Cheese To Your Health

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Tamar Genger MA, RD
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shaved-asparagus

The holiday of Shavuot is fast approaching.   If you are a type A personality your menu has been planned for weeks…  And if you are not, there is still some time and some great ideas.  So ditch the chicken and chuck the cholent!  It is time to think outside the meat box and start spinning the cheese wheel.

Dairy might be good for our bones but is it good for our bodies? The dairy food group is the number 2 source of saturated fat and cholesterol in the American diet (after meat).   And if you are concerned about sodium (and we all should be) a slice of cheese pizza can pack as much as 900 mg of sodium – almost half your recommended daily intake.  On the plus side, cheese is an excellent source of high quality protein and calcium.  Cheese also contains vitamins, A and B12, riboflavin, phosphorous and zinc.

So, can you have your cheese and eat it too?  Of course!  Here are a few slices of advice to help you be more choosy about your cheese:

  • Skim the fat.  Whole milk cheese contains 6 to 10 g of fat per 1 ounce serving, more than half is saturated. Cut it by a third with reduced fat or part skim options.
  • Look at the labels.  Find cheese varieties with less sodium. The sodium content of cheese varies greatly.  For example, feta has approximately 317 mg per ounce while Swiss cheese has a mere 54 mg of sodium (the lowest sodium natural cheese).  On average, most natural cheeses range between 100 and 200 mg per ounce and processed cheese and cheesy foods contain 350 to 450 mg per ounce.
  • Follow the French.  Eat your cheese at the end of a meal.  Some cheeses have even been shown to protect against cavities, such as Gouda, blue, and Monterey Jack.
  • Savor the flavor.  Choose strong flavored cheeses for  maximum taste but fewer calories.  Except for my sister-in-law, I don’t know too many people that can devour blue cheese the way you might mozzarella.  The rich taste and strong smell are delicious, and deliver a powerful taste in small doses – perfect  forsprinkling on salads, shaving on pasta and crumbling on anything green.

Ready to try some healthy cheese recipes, here are a couple to get your started.  Try the gorgeous Shaved Asparagus Salad with Pecorino and these Sweet Potato Skins with Blue Cheese and Pecans.

sweet-potato-skins