Cheese making has been in practice for over 8,000 years by various cultures around the world. Throughout history, many animals have been valued for their milk, including camels, bison, goats, and yaks. Today, the majority of dairy production comes from cow’s milk, increasing by 50% over the last 40 years. While the percentage of milk consumption in liquid form has decreased, the popularity of cheese has been on the rise, with each person eating an average of 34 pounds a year as of 2012.
However, not all cheeses are created equal. Most cheeses get a bad rap. We hear about how it is unhealthy, negatively contributing to our waistline and increasing the number on the scale. While all cheeses should be eaten in moderation, there are some that are a good addition to your shopping list, including swiss, feta, part-skim mozzarella, parmesan, and cottage cheese. These are a great source of many essential vitamins and minerals, and can help you avoid common health issues.
1. Cheese Can Prevent Osteoporosis
Our parents always instructed us to drink our milk as children, telling us that the calcium and vitamin D would help us to build strong bones. The truth is our bone mass continues to grow throughout childhood and adolescence, reaching its peak density around age 30. From there, the aging process begins to thin our bones over time. It is easy to see that the greater your bone density is at this point, the less effect aging will have on your skeletal integrity.
Unfortunately, inadequate bone mass can contribute to the development of osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by fragile, porous bones, and it affects over 10 million Americans, 80% of which are women. It is the leading cause of fractures, with 1.5 million estimated each year (particularly in the wrist, hip, or vertebrae). The cause can be attributed to low consumption or poor absorption of calcium, which causes the bones to slowly break down.
Balanced nutrition can help you avoid the development of osteoporosis. You need to ensure you are receiving adequate amounts or protein, calcium, and vitamin D. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum daily intake of 400 to 500 mg of calcium per day for people over 50 and at risk for fractures. Dairy products, particularly cheese fortified with vitamin D, can be a great way to consume the correct balance of vitamins and minerals.
Bottom Line: Increasing your calcium and protein intake with cheese can keep your bones strong, and help prevent osteoporosis.