Top 5 benefits of halloumi
Halloumi is a great source of calcium, but does its salt and fat levels make it off limits? Registered Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook reveals the benefits and the downsides of this popular cheese.
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What is halloumi?
Originating from Cyprus, halloumi is a semi-hard, un-ripened, brined cheese that can be made from cow, sheep or goat’s milk. It can be eaten raw but is truly delicious cooked, having a high melting point, makes it an excellent choice for grilling or frying.
To make halloumi, milk is heated and rennet or vegetarian rennet is added. Once cooled, the curds and whey naturally separate. The curds are then left to firm up, after which they are poached in the whey with a little salt, and then kept in brine to preserve the cheese.
Nutritional profile of halloumi
An 80g serving provides:
250 Kcal / 1042 KJ
Top 5 health benefits of halloumi
1. Rich in bone-friendly calcium
Halloumi, like other dairy foods, is rich in calcium, a mineral we need for muscle and nerve function as well as strong healthy bones and teeth. A portion (80g) supplies a significant contribution towards your daily calcium needs, something which is of important for all life-stages.
2. A useful source of protein
Protein is essential for good health with muscle, skin and blood all formed from this essential macronutrient, we need adequate amounts in our diet for cells and tissues to grow, develop and repair.
3. May reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Interestingly a study suggests that regularly eating full fat dairy during adolescence may reduce the risk of diabetes and insulin resistance in later life. The exact mechanisms for this are not fully understood but may, in part, be thanks to the high levels of protein and fat which slows digestion and helps stabilise blood sugar levels.
4. May keep you fuller for longer
Being rich in protein and fat and full on flavour, cheese like halloumi helps to keep us fuller and more satisfied for longer. The punchy flavours of halloumi mean you don’t need to use very much to achieve a flavour-packed dish.
5. A useful meat replacement
Being high in protein, halloumi makes a valuable dietary inclusion, especially for those following a lacto-vegetarian diet. Although, be aware not all halloumi cheese is vegetarian-friendly some are produced using animal-derived rennet, so check labels.
Is halloumi safe for everyone?
Being a dairy product those allergic or intolerant of milk should avoid halloumi; it is also not suitable for vegans, Nutritionally, there isn’t a great deal of difference between different types of halloumi. If you are sensitive to lactose, you may find sheep or goat’s halloumi easier to digest – speak to your GP or dietitian if you’re concerned about food allergies or intolerances.
Halloumi is high in salt so if you’ve been advised to watch your salt intake it may not be the best option for you. Some supermarkets offer a ‘light halloumi’ which has a reduced total fat content, but the saturated fat and salt levels may still be high. It’s always worth checking labels for the nutrition information so you can make an informed choice.
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Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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