Goat cheese, despite its presence dating back thousands of years, has not gained much popularity as conventional cheese that is derived from cows. Surprisingly, goat cheese, also known as chevre, has many health benefits to offer. Although high in fat, like any other cheese, goat cheese has no trans fat and contains a good proportion of high quality proteins, vitamins, calcium, and micronutrients. Being a good source of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, it can aid in maintaining good bone health.
Goat milk products, including chevre cheese, are less toxic because they contain lesser pesticides and are not commonly bombarded with growth hormones, unlike cow milk and its products. These unique attributes make goat cheese more desirable than the widely available cow cheese products.
Compared to cow cheese:
- Goat cheese contains fewer calories
- Has half the sodium, fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol content
- Has more selenium (antioxidant) and copper
- Contains more vitamins, especially vitamins B1, B2, and B3 (thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, respectively)
- Adequate amounts of vitamin A, calcium, and phosphorus
- Although low, there is still a sufficient amount of protein in goat cheese
The protein present in goat milk products has a higher biological value and a good proportion of essential amino acids, compared to cow milk products. It is also much easier to digest due to the short to medium chained amino acids it is made up of. Thus, this healthy cheese has been considered as a good candidate for the treatment of milk allergies and malabsorptive disorders.
According to a study conducted by Park Y from Texas A&M University, alpha lactoglobulin (the component in cow milk), one of the major factors responsible for milk protein allergy, is absent in goat milk (similar to human milk) products, which makes it suitable for those with milk protein allergies, especially infants. This property along with less lactose content would be the most compelling reason to choose goat milk and its products.
Additionally, the fats in goat milk products are also highly digestible because of a higher proportion of short and medium fatty acids, and the smaller size of its constituents, namely casein micelles and fat globules. Goat milk products, including cheese, is also well tolerated in people with lactose intolerance, as it has very low lactose content.
According to a study conducted by Yangilar from Ardahan University, Turkey, the medium chain fatty acids present in goat milk products have the ability to inhibit the formation of and dissolve cholesterol deposits. This property has been found to be useful in the treatment of malabsorption disorders, coronary diseases, cystic fibrosis, gallstone disorders, and to aid in the nutrition of premature infants.
Additionally, the good bacteria (probiotics) that is used in the cheese-making process have many benefits for the human body such as improved absorption of nutrients present in food and alleviation of diarrhea and constipation, to name a few.
It is quite evident that goat milk products including cheese are a healthier alternative to cow milk products. However, it has to be kept in mind that goat cheese may not be healthy if it is prepared in an unhygienic manner or if it is unpasteurized, as studies have linked such poorly prepared goat cheese to certain food-borne diseases.
YANGILAR F. As a Potentially Functional Food: Goats’ Milk and Products. Journal of Food and Nutrition Research. 2013;1(4):68--81.
Park Y. Hypo-allergenic and therapeutic significance of goat milk. Small Ruminant Research. 1994;14(2):151--159.
http://drinc.ucdavis.edu/goat2.htm (accessed on 11/19/2014)
http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/2684.aspx?CategoryID=54 (accessed on 11/19/2014)
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Chilliard, Y., Rouel, J., Ferlay, A., Bernard, L., Gaborit, P., Raynal-Ljutovac, K., ... & Buttriss, J. (2006). Optimising goat's milk and cheese fatty acid composition. Improving the fat content of foods, 281-312.
Park, Y. W. (2008). 2.2 Goat Milk—Chemistry and Nutrition. Handbook of milk of non-bovine mammals, 34.
Haenlein, G. F. W. (2004). Goat milk in human nutrition. Small Ruminant Research, 51(2), 155-163.
Park, Y. W., & Haenlein, G. F. (2007). Goat milk, its products and nutrition.Handbook of Food Products Manufacturing, 449-488.
Ribeiro, A. C., & Ribeiro, S. D. A. (2010). Specialty products made from goat milk. Small Ruminant Research, 89(2), 225-233.
Raynal-Ljutovac, K., Lagriffoul, G., Paccard, P., Guillet, I., & Chilliard, Y. (2008). Composition of goat and sheep milk products: An update. Small ruminant research, 79(1), 57-72.