Healthy Cheese?

With the vast majority of the American population, especially kids, lacking enough calcium for strong bones and teeth, it’s time to get creative and find flavorful new ways for your family to get the recommended daily amount. Even individuals who are watching their fat intake or lactose intolerant can benefit from eating cheese. Small amounts of cheese, which are easier to digest than milk due to the fermentation process, can provide large amounts of calcium. What better way to get your body strong than to enjoy some flavorful, delicate cheeses from around the world.

Cheese became popular around 4000 years ago when people started breeding animals and processing their milk to produce cheese, a great source of calcium and protein. Cheese is most commonly made from cows milk, however, there are varieties made from other mammals including sheep, goats, buffalo, reindeer, camels and yaks. One of the most nutritious cheeses in terms of low calories, high protein and calcium, is Romano cheese with 452 mg of calcium and only 165 calories per 1.5 ounces. Other good sources of calcium include: Swiss, part-skim ricotta, pasteurized process American, provolone, part-skim mozzarella and cheddar cheese.

Need a little more excitement and like to experiment with flavor? There are many varieties of cheeses, some with mild flavor, strong flavor, some soft, some hard, with flavors and textures for all palates. Check the yellow pages for cheese shops in your area or visit your local specialty market, supermarket or farmer’s market. Try samples, ask for recommendations, and enjoy. Cheese is great for entertaining, as a fondue, as a snack in your child’s lunch, or a mid-afternoon treat or appetizer before dinner. Be sure to store and serve cheese at recommended temperatures and choose cheeses for children, pregnant women and people with weaker immune systems that are pasturized. Most cheeses are; however some softer cheeses such as brie and cheeses in other countries, though flavorful and quite safe for adults in good health, can contain bacteria that can make some people ill.

Try cheese cubes as a snack or appetizer or cheese slices on crackers or in your favorite sandwich. Try shredded or grated cheese on fresh or baked pasta, in soups, salads or on vegetables. Remember a little goes a long way and you can mix flavors. Savor the taste and texture and enjoy with your favorite beverage!