How Healthy Is Feta?

A Greek salad is a delicious, light dish for the summer. Of course, feta should not be missing. But how healthy is feta actually? And does it contain lactose?

Feta is a proprietary term that can only be used for Greek brine cheese.
Preservatives or artificial additives have no place in feta, it is produced in a traditional way.
While feta is high in fat, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals.
Herder’s cheese, Balkan cheese, sheep’s cheese or feta? It’s not that easy to keep track of everything on the cheese shelf. But since 2007, feta is a protected designation of origin (PDO) and therefore feta cheese can only be labeled as feta if it comes from mainland Greece or the prefecture of Lesvos.

In addition, the brine cheese has to be made in the traditional way: the sheep graze on Greek pastures, goat’s milk may also flow into the feta – but only up to a maximum of 30 percent.

What’s in feta?

The Greeks produce the feta in a traditional way: after the sheep’s milk has been flocculated, the feta matures in brine for at least two months. This gives the white cheese its salty, sour flavor. Apart from milk, salt and bacterial cultures, there are no other ingredients in the feta.

Powdered milk, casein salts, coloring or preservatives are forbidden in feta. That sounds pretty healthy, but what nutrients are in feta?

Proteins, fatty acids, vitamins – feta is so healthy

For a health assessment of feta, the sheep’s milk in the feta is important. And it has it all: With 5.5 percent protein, sheep’s milk is one of the milk types richest in protein. It also provides calcium, an important mineral for bone formation. Sheep’s milk also contains important vitamins such as vitamins A, C, B2 and B12 – even more than in cow’s milk.

Feta has almost no carbs, making it a healthy food on a low-carb diet. In addition to calcium, feta also contains zinc, an important trace element for skin, hair and the immune system.

At the same time, sheep’s milk is significantly fatter than that of cows: the fat content is almost twice as high. The proportion of omega-3 fatty acids, i.e. the valuable triple unsaturated fatty acids, varies from feta to feta.

On average, the proportion in our test was 0.88 grams per 100 grams of cheese, which is about the same as cow’s milk. However, two products in the test even had a peak value of 1.4 grams.

The only downside to feta is the salt content. Since the cheese matures in brine, the salt content is quite high. An alternative can be feta with a reduced salt content, or you can soak the feta in water for around half an hour before eating. This reduces the salt content, but the cheese also loses a little of its flavor.

Is feta lactose free?

Feta is not completely lactose-free, there is a little lactose (milk sugar) in it. However, the proportion is very small: 100 grams of feta contains less than one gram of lactose. If you have a slight lactose intolerance, you can definitely try a few cubes of feta on the salad.

By the way: As a rule, people with lactose intolerance are allergic to proteins found in cow’s milk and sheep’s milk. Large amounts of feta are therefore not an option for most people who are allergic to cow’s milk. However, some people tolerate sheep’s milk well and only react to cow’s milk products. This is an indication of the rarer cow’s milk allergy and not of lactose intolerance.

Healthy feta equals happy sheep?

For our feta test, we not only used ingredients and taste as evaluation criteria, but also had the manufacturers provide us with information on the environmental standards they comply with, the supply chains, the prices paid to the producers and the conditions in which the sheep are kept. These aspects were included in the overall assessment.

Overall, we found that there is still room for improvement when it comes to animal welfare, ewes and lambs are too often separated. Only six producers in the test were able to prove mother-bonded lamb husbandry.

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