HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHEESE
Some of the health benefits of cheese include relief from hypertension and osteoporosis. It also helps in maintaining bone health, gaining weight and dental care. For ages, cheese has been part and parcel of daily life in Europe, the Americas, Australia and nearly every country of the world that has a cold climate, except certain countries in the Indian Subcontinent and the Middle Eastern region. That being said, India and some of its neighboring countries have been using a slightly different form of cheese which is commonly known as “cottage cheese” or “paneer” for generations.
Unlike traditional cheese, cottage cheese is not fermented.Over the last 10 years or so, cheese has become widely popular in India and neighboring countries with multinational companies like McDonald’s stepping into these countries with their mouth watering products like pizza and hamburgers which both use a lot of cheese. Contrary to the popular belief of fresh edibles being more nutritious, fermented cheese is far more nutritious than its fresher counterpart.
Cheese is prepared from milk or milk products such as curd. There are many varieties and flavors of cheese available all around the world.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE OF CHEESE
Cheese contain many nutrients, including vitamins such as vitamin C, B-6, B-12, A, D, E and vitamin K. Other vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin are also found in different types of cheese. Intake of cheese also provides certain vital minerals such as calcium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and iron to the human body.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHEESE
The health benefits of cheese include the following:
Dental Care: Cheese has a very high calcium content, the first and foremost thing you need for strong teeth. Moreover, it is very low in lactose content. The older the cheese, the lower the lactose content. This also is beneficial for the teeth as any form of sugar (glucose, maltose or lactose) in food can harm the teeth.
Bone Health: Apart from having a very high calcium content, cheese is also rich in vitamin-B, which is very good for children, women (particularly when pregnant or lactating) and elderly people, for the formation and strengthening of bones and cartilage. The vitamin-B in cheese aids to the proper absorption and distribution of calcium.
Osteoporosis:Osteoporosis is mainly a deficiency disease which is caused due to a deficiency of calcium (non-absorption), resulting in a decrease in bone mineral density. This is particularly seen in women who have undergone menopause, elderly people and children who suffer from malnutrition. This can be treated with protein, calcium and a vitamin-rich diet. Calcium alone will not help much, because the problem is with its absorption and its utilization for bone formation. These three components are found in abundance in cheese. Therefore, cheese can be an ideal part of the diet of those suffering from osteoporosis.
Hypertension: Sodium and cholesterol are the two elements mainly considered harmful for hypertension and hypertensive people are advised to avoid them.In this way, cheese should be viewed critically. The fat content of the cheese depends very much on the quality of the milk, whether it is full fat or full cream, low fat or fat free. In general, high-fat cheeses are more popular, since they tend to taste better. But, keeping in view the public demand and health concerns, low-fat cheeses are also being introduced to the market. This means that you need to be choosy while picking cheese for your home and diet.
Don’t forget the sodium content! Although the sodium content of cheese varies according to the amount of salt added to the milk prior to cheese formation, it is never low enough to be recommended for hypertensive people, as salt is an inevitable part of cheese. In general, cheese is not recommended for people suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure). Although low sodium and low fat cheese is helpful in reducing homocysteine, an agent which is often related with heart diseases, this fact still does not make it recommendable for hypertensive people. Another thing in cheese that can help hypertensive people is the vitamin-B content, if they do choose to eat it.
Weight Gain: Cheese is an excellent food for gaining weight. Cheese is full of proteins, fats, calcium, vitamins and minerals. You need protein for muscle formation and growth, fats for fat-based processes in the body, calcium for heavier and stronger bones and vitamins and minerals for improved metabolic function. You just need to eat a lot of them, do your exercise and sleep an adequate amount.
Other Benefits: Cheese contains conjugated linoleic acid and sphingolipids which help prevent cancer. It contains a lot of vitamin-B which develops in it during the fermentation process. Vitamin-B is very good for maintaining many functions in the body and also for protection against diseases like Beriberi. It also enhances blood formation, strengthens the liver, and facilitates the absorption of nutrients in the body.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE?
Different types of cheese are available in markets all over the world. Some varieties of cheese such as fresh cheese with no preservatives are to be used within a few days of purchase as they easily spoil. Store cheese in cool places or refrigerate them. Before eating or using cheese keep it at room temperatures for better flavor and texture.
Nutrient profile & recommendations
Cheese contains the goodness of a number of essential nutrients, including protein, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B12.
The amount of nutrients in cheese may vary depending on the composition of milk used and also how the cheese is made, but the major nutrients found in cheese include: [1,2,3,4]:
Protein – is important for growth and development, and helping to build and repair tissues in the body.
Calcium – is important for the health of bones and teeth, and for normal nerve and muscle function.
Zinc – can contribute to the structure of skin, can assist in wound healing, and can also help support immune function.
Phosphorus – is important for the health of bones and teeth.
Vitamin A – is a fat soluble vitamin which is important for vision, for maintaining the health of skin, as well as being important for bones.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – is involved in converting energy from food, for use by the body.
Vitamin B12 – is important for producing cells in the body, such as red blood cells.
The Dietary Guidelines for Australians recommend that we enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods and include milk, yogurt, cheese and/or alternatives (choosing reduced fat varieties where possible), for the nutritional benefits they can provide – particularly calcium [5,6].
According to the 1995 National Nutrition Survey, dairy foods are the richest source of calcium in the Australian diet, providing over 50% of the total calcium in an adult’s diet and over 60% for children – cheese alone accounts for nearly one-fifth of this (approximately 18%) .
The recently released Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand recommend 1000mg of calcium per day for adults (19-50 years)*. This can be achieved with 3-4 serves of dairy per day, whereby a serve of dairy is equal to:
1 cup milk (250mL)
2 slices of cheese (40g)
1 tub yogurt (200g) .
Therefore, cheese can help meet the recommended daily intake of dairy foods and calcium. It’s easy!
*The food law in Australia has not yet updated the recommended dietary intake (RDI) levels for use on food labelling and packaging. These are still calculated using 800mg for adults.
Cheese And Grapes
Cheese is an excellent source of protein (1).
One thick slice of cheddar cheese (28 g) contains about 6.7 g of protein, which is similar to what you get from a glass of milk.
The majority of proteins in cheese belong to a family of milk proteins called casein.
Milk proteins are of excellent quality, rich in essential amino acids, and highly digestible.
Casein is the largest family of proteins in milk, the most abundant of which is alpha-casein.
It has some unique health effects and may promote lower blood pressure (2, 3) and increased absorption of minerals from the digestive tract (4).
Bottom Line: Cheese is a rich source of high-quality protein, mainly casein.
The fat content of cheese is highly variable, depending on the type of cheese.
It can range from 1% in cottage cheese (5) to 34% or higher in cream cheese (6).
Cheese fat is highly complex, containing hundreds of different fatty acids (7).
It is very high in saturated fat (70%), but also provides a fair amount of monounsaturated fat.
Bottom Line: The proportion of fat in cheese is highly variable, depending on the type. The fat is mainly saturated.
RUMINANT TRANS FATS
Cheese contains a family of trans fats called ruminant trans fats or dairy trans fats.
Unlike trans fats found in processed foods, ruminant trans fats are considered to have health benefits when consumed in reasonable amounts.
The most abundant ruminant trans fats are vaccenic acid and conjugated linoleic acid, commonly abbreviated as CLA (7).
CLA appears to have several health benefits (8, 9, 10) and may promote weight loss in overweight individuals (11).
However, large doses from CLA supplements may have harmful metabolic consequences (12, 13).
Bottom Line: A small proportion of cheese fat is so-called ruminant trans fat, which may have several health benefits.
Cheese Assortment Vacuum Packed
The carbohydrate content of cheese is very variable, depending on the brand, type, and stage of maturation.
The major carbohydrate in milk is lactose (milk sugar). During cheese production, some of the lactose is broken down into glucose and galactose.
However, the extent of lactose breakdown depends on the type of cheese.
Lactose tends to be low in aged cheese, such as cheddar (1), but higher in fresh cheese, such as cream cheese (6) and cottage cheese.
Therefore, moderate consumption of well ripened cheese is usually well tolerated by those with lactose intolerance.
Bottom Line: Cheese contains small amounts of carbohydrates, mainly lactose. Certain types of cheese are not suitable for people who are lactose intolerant.
VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Young woman Biting Cheese
Cheese is a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals.
This is not surprising, given that an entire cup of milk is used to produce 1 slice of cheese.
Calcium: Cheese is among the richest dietary sources of calcium, which plays an essential role in bone health (14).
Vitamin B12: Also called cobalamin, vitamin B12 is important for the function of the nervous system (15).
Sodium: Added to cheese to increase shelf life and taste. Small amounts are naturally present in milk.
Phosphorus: An essential mineral widely available in foods, especially processed foods, and its intake is high in the Western diet (16).
Selenium: Cheese is a good source of selenium, a dietary mineral with several important functions in the body (17).
Zinc: An essential trace element that serves a diversity of functions (18).
Riboflavin: Also called vitamin B2. Cheese and other dairy products are the main dietary source of riboflavin in the Western diet (19).
Vitamin A: One of the most abundant vitamins in milk fat.
Vitamin K2: Cheese is often an excellent source of vitamin K2, also called menaquinone. Adequate intake of K2 is important in maintaining bone and heart health (20).