Pioneers first started making cheese in Wisconsin in the 1830s, and it continues to have a significant impact on our economy today. Did you know that Wisconsin farmers produce over 3 billion pounds of cheese per year? This is more than any other state and accounts for 26% of all cheese made in the United States. In fact, if Wisconsin were a country, it would rank fourth in world cheese production, after the United States, France and Germany.
Cheese has several health benefits is a great source of protein and calcium. 1 ounce of cheese contains about 200 milligrams of calcium and 7 grams of protein. Since protein curbs hunger and keeps you feeling satisfied after meals and snacks, a moderate amount of cheese can help you to lose weight. As part of a well-rounded diet, the protein in cheese can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates eaten at the same meal or snack and therefore help balance your blood-sugar levels and improve mood.
The calcium in cheese and other dairy products helps to keep your bones and teeth strong and prevent osteoporosis. Most Americans do not receive an adequate amount of calcium in their diets. In fact, nine out of 10 women and six out of 10 men fall short of meeting calcium recommendations. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that individuals ages 9 and older consume at least 3 servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt per day. Cheese contains additional nutrients like zinc, phosphorus, biotin, vitamin A and Vitamin B-12. Furthermore, many cheeses, like cheddar and Swiss, are low in lactose, so even if you suffer from lactose intolerance, you will likely be able to enjoy cheese.
The problem with cheese is that it’s often high in saturated fat, calories and sodium, which in excess can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes, high cholesterol, and weight gain. When purchasing cheese, you may want to look for lower fat and lower sodium varieties and limit portion sizes. One serving of cheese is equal to one and one-half ounces of hard cheese, one-third cup grated cheese, or two ounces processed cheese. Another way to cut back on calories is to grate hard cheeses over your meals or to use smaller amounts of sharp cheeses with stronger flavors.
Think of cheese as a flavor enhancer for your meals rather than the main attraction. One to two ounces of cheese daily is reasonable and provides your body with beneficial nutrients.