When it comes to determining the healthfulness of a particular food, looking at the nutrients inside is only part of the story. We also need to examine how well the food structure is digested and to what degree those nutrients are actually absorbed.
It can also be helpful to compare and contrast foods to one another rather than looking at them in isolation. Most foods have pros and cons, and being healthy is usually less about any particular ingredient and more about overall dietary balance.
So, is feta cheese healthy? Well, compared to what?
Cheese Compared to Other Dairy Products
As raw milk is processed into the various types of dairy products, the different steps and procedures involved affect the structure and nutrient levels of the final foodstuff. These differences mean that even though dairy products are all grouped together into one category, they can have different associated health outcomes.
For example, cheese contains aggregate casein micelles, which may affect how our bodies break down the fat in the cheese matrix. In other words, the relative hardness and cohesiveness of cheese can make the fat more physically resistant to digestion and absorption compared to other dairies like milk or butter.
Cheese is also associated with lower blood cholesterol levels than other dairy products, especially butter.
Cheese tends to have a higher concentration of phosphorus and calcium relative to other forms of dairy.
For all types of dairy, current evidence does not suggest that consumption increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Fermented dairy products (cheese and yogurt) may even have a positive impact, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke and coronary heart disease.
People with food sensitivities or lactose intolerance should avoid dairy products, though some people with lactose sensitivity report having less trouble with some cheeses.
What is Feta Cheese?
Feta is a popular choice of many kinds of cheese available for its salty, tangy flavor and crumbly texture.
It is commonly added to Greek and Mediterranean foods. Feta cheese can only be produced in Greece, as it is a Protected Destination of Origin product.
Because sheep’s milk is sharp and tangy, goat’s milk is mixed in to create a more mild flavor.
The mixture is then pasteurized, and the whey is separated out from the curds. The curds are then drained, salted, and placed into molds to set into firm cubes.
Feta Cheese Compared to Other Cheeses
Feta has lower fat content than most other cheeses, like cheddar, gouda, parmesan, brie, romano, and colby jack.
Cheeses made from sheep’s milk (feta, for example) have a higher amount of concentrated linoleic acid, linked to decreased fat mass, diabetes prevention, and may even have anti-cancer effects.
One downside of feta compared to other cheeses is that it has a much higher concentration of salt and lactose, so it might not be suitable for people who manage their sodium intake or are lactose sensitive.
Overall, feta cheese is a delicious choice of cheese, packed with many great nutrients. It is a tasty addition to salads, pasta, fruit, tacos, bread, pizza, and so much more.