Cheese: A Food that Has Withstood the Test of Time

June 04, 2015

Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese. ─ Luis Bunuel

Cheese, cheese, glorious cheese. This seemingly simple snack food has endured throughout much of history.

Some sources date cheese making back to occurring in Middle East over 7,500 years ago. Legend has it that the first cheese was made by accident. An Arabian merchant decided to store his supply of milk in a pouch made of a sheep’s stomach to help preserve it during his journey across the desert. Little did he know that the rennet (enzyme) plus the heat of the sun would separate the milk into curds and whey.

Since then, cheese and cheese making has been documented throughout much of history. The Romans helped bring the art of cheese making to Europe, while the Pilgrims added cheese to their supply list as they travelled to the Americas on the Mayflower. 

With June 4 being National Cheese Day, let’s explore this timeless, nutrient-rich food and how it can fit into almost any eating plan. 

Milk, salt, a starter culture (think good bacteria) and rennet are the four simple ingredients that make up natural cheese. With milk being one of its key ingredients, most cheeses can boast that they are an excellent source of calcium. In fact cheese is the number two source of dietary calcium in Americans’ diets, making it a great option to help fill the calcium gap in American children and adults.  Since calcium helps with bone growth, encouraging adolescents to choose high calcium foods, like low-fat cheese, often can help optimize their bone health. Additionally, thanks to milk, cheese also contains high-quality protein. Eating foods with high-quality protein, as part of a diet higher in protein, can help one feel satisfied longer between meals and help to reduce muscle loss in the aging population.

Your clients may have a rainbow of other health concerns and nutrition requirements. Cheese can help meet many of their eating plans. See which type of cheeses can be a suitable option for these five health needs. NOTE: the cheeses suggested are not an all-inclusive list.

Concern #1: “I am trying to watch my sodium intake.”

Try: Swiss and fresh mozzarella cheese are naturally low in sodium

Concern #2: “I am trying to watch the amount of fat in my diet.”

Try: Lower fat cheese options

Concern #3: “I need to get more calcium in my diet.”

Try: Swiss or Cheddar

Concern #4: “I am trying to get more protein in my diet.”

Try: Cottage cheese or natural cheese like Gouda

Concern #5: “I need to watch the amount of lactose I eat.”

Try: Natural cheese like Cheddar or mozzarella

NOTE: Natural cheeses contain minimal amounts of lactose because during the cheese making process most of the lactose is removed when the curds are separated from the whey. 

So as you are enjoying your next cheesy delicacy, hum this catchy tune—“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of Cheese),” a parody of the Eurythmics’ song “Sweet Dreams.”

Sweet dreams are made of cheese

who am I do diss a brie?

It’s Camembert world and Edam seas –

Everybody’s looking Port Salut –…

National Dairy Council Dairy Good Christine Cliff
Christine Cliff, MPH, RDN, LDN