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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Is quark cheese better for my cholesterol than mozzarella?

Recently I received my cholesterol numbers and they were high. I enjoy mozarella cheese but have been hearing of the health benefits of quark.

Is eating mozzarella cheese going to affect my cholesterol numbers? What are the advantages of eating quark?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

quark cheese

Eating healthy and controlling cholesterol is not really about a single ingredient but making choices to cook fresh food using great ingredients. Both of the cheeses you mention are fantastic choices.

Italians call mozzarella pasta filata - cheeses that have been scalded and kneaded prior to ageing. Ricotta and provolone are also pasta filata cheeses. Originally made in Naples from the rich milk of water buffalos, the cheese available outside of Italy that is labeled mozzarella can be made from any type of milk.

The most familiar mozzarella to Americans is the low-moisture version that tops used as a pizza topping. This was created to cater not just the American palate, but also to satisfy the transportation and storage issues of manufacturers. It is a moist cheese when compared to others traditionally eaten in the U.S. and has a rubbery quality, but melts exceptionally well, making it ideally suited for pizza.

The mozzarella that is widely found in Europe has a higher moisture content. In U.S. stores today these are usually labelled "fresh" mozzarella. Much of it is imported, but many artisan cheese makers are producing amazing products. Much of what is produced, both inside and outside of Italy, is made with cow's milk and is usually made with skim or low-fat milk, making them lower in calories than many cheeses. An ounce of fresh mozzarella contains about 75 calories and 5 to 6 grams of fat.

Quark is also a high moisture cheese. It has its origins in Eastern Europe and is popular in Germany. It is made through lactic acid fermentation and is continuously stirred, resulting in a creamy texture. A firmer version results when rennet is added. One ounce contains only about 2 grams of fat and the cheese is usually very low in sodium. It's not widely available, but makes a great choice for dips and such.

Here are some recipes using fresh mozzarella:

Pizza with Tomato, Basil and Roasted Garlic
Quinoa Caprese Salad

While I have not used quark in Dr. Gourmet recipes because it's not widely available, here are some recipes where you could use it:

Creamed Spinach | Low Sodium Version
Stuffed Creole Chicken
Mike's Lamb Burgers

Thanks for writing,

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