There’s a reason people say “cheese” when they’re smiling for a photo. Cheese is an extremely versatile and delicious food that can bring health and happiness to families the world over. There are about 300 types of cheese in the United States and approximately 2,000 types of cheese in the world. With so many varieties, cheese is a nutritious food that can fit into nearly any eating plan.
Cheese may make people, especially kids, eat more fruits, veggies and whole grains -- upping the overall nutrient intake in their diet. Most cheeses are also gluten-free. No matter what your nutritional goals, there’s probably a cheese that’s right for you.
Learn your cheese type:
Lower Sodium: Salt is a key ingredient in cheese-making. Sodium influences the moisture, texture, taste and safety of the cheese. Salt can't be eliminated completely, but some cheeses require less than others. To make finding a low-sodium option easy, remember to select cheese based on its firmness. For the most part, cheeses that are softer and less-aged require less salt than the harder, aged varieties. Try Swiss, Monterey Jack, ricotta and Parmesan. There are also lower sodium versions of Colby-Jack, provolone, Muenster, mozzarella and Cheddar.
Lower Fat: Fat is another necessary component of cheese-making, but there are cheeses that naturally have less fat -- like Parmesan, Romano and part-skim mozzarella. Also, there are low-fat versions of cottage cheese, ricotta, Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Colby, Muenster and provolone.
More Protein: With meat consumption on the decline, people are looking for ways to add protein to their diets. Cheese is a convenient way to do so. Muscle up with these protein-packed cheeses: Swiss, cottage cheese, ricotta, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Gouda, Colby, provolone and Muenster.
More Calcium: The dairy food group is the top dietary source of calcium in the American diet. Cheeses packed with calcium include: Swiss, Cheddar, ricotta, Monterey Jack, Gouda, queso blanco and Colby.
Lactose Intolerance: Because dairy is the top source of calcium, for those who are lactose intolerant cheese becomes an important means of getting the calcium we all need. Aged, hard cheeses like Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and Swiss contain minimal amounts of lactose because the aging process eliminates almost all of it.