By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Cheese has a long history in the human diet. In ancient times, cheese was primarily a concentrated form of milk with the benefit of a prolonged shelf life. The high content of fat and protein in cheese made it an energy-rich and nutritious food that was suitable for our hardworking ancestors.
Recent advances in nutrition science have highlighted the contribution of cheese to nutrition and health. Cheese is a rich source of essential nutrients; in particular, proteins, bioactive peptides, amino acids, fat, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
Cheese is one of the most ancient forms of manufactured food. It is thought that cheese-making could go as far back as 10 000 BC when sheep and goats were first domesticated in the Middle East and early herdsmen would have consumed milk (1).
Fermentation of the milk sugars would cause the milk to curdle and the swaying motion would break up the curd and provide solid curd and drinkable whey. The curds would be removed, drained and lightly salted to provide a tasty and nourishing high protein food. The Romans then elevated this crude cheese-making to an early semblance of technology and spread it to various European regions. The basic reason for purposely processing milk into cheese is to preserve a perishable food and to convert it into a stable and storable product. It also expands the variety of food (2).
The amount of cheese consumption has risen continuously in recent years worldwide. Today the main reason for the consumption of cheese is not the prevention of hunger but the supply of important and essential nutrients, its manifold uses in the kitchen, and its enjoyment.
Types of cheese:
A large variety of cheeses has been produced in the world to meet the requirements of taste and health need of individuals. Among the varieties, Cheddar was found to be more popular variety in UK and Mozzarella in USA. Following are the different types of cheese-
• Cottage cheese (full-fat)
• Cottage cheese (fat-free)
• Cream cheese
• Ricotta cheese
• Cheddar cheese
• Gouda cheese
• Mozzarella cheese
• Full-fat processed cheese
• Medium fat processed cheese spread
• Blue cheese
Nutrition Composition: (3)
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one slice (1 oz) (28g) of Cheddar cheese:
Calories: 113 kcal
Fat: 9.3 gm
Sodium: 174 mg
Carbohydrates: 0.4 gm
Sugars: 0.1 gm
Protein: 7.0 gm
Calcium: 202 mg
Health benefits of Cheese: (4)
- The potential and the nutrient significant of cheese are of wide range due to the presence of potentially significant amount of both saturated and unsaturated fat. Certain fats in cheese are found to be health beneficial, such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which shows various biological activity include anticancer, antithrombotic, antidiabetic and anti-atherosclerosis.
- Cheese contains concentrated source of calcium and it helps in the prevention of osteoporosis of future.
- Among the various vitamins in cheese, water soluble vitamins are extensively lost during the cheese preparation. But some water soluble vitamins are retained, such as niacin, folate and vitamin B12. Folic acid is important for the reduction of homocysteine in blood.
- Fat soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin A, are essential in immune system which also found high in cheese.
- Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) also play an important role in the enhancement of nutritional components of cheese by the production of certain exopolysaccharides. It enhances the flavour of cheese during ripening by the action of its enzymes. It also produces certain peptides and amino acids which increase the bioactivities of cheese.
- Cheeses provide a good source of peptides and amino acids from casein and thereby prevent the dismantling of vital proteins in our body. Caseins in cheese are of nutritionally rich due to the high supply of essential amino acids, phosphate and calcium. They also act as a good source of energy in the human diet.
- Among the biologically active peptides in cheese ACE- inhibiting peptides make up the major contribution. These peptides are of particularly important because it enhances the level of vasodilatory peptide (bradykinin) and corresponding decrease in the vasoconstrictory peptide (angiotensin-II) which ultimately results in the reduction of risk of cardio vascular disease (CVD).
- Cheese is a rich source of major and minor minerals which include calcium, phosphorous, sodium, chloride, potassium and zinc which are required by our diet.
- Consumption of cheese with probiotic bacteria has various health enhancing effects such as increasing the saliva secretion rate and thereby enhancing the oral health with reducing the hypo salivation and the mouth dryness. The consumption of cheese with L. rhamnosus HN001 and L. acidophilus are found to increase the immune response of healthy elderly people.
- Vedamuthu E.R., Washam C., Cheese, in: Reed G. (Ed.), Biotechnology, Verlag Chemie, Weinheim, Germany, 1983, pp. 231–313.