Health Benefits of Spanish Cheese (Queso)
Spanish cheese, as well as tasting delicious, is a valuable part of a balanced diet, providing essential nutrients. Most of us know that cheese provides a good amount of calcium, essential for strong bones and teeth, but often people steer clear of it, either because they are cutting down on fat or because they find dairy products hard to digest.
The great thing about the variety of cheeses available in Spain is that there are a large number of sheep’s milk and goats milk cheeses to choose from as well as cow’s milk cheeses. Sheep, cows and goats grazing on wild herbs and pastures in the Spanish uplands absorb a lot of extra nutrients, which are passed into their milk, and in turn are passed on to us in their wonderful tasting cheeses. There is no comparison, in flavour or health benefits, between Spanish cheeses from animals raised outside grazing on natural pasture, and cheese made from the milk of cows fed and raised industrially in compounds elsewhere in the world.
Sheep’s milk generally has twice as many vitamins and minerals (iron, zinc, phosphorus and calcium) as cow’s milk. Although it has more fat, 45% of its fatty acids are either mono-unsaturated or poly unsaturated fats (the good ones like Omega-3), which help in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and which hold the fat soluble vitamins A,D and E to make them available to us in our diets.
The fatty acids in sheep’s milk are also far more digestible than cow’s milk fatty acids, providing a useful alternative for those with mild lactose intolerance. Cured cheeses in particular, like Manchego and several other Spanish cheeses, have even less lactose as most of it is converted during the curing process, so they are even more digestible.
Goats cheese has less fat and fewer calories than cow’s milk cheese, but has slightly more protein and higher levels and calcium and phosphorus. It is also renowned for being very digestible and helpful to those with allergies and eczema.
So instead of reaching for the calcium supplements, enjoy a small portion of tasty Spanish cheese every day and get all those extra Omega 3s, vitamins and minerals too.
From the famed sheep’s milk Manchego cheese of La Mancha, to the smooth rich cow’s milk Cantabria from the north of Spain, there are delicious Spanish cheeses for everyone's taste.