High-quality cheese made from the raw milk of pastured animals is an excellent source of several important nutrients. Each cheese is unique in its nutritional attributes, however, with some being superior to others.
One to consider, especially if you’re sensitive to lactose from cow’s milk, is goat cheese. Because goat cheese contains less lactose than cheese made from cow’s milk, it is typically well tolerated by those with lactose intolerance.
Even if you have an allergy to milk protein, you may be able to tolerate cheese made from goat’s milk because it’s formed with shorter amino acid protein chains than cow’s milk.1
Goat’s milk also has a chemical structure that’s similar to that of breast milk,2 and it has smaller fat globules than cow’s milk, which tend to make goat cheese easier to digest than cow’s milk cheese (even for people with a sensitive stomach). Nutritionally speaking, goat cheese also has some notable benefits.
Did You Know?
- Goat cheese contains less lactose than cheese made from cow’s milk, so it is typically well tolerated by those with lactose intolerance
- If you have an allergy to milk protein, you may be able to tolerate cheese made from goat’s milk because it’s formed with shorter amino acid protein chains than cow’s milk
- Goat’s milk has a chemical structure that’s similar to that of breast milk, and it has smaller fat globules than cow’s milk, which tend to make goat cheese easier to digest than cow’s milk cheese (even for people with a sensitive stomach)
- Goat cheese has fewer calories and sodium per serving, and more vitamin D, vitamin K, thiamine, and niacin than cheddar
- The goat cheese you select should be made from high-quality milk, ideally raw organic milk from pastured animals; since goats are “browsers,” they also need access to natural “browse” (or woody plants, such as shrubs) from which to eat leaves
Goat Cheese Contains More of Certain Nutrients, and Fewer Calories, Than Cheddar
Compared to an ounce of cheddar cheese (made from cow’s milk), goat cheese has about 40 fewer calories, less than half the sodium, and about three grams less protein (which is a good thing, since most Americans consume more protein than they need).
Meanwhile, goat cheese has more vitamin D, vitamin K, thiamine, and niacin, and an equal amount of vitamin A, as cheddar.3 It’s also a good source of riboflavin (a B vitamin) and phosphorus.
To get the most benefit from goat cheese, you’ll want to stick with the same standards as you would looking for cow’s milk (or any other) cheese. This means the cheese you select should be made from high-quality milk, ideally raw organic milk from grass-pastured animals.
Unlike cows, however, goats are “browsers,” which means they also need access to natural “browse” (or woody plants, such as shrubs) from which to eat leaves.
Raw cheese made from pastured milk has flavors that derive from the pastureland that nourished the animals producing the milk, much like wine is said to draw its unique flavors from individual vineyards.
Grass-fed raw dairy products (technically, sometimes goat cheese is referred to as a non-dairy cheese) not only taste better, they are also nutritionally superior.
Because goat cheese is still a niche market in the US, and far less popular than cow’s milk cheese, it is often made by artisanal cheese makers using traditional methods and quality milk.
However, some goats are raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) (on a far smaller scale than cows), and milk and cheese from these animals should be avoided.
In the US, goat cheese is often called chèvre, which means “goat” in French. It’s tangy and, in its semi-soft form, has unlimited uses, such as in place of mayonnaise or butter or added to salads, vegetables, dips, or stuffed meats (such as chicken breast).
Other varieties include the French bûcheron, which becomes firmer and sharper as it ages (although the inside may remain creamy) and brunost, which is a rich, brown type of goat cheese popular in Scandinavia.4
High-Quality Cheese vs. Processed Cheese: A Primer
Whether you choose goat cheese or not, it’s important to know the difference between “real” cheese and “fake” cheese. While the former is an excellent source of nutrition, the latter is not worth eating.
Natural cheese is a simple fermented dairy product, made with nothing more than a few basic ingredients — milk, starter culture, salt, and an enzyme called rennet. Salt is a crucial ingredient for flavor, ripening, and preservation.
You can tell a natural cheese by its label, which will state the name of the cheese variety. Real cheese also requires refrigeration. The starter culture and cheese-making methods are what give each variety of cheese its particular taste, texture, shape, and nutritional profile. The following factors differentiate between one variety of cheese and another:
- Specific starter culture, which is the bacteria or mold strains that ripen the cheese
- Type of milk used (cow, sheep, goat, etc.), and the conditions under which those animals were raised
- Methods of curdling, cutting, cooking, and forming the curd
- Ripening conditions such as temperature, humidity, and aging time (curing)
Processed cheese or “cheese food” is a different story. These products are typically pasteurized and otherwise adulterated with a variety of additives that detract from their nutritional value. The label will always include the words “pasteurized process,” which should be your clue to walk on by. Velveeta is one example, with additives like sodium phosphate, sodium citronate, and various coloring agents.
Another clue is that most don’t require refrigeration. So, be it Velveeta, Cheese Whiz, squeeze cheese, spray cheese, or some other imposter — these are NOT real cheeses and should be banished from your shopping cart.
Mini Bell Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese
If you want to give goat cheese a try, it’s delicious on its own, but for a treat try these mini bell peppers stuffed with goat cheese, a recipe from the New York Times.5 The nutritional value of this recipe is boosted by the bell peppers, which are rich in vitamin C (one cup of red bell pepper will give you more than 150 percent of the daily recommended value6).
For even more nutritional punch, try the variation at the end that calls for adding fresh garlic and herbs like chives, parsley, and tarragon. You could use this recipe as an appetizer, side dish, or snack… but it could even be a meal in itself. And the preparation is so simple, it’ll likely be one you’ll come back to again and again.
Mini Bell Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese
- 6 ounces [preferably raw, organic] goat cheese (1/2 of a 12-ounce log)
- 1/3 cup cottage cheese [preferably raw, organic]
- 3 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt [preferably raw, organic]
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a sheet pan with foil. Place peppers on the baking sheet and roast 8 to 10 minutes (small peppers – less than 2 inches long – will cook faster), turning them over halfway through. The peppers should be soft but not charred, except perhaps in a few spots. Remove from heat and allow to cool. If there are some larger peppers in the bag and they haven’t softened in 10 minutes, return to oven for another 5.
- While peppers are cooling, make filling. Combine goat cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until mix is very smooth, at least one minute. Scrape down sides of bowl and process for another minute. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch star tip.
- When peppers have cooled, slice off ends just below the shoulders. Carefully remove any seeds and membranes. The peppers should be intact, but sometimes, they split down one side. Place any that have not split upright in a small glass or cup to facilitate filling, and pipe in goat cheese mix. Lay those that have split on a plate, pipe on the filling and close the pepper around the filling. Arrange stuffed peppers on a plate or platter. Serve at once, or chill until 30 minutes before serving. Bring to room temperature so cheese is soft and creamy.
Yield: Serves 6
Variation: You can also fill the peppers with herbed goat cheese. To the goat cheese, add 1 puréed garlic clove and 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, parsley, and tarragon. Stir in rather than blend in the food processor (so you don’t purée the herbs).
Sources and References
Tags: Baked, Dairy, Fruits and Vegetables, Side Dishes