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It’s Just Not Cheese Without the Fat and Salt

  • by
  • August 15, 2012
  • 2:00 pm
It’s Just Not Cheese Without the Fat and Salt

Cheese that’s been reduced in fat and sodium isn’t real cheese. It’s a poor stand-in for cheese that the industry is working to develop as a “healthier” alternative for the millions of Americans who are watching what they eat. As the New York Times recently reported, the industry so far has not had a lot of success in making a low-fat, low-sodium product that people actually want to eat.

For one thing, “when you take a lot of the fat out, essentially cheese will turn into an eraser,” Dr. Gregory D. Miller, president of the Dairy Research Institute, told the Times. “Salt serves as a preservative, as a director of flavor development. If I remove it, my flavor goes in a different direction,” said Mark Johnson, senior scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In short, as Henry Fountain of the Times writes, “the trouble with cheese is that salt and fat are critical components, responsible for far more of its character,” including flavor, texture and consistency, “than consumers might think.” Salt and fat make the cheese.

Yet the industry finds itself on another quest to alter the basic nature of a food so that it can satisfy standard dietary guidelines and address many Americans’ dietary concerns. With the salt and fat reduced, the product no longer tastes or behaves like cheese, and that’s because it isn’t really. So the industry has to reformulate it by adding substances like potassium chloride (which by itself infuses a bitter note), “compounds that bind with the taste buds so the potassium salt does not” (to offset the bitterness, of course) and hydrocolloids like carrageenan.

The reformulated cheese product may be lower in fat and sodium and it may even have fewer calories, but are those the only relevant considerations here? The problem for me is that what we end up with is fake food. A food that hasn’t stood the test of time the way real cheese has. A food that’s been altered in deference to today’s dietary guidelines. But who knows what the latest scientific evidence will show tomorrow?

For those who are worried about the fat, salt and calories in cheese, the best thing to do may be to simply eat less of it. Many of us, however, would rather be told to eat more — more synthetic cheeselike product that’s now lower in fat and sodium. And the industry wouldn’t have it any other way, as food manufacturers can only make more money as long as we continue to eat more of their products.

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Photo Credit: Public Domain Photos

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78 comments

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7:41AM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

3:30PM PST on Dec 29, 2012

Agreed. Cheese is one of life's simple pleasures. Enjoy!

2:09AM PDT on Oct 27, 2012

Thank you :)

1:18PM PDT on Aug 28, 2012

I'm not going to live forever so I'm eating good cheese.

11:35AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012

Don't mess around with real cheese.
If anyone is really worried and concerned about the high fat and salt content of real cheese, simply eat a little bit LESS each time you have it. But what ever you do, do NOT bitch about it and ruin a perfectly healthy, natural and wholesome food product for everyone else.
Personally I get sick to death of hearing the self appointed so called food experts and scientists, telling me and everyone else what we should and should not eat and drink. It is patently obvious that they have no idea what is good and what is bad for us, when they inform us today that a certain food is very good for us and a few months or years later, they or some other expert on an ego trip tells us the same product is very bad for us.

11:34AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012

During my own life time, (so far 62 years of eating all the items mentioned below and others) I have heard these experts at various times, tell us that Eggs, Cheese, Potatoes, Milk, Sugar, Salt, Bread, Red meat, White meat, Tea, Coffee, Chocolate and dozens if not hundreds of other food products, are really, really bad for our health. I have then heard those same experts and others, tell us just how wonderful and healthy those same products are for us and we cannot survive without them. This change and change about as happened so many time during my lifetime, that I now do not know what is supposed to be good and what is bad for me, so I just keep consuming them all

1:41AM PDT on Aug 20, 2012

Thank you.

7:51PM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

Thank you!

3:26PM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

I love cheese, I couldn't care less how much fat and salt it has in it

3:39PM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

I like my cheese just the way it is, full fat and all.

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