Dump the Cheese Myths: Enjoy This Nutritional Powerhouse
Natural cheeses provide many nutritional benefits.
If you purchase cheese made from high-quality milk, you will give your body the benefits of protein, calcium, heart healthy omega-3 fats, vitamins A, D, B2 (riboflavin), B12, and K2 – plus minerals such as zinc and phosphorous. Cheese made from the milk of grass-fed cows is best.
You will want to avoid processed cheese products that typically contain unhealthy additives. Their labels indicate a “pasteurized process” was used during manufacture and will list ingredients such as sodium phosphate, sodium citronate and artificial coloring. Many of their labels read, “No refrigeration needed.” Velveeta, Cheez Whiz and other squeeze or spray cheeses are examples of products to leave on the store shelf.
The Powerful Nutrient Trio Found in Cheese
Cheese contains the powerful nutrient trio of calcium, vitamin K2 and vitamin D3. They work together to protect our brain, bones and heart. For instance, vitamin K2 directs calcium to where it is needed in the body – to our bones and teeth. This prevents calcium from getting deposited in our arteries and soft tissues, where it can be harmful. Cheeses containing the most vitamin K2 are Gouda, Brie and Edam. Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, hard goat cheese and Gruyere are also good sources.
What About Salt?
Cheese does contain salt. For instance, 100 grams of Feta cheese contains 1,200 mg of sodium. However, that is 300 mg fewer than people get from eating 100 grams of Chicken McNuggets. Many meals we enjoy at popular restaurants contain 3,000 to 8,000 mg of sodium.
In the U.S., about 90 percent of our dietary salt comes from eating restaurant and packaged foods. Only 10 to 11 percent comes from foods prepared at home, and cooking with sea salt lowers that percentage. It is easy to see that consuming too much sodium does not come from snacking on cheese or cooking with it, but from eating out often and consuming too many processed products.
What About Fats?
Eating natural foods that contain saturated fats does not lead to obesity or heart disease. Our bodies need plenty of healthy fats to function properly. What many nutritionists recommend is to stop worrying about fats and avoid consuming refined grains as well as processed/packaged meals, and to cut back on eating sugary foods.
June is National Dairy Month, a good time to dump the myths about eating cheese and enjoy its wonderful flavors and health benefits.