Our long love affair with cheese in America dates back to the days of Christopher Columbus and the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620 near Plymouth, Massachusetts. Even though the pilgrims brought no cows initially, milk and cheese became important staples in the colonists’ diet. Goats and buffalo provided the milk and therefore, the cheese, until cows were shipped from England, sometime later. It is believed by historians that goat and buffalo cheese was presented to the Native Americans during the first Thanksgiving celebration. The actual creation of cheese is unknown but, credible historians believe its existence predates recorded history and its discovery was probably accidental.
Today, cheeses’ nutritional data and fat content are important factors to keep in mind when choosing the right cheese to purchase for your family. Cheese, as we know, is high in fat, sodium, and dreaded calories. But, the cheese nutritional value is believed to be more beneficial to the body when it is moderately consumed as part of a healthy diet, rather than removing cheese from your diet all together. Most cheese on the market today contains Zinc, Vitamins A and B12, Phosphorous, and Calcium in abundant concentrations, making it vital to a healthy diet. Currently, 54 countries produce 606 types of cheese with many different textures and colors presenting a wide variety of flavors. The pickiest palate can find a flavor as well as the nutrition that he or she needs to help maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Cheese has long been accused of playing a major role in the obesity epidemic in America. When reviewing the published nutritional facts for cheese, it is apparent that the high fat content, calories, and the amazing flavor of cheese, could easily lead us to over indulge on our favorite. But, not all cheeses are bad when trying to control your weight. If high fat content and calories are your concern, you can find several options that will treat you to an amazing cheese without the increased fat and calories. Many types of cheese are also offered in a low fat, low sodium variety. Cottage cheese is naturally the lowest in fat, sodium, and cholesterol, while cream cheese, among others, contains an amazingly high fat content. Knowing the difference can be important when trying to win the battle of the bulge.
Cheese, along with milk and yogurt, provides a unique combination of nutrients that, studies show, offers many health benefits; helping develop strong bones in the young and actually helping improve bone health for the aging population. Calcium fights the onset of osteoporosis and helps reduce high blood pressure when consumed in moderation.
Cheddar cheese is perhaps the most versatile and common cheese in the world. Created in England, its wide range of sharp, smooth flavor has helped cheddar become the most purchased and consumed cheese in the world. A little higher in calories and sodium but yet, its richness in vital nutrients makes this cheese beneficial to a healthy diet.
American cheese is actually a “processed” cheese made from a milk, milk fats, solids, and whey protein. It was initially made from a mixture of cheeses, more often than not Colby and Cheddar (which are American created cheeses as well). Since blended cheeses are no longer used in its production, American “cheese” is now pasteurized and classified a processed cheese food. Instead of the word “cheese”, it is now called “American slices” or “American singles”. Most companies that produce individually wrapped American cheese label the package with individual cheese slice nutrition statistics to clearly show the good and the bad cheese nutrition data compiled by the Office of food safety (FDA). Though criticized for its high fat content, it is still purchased and consumed in large quantities. It contains an abundant amount of our daily required vitamins, calcium, and protein, helping us to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In the United States alone, we consume over 32 pounds of cheese per person annually, slightly increasing yearly. Cheddar, American, Mozzarella, Colby, and Provolone (in that order) remain the favorites and most purchased cheeses in the U.S. with an average personal consumption of 10 pounds of each per year. It’s obvious in America that we continue to say, “extra cheese please”.