Feta cheese is a versatile, semi-soft yet crumbly, salty cheese traditionally made in Greece from sheep's milk. However, you can find many fetas that are made with cow's milk in most supermarkets, specialty cheese shops and gourmet food stores. According to Professor's House, feta is a curd cheese, meaning that the milk it is produced from undergoes a process of curdling, resulting in the cheese that is sold in stores.
A 2005 European Union ruling restricted the name "feta" from being used by countries other than Greece, where feta originates. Despite this ruling, you can still find numerous cheeses labeled as "feta" made in countries such as Bulgaria, France and even the United States. You may need to search in a specialty cheese store or online to find authentic feta cheese, which can be quite expensive. You can purchase full-fat, reduced-fat and non-fat fetas in most American grocery stores.
Serving Size and Calories
The typical serving size for feta cheese is 1 ounce, which basically amounts to a small palm-full of crumbled cheese. One ounce of regular, full-fat feta has 75 calories, as opposed to 70 calories in the same quantity of reduced-fat feta. There are 30 calories in 1 ounce of fat-free feta, according to Diet Facts.
Feta cheese is often touted as being a healthier cheese because it's lower in fat content. According to registered dietitian Roberta Larson Duyff in the American Dietetic Association's "Complete Food and Nutrition Guide," full-fat feta is lower in fat than most other types of cheese, but not by much. One ounce of full-fat feta cheese has 6 grams of fat, of which 4 grams are saturated fat. Looking at another popular cheese such as cheddar can give you a realistic way to compare fat content. One ounce of cheddar has 9 grams of fat, of which 6 grams are saturated. Reduced-fat feta has around 4.5 grams of fat per serving, of which 3 grams are saturated fat. Non-fat feta has zero grams of fat.
According to Duyff, choosing a full-fat feta may be a better option than choosing a full-fat cheese such as cheddar, because a little goes a long way. Feta is a full-flavored, salty cheese that contributes a strong flavor to most dishes, so you don't need as much as you would with other types of cheeses. Choosing a reduced-fat or non-fat feta can serve the same function, but you do compromise a bit on flavor with reduced and non-fat cheeses.
Feta has a high sodium content, so those on sodium-restricted diets should avoid feta or use it sparingly. Although feta is lower in fat than many cheeses, it still has a high cholesterol and saturated fat content. You should practice moderation when eating feta cheese.