Cheese is Good for You – Yeah!

Variety of cheeses on serving platter

Variety of cheeses on serving platter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cheese just might be my favorite food.  As much as I love chocolate and enjoy a sweet pastry from time to time, cheese is often a staple of my diet.  I love the taste of melted cheese with broccoli or spinach in an omelet.  What would veal parmigiani or pasta alfredo be without cheese?  And I love eating small chunks of cheese while sipping a drink at a cocktail party.


There are over 2000 thousand different types of cheese.  Probably every country around the globe creates its own type of cheese.  The varieties occur because there are different local animals, such as cows, goats, sheep, yaks, buffalo and even rheindeer.  Cheese processing is also influenced by the climate, the soil, the machinery used and the skills of the producers.


Cheese has gotten a bad name in our current society which appears to be diet conscious, health conscious, anti-cholesterol, and anti-fat.  Sometimes it seems that in the name of health, we are becoming anti anything that tastes good.  Cheese tastes good.  It supplements so many different types of dishes.  It can be used in appetizers, main dishes, and desserts.  It is often melted inside of bread, poured on top of vegetables, pasta and rice or served atop our favorite protein: fish, poultry, meat, and even tofu.


As tasty and interesting as the different types of cheese can be, it has been wrongly blamed for causing health problems in the average person’s diet.  If cheese was such a villain, all French people would be overweight and ill.  But it seems that the French actually have a lower rate of heart disease and population less overweight than in North America.  Research has suggested that it is the red wine, a staple in French cuisine that protects the heart and brain as people age.


Research actually reveals that cheese can be good for you.  It actually takes the nutritional power of milk and adds so many different flavors and textures.  According to Danish researchers, a modest amount of hard cheese (13% of overall calories), unlike butter, does not affect your cholesterol levels.  The calcium in cheese seems to help with the excretion of fats and may even help with weight loss.  But there are more benefits.


There are 4 ingredients in that create the variety and protective power of cheese.

  • Milk from animals
  • Rennet or curdling agents – bind the protein and fat
  • Salt – stops acidification, slows the release of the whey, prevents spoilage by bacteria
  • Microbial cultures – help the digestive tract

The fermentation process by which cheeses age actually produces bacterial organisms that may be beneficial to the gut.  And these microbes also affect the fatty acids during digestion, possibly stopping the buildup of cholesterol.


Cheese that is processed with those main ingredients can really be a healthy addition to most people’s diets.  However, all cheese is not equal.  There are processed cheese products that look like, resemble and may even function like cheese, but are filled with chemical preservatives and other ingredients that may not  be beneficial to our health.

 

Choose your cheese carefully and savor the flavor.

 

Warmly,

 

Dr. Erica

 

 



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