Health

Real cheese

Fuelling Your Body

BY FITZ-GEORGE
RATTRAY

Sunday, June 10, 2018

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CHEESE has been on quite the roller coaster ride in recent decades. Is it bad for your health? Isn't it naturally filled with proteins and calcium for your bones and good for your health? Aren't the saturated fats in cheese unhealthy?

This debate has been going back and forth, so let us examine some of these issues and get to the core and figure out which cheeses, if any, are good for you.

Before we continue, let's be clear: If you have any hint of allergic reactions or intolerances to cheeses, avoid them altogether. If you would like to figure out which type of cheese may be safe for you — low-lactose, lactose-free, low-fat and so on —see your physician and have your options examined.

In last week's article we took a close look at cheese products and cheese foods which are made from 51 per cent or less cheese, and the rest made of some mixture of emulsifiers, oils, preservatives, colouring and so on. This week we are looking at real cheese.

What is real cheese?

Real cheeses are made from the addition of enzymes and bacteria to milk and allowing it to coagulate. The type of cheese produced is dependent on factorsincluding the type of enzymes, moisture content, stirring, draining, the source animal, the feeding of the animal, even the climate and the time of year, and so much more.

Why did cheese get a bad name?

Since real cheeses are so natural, the only real cautions come from its dairy origins. As an animal-source food, the negativity surrounding the hormones, lactose and saturated fats contained in milk have fallen squarely on cheese. Special fears lay in the saturated fat and sodium content of many cheeses, and there is no denying that cheeses are rich in both.

A diet high in sodium and saturated fat is likely to increase the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Clearly, eating cheese and other saturated fat sources, red meats etc, to a high extent is highly ill-advised, but, how much is safe?

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee issued a report recommending limiting total daily saturated fats to less than 17 grams per day, or seven per cent of total calories based on a 2,000-kilocalorie diet.

How can cheese be healthy?

Cheeses contain almost as much protein as it does fat, making it relatively high in protein. Unfortunately however, although this makes cheese a protein source, it's not an ideal one since the closer you get to your protein requirements the more you exceed your safe daily saturated fat intake. Cheese also contains minerals such as bone-building calcium (roughly 200 mg/ounce of cheddar cheese), potassium and magnesium, and vitamins such as riboflavin, vitamin D and the all-important B12.

According to a 2016 paper published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, in reasonable quantities, 1/2 to 2 ounces of cheese may actually be beneficial to your health. This is perhaps also in part to the presence of palmitoleate, a very special fatty acid abundant in full-fat dairy products which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and neutralises the damage caused by saturated fatty acids, and which acts on sugars with insulin-type actions.

Additionally, as a fermented food, cheese contains good bacteria which might be beneficial to your gut microbiota, reducing inflammation and improving gut health and metabolism.

When considering cheeses in your healthy lifestyle, remember the following:

• Real cheeses are your only real options. Processed cheese products/foods are not a safe option.

• Although cheeses are a protein source, they are not a great alternative to protein food because the protein content is close to its fat content.

• Serving size is critical, 1/2 to 2 ounces per day can add to your health. More can detract from your health.

• Choose cheeses which are, per ounce, 108 calories or less (preferably 50 calories give or take), roughly 8 grams fat — the less the better — and 4 or more grams of protein — the more the better.

• Remember you may be taking in other fats in your day, so always take that into consideration when you decide how much, if any, cheese you will be having.

Follow these basic guidelines so you can have cheese in your life and also remain healthy.

Fitz-George Rattray is the director of Intekai Academy, which is focused on helping people live a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and weight management. If you are interested in losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle, give them a call at 968-8238, or visit their website at intekaiacademy.org .

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