Crumbly, salty feta is a truly delicious ingredient – and eaten in the right portion sizes, makes a nutritious addition to a balanced diet. We asked nutritionist Nicola Shubrook to give us the low down.
What is feta?
Feta is a white, salty, crumbly cheese from Greece that is traditionally made from sheep milk, and is typically bought in blocks. You can find some varieties that are a blend of sheep and goat milk, but you will not find a Greek feta made with cow’s milk. Those made with cow’s milk will be from outside Greece and are called feta-style cheese.
Authentic feta is made by collecting the sheep’s milk and filtering it before it is pasteurised by heating in giant cauldrons. Once cooled, probiotic cultures and rennet are added to thicken the milk. Then when it becomes solid enough to be cut, it is left in moulds to drain away the whey (cheese milk), and then sprinkled with salt which will act as a brine while it ages in wooden barrels or metal tins for a minimum of two months. This maturation process happens in two stages: stage one is at temperatures of up to 18C and stage two is at a lower temperature of 2-4C, and only then is it ready for consumption.
Feta is classified as a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) product which means it must adhere to certain requirements in order to be called feta, including a minimum 70 per cent sheep’s milk that must come from local breeds of sheep and goats traditionally raised on local pastures and from designated parts of Greece. It cannot contain any additives or preservatives.
Feta contains 250 calories per 100g. It is around 50 per cent water, with 16g of protein, 2g of carbohydrates, all of which is lactose sugar, and then 20g of fat, which is made up of 14g of saturated fat and 6g of unsaturated fat.
Is feta high in fat?
The recommended daily allowance for adults is 70g of fat a day of which saturates should be less than 20g. A 30g serving of feta contains around 6g of fat of which 4g is saturated fat – easily fitting into a balanced and varied diet.
Is feta high in salt?
Due to the brining process, 100g of feta contains 1g of sodium. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of sodium for adults is just 2.4g sodium a day so a 30g serving will provide about 12% of your RDA.
Is feta a good source of protein?
Feta is a good source of vegetarian protein with around 5g per 30g serving.
Read more about the best vegetarian sources of protein.
Is feta a good source of calcium?
Feta is also a good source of niacin and B12 which helps the body to get energy from the food we eat.
What is a healthy serving size of feta?
A healthy serving of feta is 30g which is about 1cm strip (⅙) of a standard 200g block. Being a crumbly cheese, this can easily be sprinkled over mushrooms or with avocado on toast, added to a salad, pasta or soup, or use it alongside roast vegetables.
Can you be allergic to feta?
Those who have a dairy allergy will be allergic to feta. Speak to your GP if you experience any concerning symptoms, such as a tickly throat or cough, sneezing or an itchy tongue after consuming milk or yogurt.
Less commonly, a severe allergic reaction can occur, known as anaphylaxis. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
It’s also possible to have an intolerance to cow’s milk or lactose, which is different to an allergy. Read more about food intolerances.
How to buy the best feta
When buying feta look for a stamp or wording to indicate that it is PDO approved, and that it is clearly labelled Greek feta and not feta-style cheese.
Also check the ingredients to ensure it is either 100 per cent sheep’s milk or 70 per cent sheep’s and 30 per cent goat’s milk. Only feta-style cheese will contain cow’s milk.
Healthy feta recipes
Roasted vegetable & feta tostada
Lemony three bean & feta salad
Chilli-stuffed peppers with feta topping
Puy lentil, spiced roast carrot & feta salad
Grilled peach, chicken & feta salad
Lentil kofta with orzo & feta
This article was published on 29th April 2020.
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 Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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