calcium and protein and is a great addition to salads, pizzas, and pasta dishes.
- Goat Cheese: This cheese is made from goat’s milk and is a good source of protein and calcium. Its tangy, creamy flavor pairs well with salads and roasted vegetables.
- Labneh: This Middle Eastern cheese is made from strained yogurt and is a good source of protein and probiotics. It has a creamy, tangy flavor and can be used as a dip or spread for bread or vegetables.
For those who are lactose intolerant or follow a vegan diet, there are several cheese alternatives that can be used in place of traditional cheeses.
Here are a few options:
- Nut Cheeses: Made from ground nuts like cashews, almonds, or macadamias, nut cheeses are a great alternative for those who can’t have dairy. They have a creamy texture and can be flavored with herbs and spices.
- Soy-Based Cheeses: Soy-based cheeses like tofu or tempeh can be used in place of traditional cheese in dishes like lasagna or pizza. They are high in protein and can be flavored with nutritional yeast or herbs.
- Lactose-Free Cheeses: There are several lactose-free cheese options available, such as lactose-free cheddar or mozzarella. These cheeses are made by adding lactase enzyme to regular cheese, which breaks down lactose and makes it easier to digest.
- Hummus: Hummus is a Middle Eastern dip made from chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and olive oil. It has a creamy texture and can be used as a spread or dip in place of cheese.
In conclusion, the Mediterranean diet is a healthy and flavorful way of eating that emphasizes whole, natural foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Cheese can be a delicious and nutritious addition to this diet, provided that you choose the right types and consume them in moderation.
When selecting cheeses for the Mediterranean diet, opt for strong-flavored, natural, nutrient-dense, and fermented options like feta, Parmesan, or mozzarella di Bufala. These cheeses offer a range of health benefits, including calcium, protein, and healthy fats.
So, what are the best cheeses for the Mediterranean diet?
The best cheese for the Mediterranean diet is feta, followed by goat cheese. Feta is a rich source of calcium and protein which makes it an ideal choice for those following the diet. Parmesan and cottage cheese are also good choices as they are low in fat and calories.
For those who can’t have dairy, there are several cheese alternatives available, such as nut cheeses or lactose-free cheeses. These options can be used in place of traditional cheese in a variety of Mediterranean-style dishes.
By incorporating these cheese options into your Mediterranean diet, you can enjoy the delicious flavors and health benefits that cheese has to offer while still following a healthy and balanced eating plan.