Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cheese is good but is it good for you?

With the New Year comes a clean slate. And on that slate we want to write a new set of rules for ourselves. This is the time of year for New Year's resolutions. We may say to ourselves this year I will lose that 20 pounds, or go to the gym, or eat healthy. These resolutions have the best intentions in January but are often forgotten by July. Why is it so hard to keep a New Year's resolution? I think it's because we can be too hard on ourselves and get frustrated and give up. Maybe you shouldn't set yourself up to start the New Year with multiple resolutions, just try one. And it's OK if you don't stick to it 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Just don't beat yourself up and give up when you fall off the wagon.

One great resolution is to eat healthy. By eating healthy you may even lose weight and have more energy and maybe even want to go to the gym. Eat more fruits and veggies and avoid sugar and processed foods. But where does that leave cheese? We know that cheese tastes good but it is good for you? I argue that yes, cheese is good for you but it does depend on the cheese. First I will argue why cheese is good for you, then which cheeses are the best for you and which should be avoided.

Cheese is a wonderful source of protein and calcium packed in a small size. A little bit of cheese goes a long way. One ounce of Cheddar cheese has 9 grams of fat, 6 of which are saturated fat but it also has 7 grams of protein and 20% of the USDA recommended serving of calcium. One ounce of Brie has 8 grams of fat 5 of which are saturated fat but it also has 6 grams of protein. This information came from

Do not fear fat, we need it for many reasons. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble which means they cannot be absorbed without the aid of fats. We also need fat to convert carotene to vitamin A. Keep track of your fats but do not avoid fat altogether. The Truth about Saturated Fats is an article written by Mary Enig, PhD, and Sally Fallon which explores fats and saturated fat in depth. You can read more at:

In order to unlock some of the nutritional benefits of certain vegetables like spinach, fat must be consumed as the nutrients are fat soluble. Eating a salad with fat free dressing is rather pointless unless you have some cheese sprinkled on top. Moderation and variety are very important in a healthy diet. Eat cheese with fruits, veggies, and whole grain bread.

Cheese can make you feel good. A diet lacking in animal fat may also increase depression. Cheese contains tyrosine which is an amino acid that exists in high concentrations in cheese. Ever have an aged Gouda with yummy lovely crunchy bits? That is tryosine which becomes crunchy during the aging process. During aging, the amino acid chain unravels leaving behind crunchy tryosine. Tryosine can help you sleep, reduce effects of stress, ease depression as well as PMS, and increase energy. Another fun cheese rush comes from casomorphin. Our bodies turn casein into casomorphin. This is an opioid which may account for the addictive nature of cheese and why you want a nap after a cheese feast. But I have never heard of anyone going into rehab for casomorphin.

The best cheese comes from animals that are grass fed and cheeses that are made with raw milk. Eating cheese made from the milk of grass feed animals provides more CLA's, conjugated linoleic acid. This fat is believed to have anti-cancer properties, help maintain a healthy weight and be good for you heart. Cheeses made from the milk of animals who have been grass fed have more omega-3 fats and a better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. These cheeses are also higher in nutrients like Vitamin A, D, and E, as well as beta-carotene which gives butter made from grass fed milk its bright yellow color.

Raw milk cheeses are wonderful because they are easier to digest and have more nutrients. Pasteurization kills the good bacteria and heat sensitive nutrients along with the bad bacteria. Some of these good bacteria help us digest cheese. Cheese is easier to digest than milk because it is lower in lactose and the bacteria added to create cheese are digesting it before we are. Raw milk cheese has more of these helpful bacteria. I think raw milk is wonderful to drink and for cheesemaking. Some argue that raw milk can cure allergies. If you drink raw goat milk from goats that eat poison ivy, you can develop an immunity to poison ivy.

Cheeses that I would avoid at all cost are overly processed, individually wrapped, come in spray form, and imitation cheeses. I do not like the taste of processed cheese and find they usually taste like plastic. I hate when a cheese says processed cheese product, or cheese food. Processed cheese and imitation cheeses tend to contain too many ingredients, additives, and preservatives. One great thing about cheese is that it usually has just a few ingredients.

I try to avoid anything that is overly processed especially soy. I am fine with tofu and edamame, natural soy products but am distrusting of partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Soy cheeses are usually lacking in flavor, meltability, and filled with additives, preservatives, and oil. Cheese made from tofu and soy are unnatural. Processed soy products can have negative health affects and disrupt estrogen. You can read more at:

When dieting, do not give up on flavor. Why eat something if it is fat free but tasteless. Why not just skip it all together and save it for something worthwhile? Flavor comes from fat and it is fat that satisfies us and gives a feeling of fullness. There are many cheeses on the market that are made with skim milk. They may not be advertised as low fat but are lower in fat than cheeses made with whole milk. One example would be Jarlsberg, a Norwegian cheese that has a "swiss" cheese flavor. I have also enjoyed Kerrygold Reduced Fat Cheddar. It tasted like the real thing whereas many other reduced fat Cheddars have a plastic taste. I have not yet found a fat free cheese worth eating and think one does not exist.

If you are trying to lose weight and love cheese, don't cut cheese out all together but let the cheese stand alone. Leave the cheese off your sandwich, burger, eggs, fries, and skip the pizza. If you want to indulge in cheese, have a small amount of the best cheese you can find and enjoy it simply with fruit, veggies, and bread. May your New Year be filled with delicious cheese and all your resolutions come true!

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