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Monday, 31 January 2011

Say 'Cheese' but NOT on everything!

Cheese is a wonderful, nutritious, and amazing food! The vast array of varieties offer an unbelievable taste experience and depending on its aged-ness, the tastes and textures make it even more intriguing and delectable. In countries, such as Holland and France -- thank goodness, there are still bona fide cheese shops, where cheese is the exclusive product sold and savoured.

Buying cheese in The Netherlands is a lesson, in itself, about cheese! When one can be regaled by the 'kaasboer' with the difference between young and old cheese -- both in the making AND the tasting -- well -- it's an experience that I HIGHLY recommend and is not to be missed, if you ever find yourself visiting Holland -- even if your visit is for other reasons -- ie -- the flower fields, the Van Gogh and Rijks museums, the Anne Frank House, and to see Amsterdam, in general.

Similarly, for soft cheeses, one can't beat France. I once visited a farm in the town of Meaux in the Brie region of France. This is where one of the finest Brie cheeses is produced, named, 'oddly enough' -- Brie de Meaux. It was here that the CALCIUM content of cheese REALLY hit home when I learned that over 25 LITERS OF MILK is used in the making of just ONE WHEEL of Brie de Meaux.

So, indeed, cheese is an excellent source of CALCIUM, containing a range of 55-260+ mg PER OUNCE among the natural hard cheese varieties (cheddar, brick, cheshire, swiss, gruyere, colby, muenster, gouda, edam, etc).Cheese is also a great source of Phosphorus. It also contains a fair source of Potassium. And, it is a great source of complete protein -- around 6.0-7.0 grams per ounce.

But, of course, one HAS to be aware that cheese is also HIGH in kcalories, fat, and Sodium.

On average, ONE OUNCE of hard cheese contains about 100 kcals +/- 20 kcals, 8.0 grams FAT, and 100 -- 400 mg of sodium! Processed cheeses like American contain even more kcalories, fat, and sodium!

So, an OUNCE of cheese -- which is the equivalent of about FOUR DIE (as in dice) is almost as high in kcalories as a scant TABLESPOON of butter, has more than half the fat of a Tablespoon of butter, and can yield about a third of the recommended daily sodium amounts for most people!

Which is WHY -- DO ENJOY CHEESE, but NOT in the copious amounts that it is obviously being consumed in the past 25 years!

Cheese seems to be added to everything these days! People seem to think it is NORMAL to slap on 1-2 slices of cheese when making a sandwich or on top of a cheeseburger. Instead of just sprinkling cheese over an 'au gratin' type dish -- often we LAYER a thick topping over the other ingredients and we end up getting MUCH more fat, kcalories, and sodium for a dish than we think. We seem to 'slather' cheese over Nachos and other Mexican dishes, Italian dishes, and even on baked potatoes, broccoli and other vegetables, and any sandwich, in general we're consuming.

It's just WRONG! In fact, IMO, this ubiquitous use of cheese is as contributory to the obesity (and possible sequelae -- HBP, HTN, CVD, DM, metabolic syndrome) epidemic as the guzzling of sugary soft drinks.

It HAS to stop!

PLEASE ENJOY cheese in MODERATION, if not, even better -- in scant and thoughtful amounts. I guarantee -- you will enjoy the flavour, texture, and beauty of cheese EVEN MORE than when you eat large amounts of it.

Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, Neufchatel, Blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, etc. are so concentrated and punget, that often people self-regulate the amounts consumed -- but even with these cheeses -- watch your intake! -- especially if you use them to make sauces. And, pregnant women must avoid soft cheeses for the listeria microorganisms which could be harmful to the developing fetus.

Cheese like ricotta and cottage are also very nutritious, but always try to choose the SKIM, and/or LOW-FAT versions -- even though these are STILL quite high in sodium and actually, depending on the %fat, could also be appreciably high in fat and kcals -- check LABELS!

If you have any further questions about specific cheeses -- please feel free to ask me.

But, overall, my message is -- ENJOY CHEESE, but in small amounts! Discover the beautiful tastes, textures, and uniqueness of foods WITHOUT SO MUCH cheese OVER them or just sprinkle a wee bit over foods. I promise -- you will be MUCH more satisfied!!!


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