One of the elements/ components of the Mediterranean diet is white cheese. The term White cheese implies that it is fresh cheese which is lighter to digest than yellowish mature cheese. White cheese can be made from any kind of milk but the traditional Mediterranean cheese is made from goat and/or sheep milk due to the wide use of these animals.
Man discovered cheese accidentally, a few thousand years ago while transporting milk in containers made from sheep’s stomach. The various enzymes that were present in the sheep’s stomach acted on the milk enzymes and created the first form of white cheese. Many ancient Greek philosophers, like Aristotle and Dioskourides, talked about the preparation of white cheese from the mixing of fig’s milk with milk. In Crete cheese was made from the mixing of lemon juice with milk.
White cheese can be served and eaten for breakfast, in the salads, dips, as a snack on a piece of bread and in typical Med sweets. A typical Mediterranean breakfast consists of slices of white cheese, honey, black olives, boiled eggs and slices of local fresh bread. There is a great variety of white cheeses with most common and widely used being the Greek feta cheese, the Cypriot cheeses halloumi and Anari, the Turkish Beyaz Peynir, the Spanish mato, the French Chevre type and the Italians mozzarella and ricotta. All the Mediterranean countries produce white cheese from goat and/or sheep milk. The flavour of the white cheese, since it is fresh cheese, it is greatly determined by what the animal eats and this is determined by the climate and soil of the region in which the animal lives, thus we have the many Mediterranean flavours of white cheese.
White cheese is usually soft with a distinct pleasant smooth flavor and texture low in fat, cholesterol and calories. Taking Halloumi cheese as an example, its calories and nutrition per serving, 80gr, is: Calories 253, Protein 16.7, Carbohydrates 1.3 and fat 19.7. The nutrition for other white cheeses is available on the labels and by the manufacturers on their websites.
The Mediterranean diet recommends two serves of a dairy a day. This can be either yogurt or white cheese. A good combination of having white cheese is with Olives. Such a combination amounts to 92 calories per serving. Even though white cheese is high in Calcium, two dairy serves, of say white cheese, would not be enough to take necessary calcium intake that is recommended by the Health authorities, that is why the Mediterranean diet includes other foods high in calcium like vegetables. Calcium is important in our diet since it helps to regulate the digestive system and to stabilize the blood pressure. Calcium also helps in blood clotting, muscle contraction and what is important for the people on diet, contributes in the maintenance a harmonious healthy body weight.
For the people who want to enjoy the Mediterranean diet and have problems with lactose, there is lactose free white cheese made from cow milk that retains its taste and behaves just like normal white cheese.
For cheese lovers, white cheese is just the introduction to a great culinary journey of enjoyment and healthyness.