Nutrients in Cheese
Cheese is produced throughout the world; it is an ancient food with origins that predate recorded history. It is a dairy product made from pressed milk curds. Different varieties are made from unripened (fresh) cheese or ripened (aged) cheese.
Cheese is a delicious and nutritious food that is very versatile. You can add it to other dishes or eat it by itself. It’s convenient and portable. There are more than 300 varieties of cheese—including American, Cheddar, Mozzarella and Colby—many of which are available in various flavors, forms (chunks, slices, cubes, shredded, grated, crumbled, sticks, spreads) and packages to meet consumers’ needs.
Health Benefits of Cheese
Cheese contains a host of nutrients like calcium, protein, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12. Calcium is one of the nutrients most likely to be lacking in the American diet. According to government statistics, nine out of 10 women and six out of 10 men fall short of calcium recommendations. The high-quality protein in cheese provides the body with essential building blocks for strong muscles. For a complete listing of the nutrients in cheese, see the table below.
If you are lactose intolerant, many cheeses, particularly aged cheeses such as Cheddar and Swiss, contain little or no lactose and are often well tolerated.
For the past 30 years or so, saturated fat—found in meats, eggs, cheese, butter, whole milk, lard and some oils—was considered a primary cause of heart disease. New research, however, is showing that saturated fat has a minimal impact on heart disease risk, which is changing the “saturated fat is bad” paradigm and allowing people to enjoy more cheese and other favorite foods. Further research is needed showing significant scientific agreement.
Even if saturated fat is less of a concern, calories still matter. To reduce calories, you can grate or sprinkle harder cheeses over your dishes or use small amounts of aromatic and sharp cheeses for their delicious cheese flavor. Many reduced-fat varieties of cheeses are also available. This 2014 article in the Food and Nutrition Magazine provides more information on the Charms and Challenges of Cheese.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that individuals ages 9 and older consume at least 3 servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day; children aged 4-8 years need 2-1/2 cups per day. One serving of cheese is one and one-half ounces of hard cheese, one-third cup for grated cheese and two ounces for processed cheese.