Cheese: Bursting With Calcium

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

Nomads in the Middle East and Central Asia carried milk in containers made from animal stomachs, when bottles were unheard of then. When on the move the milk got curdled due to an enzyme called rennet remaining in those stomachs which separated the milk into curds and whey. This was an accidental discovery. There are murals in Egyptian tombs showing the way cheese was made, then.

Sri Lankans don't traditionally use cheese in their curries. It is too expensive and that would be the main reason why it's not included in the Asian cuisine. If you cook with cheese, you can use it straight from the fridge in the frozen state. If it is used as an appetiser or to settle your stomach after a heavy meal, it is best to serve at room temperature.

Soft cheeses are sometimes referred to as fresh cheeses. They are ricotta, feta, and cottage cheese among others. These cheeses mature for a short time and being creamy could be used as a spread on your sandwiches. They are used as dips and good for cooking. You add into salads and cooking to get that salty taste that normal sea salt does not provide. Those people who are advised to eat less salt can substitute with soft cheese.

Cheese comes in all shapes and sizes. Some names are Gouda, Havarti, and Muenster and so on. Some Italian cheeses like mozzarella belongs to a group called pasta filata.

The harder cheeses like cheddar and Parmesan can be grated into macaroni and casserole. It is best that these cheeses are hard when it's taken out of the fridge.

When mould sets in to cheeses it's called veining and it is created by adding a type of mould called penicillium roqueforti during the making. These are called Blue cheeses and a well-known blues are Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Maytag Blue and Stilton.

All varieties of cheeses are made with the same four ingredients: milk, a starter culture, salt, and rennet. It is made mainly from cow's milk, also made from goat, buffalo and sheep milk.

Nutrition
Cheese has saturated fat and should not be eaten excessively as a routine. It provides calcium, selenium, phosphorus and zinc. Cheese is among the richest dietary sources of calcium which plays a role in bone and teeth health. It has vitamin B12 an important mineral for the wellbeing of the nervous system. It provides adequate protein for those who don't eat meat. The majority of proteins in cheese belong to a family of milk protein called casein. It lowers your blood pressure and lowers the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Cheese has lot of salt but you can always chose low-sodium cheeses like mozzarella. Cheese has vitamin A, Vitamin K2 and riboflavin

Keep cheese in the original wrapper in your fridge's vegetable drawer. It is warmer there than in the meat drawer. Once open,cover the exposed area with the same wrapper to prevent mouldy spots. You can always cut away the mouldy spots and the rest is okay.

Check on the label and always select cheeses made from pasteurised milk. Unpasteurized milk has a higher chance of getting listeria.
There is no fibre in chees. It has mono and polyunsaturated fats in addition to the saturated fat.

Ruminant Trans Fats
Cheese contains a family of Trans fats called ruminant Trans fats considered to have health benefits. The most abundant Trans fats are vaccenic acid and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) CLA seems to promote weight loss in overweight individuals.

Is cheese really good for you? Cheese is bursting with calcium, and many vitamins mentioned earlier. It is calorie dense and full of fat. It is good for you in moderation.
(Some ref: WebMD)

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