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Ask Dr. Gourmet

With my cholesterol problem, should I avoid all cheeses?

I tend to eat too much cheese, and have been told to lay off. My main artery has two new areas that are 30% clogged in one year's time, which I am sure is due to eating too much dip made with Velveeta, hamburger, tomatoes and onion. Very delicious, but harmful to me apparently. I just feel that now I need to avoid most cheeses. What do you think about this?

Dr. Gourmet Says....

Gouda Cheese

Cheese is great food. Like wine, there are infinite varieties that are complex and delicious. That said, cheese is high in saturated fat, and like many fine foods, too much of a good thing can become a problem. The key is to use really good high quality cheeses for cooking, no matter what the fat content. It takes much less of a high quality Parmigiano-Reggiano to add flavor to your dishes than the cheap stuff in the green shaker box. A good example of this is Blue Cheese dressing. By selecting the best quality imported or artisan cheese, you'll end up with a fantastic dressing that has only 1 gram of saturated fat and 7 mg of cholesterol.

For more "common" cheeses I generally use Kraft 2% Milk Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. They also make a good reduced-fat Monterey Jack and Swiss cheese. There are other makers of reduced-fat cheeses that range from 5 - 6 grams per ounce.

Fresh mozzarella and part-skim mozzarella are also great choices and are low in fat and cholesterol.

One good strategy is to keep an eye on how much cheese you might be eating. If you take time to weigh it out for recipes and even the occasional snack it'll become second nature after a while.

Eating healthy is about eating the foods you love but eating them sensibly. Why eat a few ounces of Velveeta with its highly processed oils and locked in manufactured flavor when you can have an ounce of lovely, silky fresh mozzarella with fresh tomatoes and basil, balsamic vinegar, a touch of pepper and extra virgin olive oil? Now that's great food that's great for you!

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet