Cheese is high in protein and calcium but partaking in the food can sometimes cause digestion problems for those with certain allergies, medical conditions or illnesses. By learning more about different types of cheese and paying special attention to how easy each one is to digest, most individuals can eat it and enjoy it, even if they have a sensitivity to lactose, fats and certain acids that are used in the production of cheese.
Goat milk, sheep milk, nut milk and soy milk are all products increasing in popularity as more of the population identifies a lactose intolerance. They all taste different and produce cheeses that vary in consistency and taste. These alternatives do not contain the same lactose enzymes that cause stomach problems for those who are lactose intolerant and are therefore easier to digest.
Dietary restrictions or stomach ailments may lead to an avoidance of high fat cheeses, which include Brie and Gouda. Low-fat alternatives are easier to digest and cause fewer problems related to fat ingestion. Ricotta, mozzarella, and cheese made from skimmed milk are all low-fat. The lower the fat percentage, the quicker the cheese is digested and the less strain it puts on the pancreas.
Low Sodium Cheeses
Many high fat and artificial cheeses are produced using large amounts of salt to cure the curds. High levels of sodium in cheese are difficult to digest due to the dehydrating effects of the mineral. Also, the presence of calcium is necessary for the body to absorb sodium. When we ingest too much sodium, calcium is taken from our bones in order to absorb the salt levels, which leads to weakened bones. Even the calcium contained in cheese is not enough to prevent the damage that can occur to our bones or our digestive systems. Ricotta, swiss, mozzarella and feta cheese are examples of cheeses produced using less sodium and are therefore easier to digest for those working to manage their sodium intake.
The American Food and Drug Administration maintains certain moisture contents for certain cheeses. If a product does not meet these standards, it is mixed and emulsified into process cheese for spreads, dips or other melting purposes. The end result is generally lower in fat content due to the lower moisture content and is therefore beneficial to those watching their fat intake. The lower fat levels make this cheese easier to digest, needing less time and less pancreatic acid to break down the cheese enzymes.
- Brody, Jane. 1987. New York Times: Personal Health Archives
- Ritter, Steve. 2000. Chemical and Engineering News: What's That Stuff?
- Fankhauser, David. 2000. University of Cincinnati Clermont College: Cheese Making Illustrated
- Fusco, Bob. 1995. National Institutes of Health: Cheese and Lactose Intolerance
- American Dairy Association: I Love Cheese- Lactose Intolerance FAQ's
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- Gourmet Cheese of the Month Club
- United States Department of Health and Human Services: Lower Calorie, Lower Fat Alternative Foods
- United States Department of Agriculture: How to Buy Cheese
- Environmental Protection Agency: Natural and Processed Cheese