Ah, cheese. Whether served as a garnish, a topping, or paired with wine, cheese satisfies cheese lovers’ taste buds while adding a nutritional component, too. Have you ever wondered about the basic characteristics of the cheeses found in your local supermarket or specialty cheese shop? Comparing the nutritional values and characteristics of some cheese categories may help you navigate the ever-expanding cheese offerings available today.
Cheese: A Quick Comparison
The following table compares the nutritional values of some cheeses based on 1 oz servings:
|Cheese||Type||Calories (kcal)||Total Fat (g)||Calcium (mg)||Sodium (mg)|
|Mozzarella, part skim milk||Fresh||72||4.5||222||175|
|Mozzarella, whole milk||Fresh||85||6.3||143||178|
|Ricotta, part skim milk||Fresh||39||2.2||77||35|
* Soft-ripened cheese
No two types of cheese are exactly alike, and the quality and flavor of many cheeses depend on skillful aging and appropriate storage. According to cheese expert Laura Werlin, author of Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials, cheese aging is reflected in its moisture content and may move a cheese variety from one category to another.
Cheese: A Closer Look
Cheese is categorized by texture. Four common categories are included within the nutrition comparison table. Let’s take a closer look at what they mean.
- Fresh cheeses, such as mozzarella, feta, and cottage, are unripened and have not been aged. Fresh cheeses have a high moisture content with a creamy taste and a soft texture. Cheeses in the “fresh” category have slightly lower calories than other categories, with the exception of mascarpone.
- Semi-soft cheeses are popular with cheese enthusiasts, and most soft cheeses are included in this category. Cheeses in the semi-soft category include colby and havarti and the average calorie count for a 1 oz serving is 101.5 kcals. Brie and Camembert are often included in the semi-soft category, but Werlins prefers to include them in their own category of “soft-ripened”. Werlins explains this is ‘because of their distinct flavors and texture’ and because of the white rind created around the cheese during ripening.
- Semi-hard cheeses (also called semi-firm cheeses) include the ever-popular cheddar, Swiss and Monterey Jack. Semi-hard cheeses are the most readily available at your local retailer since their shelf life is longer and, as Werlin suggests, “the relative lack of moisture in these cheeses tends to equate to comparatively mild aromas.” Semi-hard cheeses contain over 200 mg of calcium per 1 oz serving and, for the most part, have slightly higher calories compared to the other cheese categories.
- Hard cheese is a broad category of cheeses and may include textures that range from elastic at room temperature, to hard cheeses that may be grated. Hard cheeses have less moisture content and a lot of flavor added, reflected in the higher sodium content. They also have some of the higher levels of calcium per 1 oz serving. Examples of hard cheeses are Gouda, Parmesan, and Romano.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the different cheese categories and their characteristics may give you added confidence when navigating cheese counters and cheese shops.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.