National Dairy Month celebrates milk, yogurt, and cheese during the month of June. Nutrient-rich dairy foods are the most affordable sources of healthy nutrition. Dairy products are not just for the young.
Cheese is an excellent source of nutrition and the No. 2 source of calcium in the American diet. It provides a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein and fat. Even with lactose intolerance, cheese can be consumed because most of the lactose is removed during the cheese making process.
The fats in cheese are saturated, which are considered harmful fats which increase the risk of heart disease, but ounce for ounce the amount of saturated fat in cheese is overshadowed by the high-quality proteins and amino acids it contains. Omega-3 fats, as well as, vitamins and minerals, including calcium, zinc, phosphorus, vitamins A, D, B2, and B12 are part of healthy nutrition from cheese. Linoleic acid from cheese has been proven to be a powerful cancer fighter.
Natural cheese is a simple fermented dairy product which requires refrigeration. Processed cheese foods are adulterated varieties of natural cheeses. Typically, they come in a box or a can which do not require refrigeration. If the label says processed or cheese food, the nutritional value, and quality have been compromised.
Cheese cannot be made without salt. Salt activates the enzymes and microorganisms during the process that influences the taste, acceptance, food safety, body, texture and shelf life of the product.
This sodium content of cheese is often a wise reason to remove it from the grocery cart. Comparatively the salt in cheese is relatively low considering all of the other high sodium sources in the American diet.
Choosing Swiss, Monterey Jack, ricotta, Parmesan, or low sodium versions of Colby, provolone, mozzarella, Muenster or Cheddar contain reduced amounts of sodium. In general, softer, less-aged cheeses require less salt than the harder aged ones.
Lower fat varieties are Parmesan, Romano or part-skim Mozzarella. Check labels because some cottage, ricotta, Cheddar, Swiss, Colby, Muenster, and American cheeses are made in a lower fat version.
Swiss, Cheddar, ricotta, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Gouda or Colby have more calcium than others. Those with more protein per ounce include Swiss, cottage, ricotta, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Gouda, Colby, provolone and Muenster.
One ounce of cheese can contain between 72 to 172 calories, depending on the type. Cheese is often considered a bad food because like potato chips, it is hard to eat just one ounce and the calories add up.
Studies with elderly eaters show that several components of cheese, including the amino acid tyramine, may be responsible for its association with improved cognitive function. Choosing only one ounce of cheese as a daily snack can help with brain function.
Consider choosing natural cheese while celebrating June, National Dairy Month. Thank a cow.
Bobbie Randall is a registered, licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator in Wooster, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.