Enjoy Health Benefits from Cheese, Without the Fat and Calories

California and Wisconsin may be the most famous cheese-producing states, but everywhere you go across the country, everyone seems to love cheese. Recently, a research study revealed that cheese consumption rates have increased 8% nationwide in recent years. Many consumers are coming back to their favorite cheeses in response to the popularity of low-carb diets and some studies which have touted the health benefits from cheese. Tastes, however, have been evolving away from traditional cheeses to include cheese from a variety of different ethnic cuisines...

Cheese can be found in many refrigerators across the nation. This nutritious food is made mostly from the milk of cows but also other mammals, including sheep, goats, buffalo, reindeer, camels, and even yaks. Cheese processing began nearly 4,000 years ago, according to some estimates. While this nutritious food offers much-needed calcium for many diets, the bottom line is that it is also high in calories and saturated fats. To enjoy the health benefits from cheese without the guilt, try serving cheese to the family in slightly different ways, such as with fresh fruit slices.

Health Benefits from Cheese: Bone Support

Perhaps the most widely known of the verified health benefits from cheese relates to its calcium content. Calcium can be found in a wide variety of dairy products and other foods such as leafy green vegetables. However, research shows that most Americans are eating only half the recommended three servings of dairy each day. This means many are falling short on getting calcium and other essential nutrients that dairy naturally provides. To help fill this gap many people take calcium supplements to ensure that they get the recommended daily amounts of calcium from their diet. Experts believe that adequate calcium is needed to prevent the brittle and weakened bones caused by osteoporosis in our aging population.

Recently, a consumer research firm found that 85% of Americans feel cheese is part of a healthy diet. In response, several food manufacturers are improving the health profile of their cheese by boosting vitamin D levels. Vitamin D functions to maintain blood serum concentrations of calcium and phosphorus by aiding in the absorption of the minerals from the small intestine. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to abnormalities in calcium and bone metabolism, such as rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults.

A few years ago, the Food and Drug Administration changed its policy to allow food makers to add more vitamin D3 to their cheese products, allowing them to make the claim that their cheeses are “good” or “excellent” sources of vitamin D. This new law now permits cheese processors to add vitamin D at a level slightly more than 20% of the recommended daily intake.

Saturated Fat Content in Cheese

Whether you are slicing, grating, shredding, sprinkling, or snacking on cheese, the calories and fat can add up. A serving size of natural cheese is 1.5 ounces, or about 3-4 cheese cubes. The saturated fat content in cheese can also be high, with a single string cheese stick containing five grams or more of saturated fat per serving for only 80-100 calories of cheese. With more than 400 varieties of cheese available, select cheeses that offer a unique flavor, such as feta or Parmesan, and then consider reducing the amount used in recipes.

Some nutritious options to lower saturated fat content in cheese recipes and entrées are to substitute low-fat mozzarella or ricotta in many casseroles, or top entrées with shredded cheese instead of layering it through the recipe for the appearance of a cheese-filled dish without the added fat. This can help cut the amount of cheese in recipes by half, making them more heart-healthy. However, reduced-fat or low-fat cheeses may not function as well when used in cooking. Test them in small amounts before substituting them completely in a recipe.

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