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Many of us love all kinds of cheese, but my we are too often reminded that we should probably avoid it because it is too high in fat. Is there any type of cheese that a bodybuilder
can or should eat? Let's take a closer look at one of the most common questions in nutrition.
Don't abandon cheese! Its an excellent source of protein for bodybuilders. Your training partner is right though, to tell you to watch the type of foods you eat for high fat content, and cheese can be one of those foods. That doesn't mean all types of cheese are bad. Certainly there are creamy goudas and sharp Cheddars that, even though they taste good, should be avoided due to their high fat content. There are, however, many kinds of low-fat or fat-free cheeses on the market today.
Let's start with the obvious. In fitFLEX, we often rave about cottage cheese. It's a great bodybuilding staple because it is available in fat-free and low-fat varieties. Depending on the brand, one cup of cottage cheese contains 26-30 grams (g) of protein, with little sugar and only 6-8 g of carbohydrates. Cottage cheese doesn't seem very much like a cheese at all, and for some people. its liquid nature and texture can be turnoffs. Brands differ, so if you don't like the texture or taste of one, try another.
Look for your favorite variety of cheese, be it cheddar, Muenster, Monterey jack or any of a dozen others, in low-or nonfat versions. Be aware that some brands taste more like rubber than edible food, and some are high in sodium. As with cottage cheese, you may need to experiment with different kinds until you find one you like. These types of "hard" cheeses are good in low-fat turkey sandwiches, melted over vegetables or grilled on top of a sandwich, tuna-melt style.
Mozzarella is a versatile cheese with great flavor. Part-skim mozzarella has only 4-5 g of fat and 70-80 calories per ounce. It provides calcium and vitamin B12. Mozzarella is great eaten alone or melted over your favorite food. String cheese (a type of mozzarella) is a great snack; it comes in handy prewrapped single-serving sizes. Of rising popularity is imported Italian mozzarella, which is sold packed in water. It has a creamy light taste and is great served cold with sliced tomatoes and basil. The only drawback to this variety of mozzarella is a fat content that is slightly higher than part-skim mozzarella.
Cream cheese is a popular and tasty cheese perfect for bodybuilders who need convenient food for snacking. This soft unripened cheese is made from cows milk and is smooth and creamy in texture. Cream cheese is available in low- or nonfat varieties, so you can indulge without getting flabby. Some people complain that nonfat cream cheese has a strange artificial taste. If you agree, try the low-fat version, which is closer to the original in taste and has only 3-5 g of fat per ounce. Cream cheese has a twin called Neufchatel, which is often slightly lower in calories than cream cheese because of a lower milk-fat content. It has a similar but slightly tangier taste. Whipped cream cheese spreads easily - you may find yourself using less, thus you'll get fewer calories and fat per serving. Other spreadable cheese brands, such as Laughing Cow, have developed light varieties of their original cheeses. Laughing Cows spreadable cheese, for instance, has 50% less fat and 30% fewer calories than the full-fat version. Spreadable cheeses are great for a postworkout snack on bagels or crackers, when you need to refuel with a balance of macronutrients.
Low-fat and fat-free cheese may never replace chicken breasts or egg whites as protein sources for bodybuilders, but eating cheese can be a way to make your meals more flavorful and appetizing while adding some protein without much extra fat. Try melting a slice of low-fat Muenster over broccoli, or making a nonfat veggie dip of cream cheese, herbs and spices. Sliced water mozzarella tastes great on a spinach and tomato salad with a little flaxseed oil and vinegar dressing. Remember, like anything else, you shouldn't be eating cheese to excess.