Smile! Say Cheese for Bone Health!

It’s a welcomed guest melted on broccoli florets. It bubbles over a pizza slice. It bakes perfectly into muffins with a savory twist. Mix it into soups, dips or salads. Get your kids interested by pairing cheese with fruit and crackers. Whip it into mashed potatoes. Or, let it take center stage in mac-and-cheese! Cheese has been long associated with indulgence and, thus, considered something to be avoided, but do anything but! For starters, cheese has…Protein that keeps you full, holding you over until your next meal and snack.  It also aids in muscle strength and recovery, making cheese the perfect addition to your post-workout or post-surgery meal.Calcium and Phosphorus are minerals crucial for bone health, preventing fractures and the development of osteoporosis.Zinc is a mineral that boosts your immune system—especially suitable during cold and flu season! Some people worry about the artery clogging, saturated fat and sodium found in full-fat cheese. But, be brave! Adventure into the low-fat and low-sodium varieties. Full-fat-cheese-lovers can bite into the real thing by accenting their dishes with small amounts.To reap all of the healthy benefits, go for consistency: it’s better to eat a little bit a couple times every week than to overindulge in cheese in one sitting. Below, you’ll see various cheeses and their suggested portion sizes. I recommend 3 servings of dairy everyday—whether you choose cheese, milk, yogurt, and other calcium-fortified foods. Hard cheese (like Swiss, cheddar, or Monterey Jack): 1 ½ ounce, the size of four dice Prepackaged or Pre-Sliced Cheese Singles: 2 slices Part Skim Ricotta: 1/3 cup Part Skim Cottage Cheese: 1/2 cup Shredded Cheese: 1/3 cup 1 String Cheese Click the link for a longer listing of dairy sources and correct portion sizes:  Click Here Lactose intolerant? Aged cheeses might be your best bet. The cheese-making process and natural aging draws out or breaks down most (if not all) lactose. Stick with aged cheddar, parmesan, Gorgonzola, and Asiago. Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, or Swiss have minimal amounts of lactose too. Too, try vegan or lactose-free cheeses which often have less saturated fat.   Milk allergy? Stick to vegan cheeses, but always read the ingredients list just in case milk protein sneaks in. Low-Fat cheese, please: Look for packages of “low-fat” or “reduced fat” cottage, ricotta, cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Romano, Colby, Muenster, provolone, or American cheeses. Without that label, there’s part-skim mozzarella, string cheeses, farmers cheese, and Neufchâtel. Goat cheese, or feta, is lower in fat and has fewer calories than any cow’s milk cheese. Watching your sodium? Salt is a major part of the cheese aging process; softer, younger cheeses require less. Bite into Monterey Jack, ricotta, or Port de Salut that are naturally lower in salt. Go for labels like “low sodium” Colby-Jack, provolone, Muenster, mozzarella or cheddar. Gluten free: This label goes for most cheeses! Be aware of processed cheese or the ones with added flavors. Double check the ingredients to make sure wheat, barley or rye aren’t listed. Pre-shredded versus blocks of cheese: Pre-shredded cheese seems like the perfect answer to a hectic schedule. Just be aware that it contains additives to prevent shreds from caking and sticking together—potato starch, corn starch and powdered cellulose being the most common. Though most of these are harmless, block cheeses don’t contain the additives, can be shredded quickly, melt easier and are actually cheaper! So, remember to say, “Cheese! Please!” 

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