Why you need to go easy on the cheese

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CHEESE is a firm favourite in the UK, and we are probably still eating colourful wax-coated versions that we got in luxury mini hampers at Christmas.

But experts at the national charity Heart Research UK have warned that too much of it can lead to people taking in high levels of salt.

A spokesman for Heart Research UK said: “We know that cheese can often be high in salt, following a survey by CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health).

“Salt if eaten in excess (more than 6g a day for an adult) can raise your blood pressure, so increasing the risk of a heart attack and stroke.”

Cheese is a versatile and tasty food that has its place in a healthy balanced diet, providing calcium, protein and vitamins.

But the spokesman added: “Some of us can get a bit ‘cheese crazy’ when it comes to celebrating, using it for sandwiches, topping off dishes, rounding off a meal and also as a snack. Many cheeses are high in saturated fat and salt, so get cheese-savvy this Christmas and take the pressure off your arteries with a few simple tips.”

People are urged to:-

•Check out the labels. By reading the content on the packaging or looking at the traffic light system, they could reduce salt and fat by half. A spokesman for the charity said: “Sniff out the healthier, less salty options by checking different brands and comparing varieties of cheese.

•Don’t see it as a condiment, treat it as part of a main dish. Try salads with lettuce and spinach topped with grated apple and Roquefort or Wensleydale, or cherry tomatoes, olives and mozzarella or crumbled feta, or vegetable soups with bread and a little cheese.

•Adapt recipes. Use Parmesan which is stronger so you’ll need less.

•Enjoy cheese but watch the portions you tuck into. The spokesman added: “Keep your slices thin and remember a portion is only the size of a matchbox. By grating or crumbling cheese finely and choosing stronger flavoured varieties, you won’t need as much to give your taste buds a cheese-kick.”

•If you’re going to have cheese as a last course, accompany it with a heart-healthy option like dried fruit, grapes, figs, apple or unsalted nuts.

•Beware the crackers, cheese biscuits, pickles and chutneys that will load on more salt, as well as fat and sugar.

Anyone wanting more details, information and advice about healthy living should contact Heart Research UK on 0113 297 6206 or email lifestyle@heartresearch.org.uk.