Manchego is a specific variety of Spanish cheese that is made from sheep’s milk. In the La Mancha region of Spain, cheese makers use grass molds to imprint a zigzag pattern on finished Manchego cheese. Other varieties of sheep’s milk cheese are known as “Manchego inspired” or “Manchego style” but are produced outside of the La Mancha region.
Manchego-Cheese.com states that a 1 oz. serving of the cheese has 20 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 300 mg calcium, 7 g protein, 150 IU vitamin A, no carbohydrates, fiber or sugar and 7 g total fat, 5 g of which are saturated.
A single ounce of Manchego cheese has about 90 calories, 70 percent of which come from fat and 30 percent of which come from protein. A larger amount of the cheese, 100 g, has 320 calories, proving that serving size can make a big difference in nutrition totals for the cheese. Additions and accompaniments are facts as well; eating an ounce of Manchego cheese with a thick slice of bread, for instance, can add 100 calories or more to the total.
Manchego cheese has a salty taste because cheese artisans rub the finished product with coarse salt or soak it in salted water before shipping it off to sell. The cheese itself is buttery, aromatic and “slightly piquant,” with an aftertaste of sheep’s milk, states Manchego-Cheese.com, which recommends pairing the cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, crusty bread, fruit, dry sherry or red wine.
No other cheese has the precise flavor, texture and appearance of Manchego, but if you’re watching your weight or have specific calorie concerns, it may be wiser to choose an alternative with a more appealing nutritional profile. Try a low-fat or reduced-fat sheep’s milk cheese for similar flavor, or simply serve yourself a very small portion of Manchego with low-calorie, healthy accompaniments, such as fresh fruit slices and whole grain crackers.
Because of its high fat content, Manchego cheese isn’t likely to do strict dieters any favors. The cheese does fit within the “dairy products” group of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid, which also recommends daily servings of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins -- although the eating plan recommends that consumers choose low-fat or nonfat dairy for the most health benefits. If weight loss is your goal, try eating Manchego cheese in moderation and as part of a balanced, low-calorie diet of more nutritious foods.
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Carly Schuna has been freelance writing and editing for more than a decade. In the lifestyle sector, her specialty areas are wellness, food/drink, and entertaining. With hundreds of recipes and nutrition-focused articles in her portfolio, Carly loves helping readers put a healthy spin on classics in the kitchen without sacrificing taste.