Cheese…another fairly basic food that the food processing industry has managed to commercialise so that not all cheese is created equal. This post isn’t about to eat or not to eat cheese, rather if you do eat it, how to choose the real deal.
How is ‘real’ cheese made?
Very basically a starter culture is added to the (pasteurised) milk to acidify it and begin culturing it. Specifically, selected bacteria are added to develop the cheese’s flavour and texture. To further the curdling process in more mature cheeses, an enzyme like rennet (from animal or non-animal sources) is added. This is a nourishing tradition and a natural process of culturing dairy.
How ‘fake’ or ‘plastic’ cheese is made…
Like regular cheese, but with the addition of one or more of the following – whey, emulsifiers. milk, salt (generally much more than real cheese), preservatives and food colouring (one of the cheese slices I checked out had 19 ingredients). Some of these un-refrigerated types of cheeses are actually more vegetable oil than milk (and you should by know now my view on very dangerous vegetable oils, if not catch up here).
Why was this even invented? Firstly, it produces convenient slices that ‘melt’ uniformly (standardised food is quintessential to the fast food industry). Secondly, it has a much longer shelf life, though mature cheese has a pretty impressive shelf life anyway so not sure why this is so appealing?
It’s a simple choice really
Like bread, milk and yoghurt, less is more – so ‘real cheese’ has a short ingredient list of milk, cultures, (animal derived or non-animal) rennet and salt (sodium chloride). That’s it, nothing more! It is just cheese prepared by traditional methods!
A step further
I’ve discussed milk here. As milk is the primary ingredient in cheese, the quality of the milk determines the quality of the cheese. Like with milk, in my book the less processed the cheese, the better. So a cheese made from raw organic or biodynamic milk is my number one choice. Next pasteurised organic, biodynamic or grass fed. Then what I refer to as ‘just cheese’ – as described above, which is what is available in most supermarkets. So the cheeses to avoid are; low fat, lite and of course ‘plastic or fake cheese’.
At the end of the day, ‘fake cheese’ is what margarine is to butter…it is more a product of industry that nature. Our body has not evolved to recognise long lists of ‘manufactured’ ingredients. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – just eat real food please. Unless you are casein intolerant, a little cheese as part of a balanced, mostly plant-based diet is delicious and nourishing.
After more detail? You might like this link too. here.
This post is inspired by requests for more information on buying cheese. Do you have a burning topic you’d like me to explore? Feel free to post a question (below) or submit a request of your own?
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