Cheese – As Good For You As It Is Good

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Cheese: A whole spectrum of flavors, and it’s good for you too.
(cc) Jessica Spengler

If names like Emmental, Roquefort, Monterey Jack, Brie, and of course Cheddar get your mouth watering, you’re obviously a cheese lover. (On the other hand, if names like Dorset Blue Vinney, Czechoslovakian sheep’s milk cheese, Venezuelan Beaver Cheese, and Wensleydale ring a bell, you’re probably a Monty Python fan, and can likely recite their Cheese Shop sketch from memory.) Cheese has been around for centuries and can be a part of a healthy diet.

But how can that be? Isn’t cheese one of those guilty pleasures, something that tastes good but isn’t good for you? On the contrary; cheese is included in the U.S. Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And if you live in another country … cheese is good for you too.

Cheese is a source of protein and contains vitamins and nutrients that keep the body healthy and may help prevent or at least reduce the likelihood of hypertension, obesity, colon cancer, and osteoporosis. Of course, as a dairy product, cheese contains calcium, essential to the maintenance of bones and teeth. But it also contains vitamin A, good for night vision and healthy skin; niacin, essential to normal growth, tissue formation, and the body’s ability to extract energy from food; and vitamin B12, necessary for proper red blood cell formation. Cheeses may also contain magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous.

Cheese also contains less lactose than whole milk, since during the cheese-making process most of the lactose ends up in the whey, not the curds. And cheese is a good choice for those who wish to reduce their gluten intake.

The bad news? Cheese also contains sodium and fat. How much of each depends on the specific type of cheese. Given that there are over 2,000 varieties, chances are you can find one that agrees with both your taste buds and your diet. For example, Parmesan, Romano, and Mozzarella tend to be lower in fat, while Swiss, Monterey Jack, and Ricotta are lower in sodium. If in doubt, check the label. In many countries, food labels, including those on cheeses, must list the nutritional content of the food, as well as such factors as sodium and fat content.

Of course, cheese is only part of the diet/health equation. The French typically eat nearly twice as much cheese as Americans, yet their population has only a third as many obese adults and they’re only half as likely to suffer from hypertension. One factor may be that the mold in Roquefort cheese, common in France, has anti-inflammatory properties. Another factor — a subject for another time — is the judicious inclusion of wine with their meals.

How can you add cheese to your diet? The possibilities are virtually endless. Try any of the hundreds of varieties cubed with a selection of fruits, crackers, and breads. Have Cheddar, Mozzarella, or Monterey Jack melted in a grilled cheese sandwich. Try a wedge of aged Cheddar over a slice of warm apple pie. For a change, put Feta on your pizza instead of Mozzarella, or Havarti and Gouda on your macaroni instead of Cheddar. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try unusual cheeses in unusual combinations. And don’t be afraid to visit your local cheese emporium and ask for Wensleydale. He’ll be happy to recommend some cheesy comestibles.

Indulge your cheese craving with an Igourmet Pub Cheese Assortment from Amazon!

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