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Low-sodium Diet and Cheese

salt spilling from a salt shaker onto a table

Qgreen_40px I’m a lifelong cheese lover, but I’ve just been told by my doctor that I need to consume a low-sodium diet. Does this mean the end of interesting cheese for me?

Agreen Although a low-sodium diet might be good for your blood pressure, cutting out cheese sounds like torture. Fortunately, there are quite a few available options in the cheese aisle that I’m sure your doctor would approve of for a low-sodium diet. Most mountain-style cheeses, such as Gruyère, fresh chèvre, and simple Swiss, are naturally much lower in sodium than many other cheeses; they have between 50 and 95 milligrams of sodium per ounce, compared to, say, provolone (248 mg/oz) or Havarti (215 mg/oz). Moreover, the popularity of these lower-sodium cheeses makes them readily available and incredibly versatile—for uses that range from cheeseboards for snacking to soufflés and fondue. Cheeses to watch out for, in terms of high sodium content, include aged cheeses like Parmesan and Gouda. Blue cheese can also be especially high in sodium, though it’s worth noting that Stilton contains only about half as much sodium as other blue cheeses.

If you’re wondering why salt is essential to cheesemaking, it’s not just for flavor enhancement. Salt also serves a very important function in the cheesemaking process by acting as a preservative to restrict the growth of harmful bacteria that could spoil and destroy the cheese during aging. In addition, salt acts as a sort of dehydrating agent, helping expel moisture in the finished curd. This reaction promotes the formation of cheese curds, which mark the beginning of every good cheese.

I think the main thing about eating cheese—whether you’re watching sodium or fats or calories—is to pick one that you really love, have a modest portion, and slowly savor every bite. Cheese is a wholesome, nutritious food that can be enjoyed by almost everyone. (Happiness is good for your health!)

Photo Credit: jessalarennick via Compfight cc

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