Whether it is eaten as string, shredded, sliced or cubed, Americans love cheese. Cheese can be eaten for any mealtime or snack occasion, even dessert. And good news for cheese lovers - cheese delivers a nice "block" of nutrients important for good health.
According to the Dairy Research Institute, cheese is a valuable source of nutrients for the calories it contains. Cheese only contributes about 5 percent of calories to the U.S. diet and makes significant nutrient contributions for good health. It's the No. 2 source of calcium in Americans' diets and also is a good source of protein (9 percent) and phosphorus (11 percent); these three nutrients are important for bone health in youth and adults. Cheese can help meet the need for calcium in those people who don't get the daily recommendation for calcium and are at risk for poor bone health. Other health benefits from milk and milk products possibly include reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and lower blood pressure in adults.
On average, Americans currently consume about two dairy servings per day. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least three servings of dairy each day for people nine years and older. A serving size of cheese is 1- ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese. A good visual reference to estimate 1- ounces cheese is four dice-sized cubes of cheese. For shredded cheese, cup equals one serving.
A little-known fact about cheese: people who are lactose intolerant can also enjoy eating cheese. During the process of making cheese, most of the lactose is removed with the whey, making cheeses such as cheddar and Swiss contain 95 percent less lactose than whole milk. Aged cheese, Parmesan and sharp cheddar contain almost no lactose.
Cheese-pleasin' tips to boost the calcium in your diet:
Top salads with shredded sharp or strong-flavored cheese such as blue or gorgonzola.
Wrap string cheese with a slice of lean deli meat for a grab-and-go, protein-packed snack.
Thread cubed cheese on a skewer alternately with veggies, such as grape tomatoes and bell pepper slices, for a salad-on-a-stick.
Spread a Laughing Cow cheese wedge on celery sticks or pretzel rods.
Roll pretzel rod in a thin slice of Swiss or Provolone cheese.
Melt shredded cheese on a toasted whole-grain muffin.
Spread Laughing Cow cheese on your sandwich in place of mayonnaise
Top grilled fish with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.
Mozzarella Pepper Salsa
All you need:
1 (8 ounce) block mozzarella cheese, diced into -inch cubes
1 cup diced roasted red peppers
2 green onions, cut diagonally into thin slices
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 head Belgian endive, separated into leaves.
All you do:
1. Combine mozzarella cheese, red peppers, green onion, fresh basil and olive oil in medium bowl; mix well. Season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate one hour or overnight. Serve on endive leaves with whole grain crackers. Yield: 3 cups
May also serve on toasted baguette whole-grain bread.
Nutrition facts per serving: 61 calories, 4 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein. 15% Daily Value calcium.
Source: Midwest Dairy Association
Katie Wilhelmi is a registered dietitian at the Marshall Hy-Vee Food Store.