The World's Healthiest Foods
Cheese, low-fat

There are few of us that are not partial to one or more of the over 1,000 different varieties of cheeses that offer a wide spectrum of flavors, textures and aromas. Low fat varieties are available throughout the year to add flavor and nutrition to our menus.

Cheese varieties are distinguished by what type of milk is used, the production methods and local tastes and preferences. The process of making cheese is considered an art, akin to winemaking in many parts of the world.

 


Health Benefits

Mozzarella cheese is a very good source of calcium and protein, as well as a good source of phosphorous and the trace minerals selenium and iodine.

Calcium Helps Prevent Colon Cancer, Osteoporosis, Migraine and PMS

In recent studies, calcium has been shown to:

  • Help protect colon cells from cancer-causing chemicals
  • Help prevent the bone loss that can occur as a result of menopause or certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Help prevent migraine headaches in those who suffer from them
  • Reduce PMS symptoms during the luteal phase (the second half) of the menstrual cycle

Calcium is best known for its role in maintaining the strength and density of bones. In a process known as bone mineralization, calcium and phosphorous join to form calcium phosphate. Calcium phosphate is a major component of the mineral complex (called hydroxyapatite) that gives structure and strength to bones. One ounce of mozzarella cheese provides 18.3% of the daily value for calcium along with 13.1% of the DV for phosphorus. Calcium also plays a role in many other vital physiological activities, including blood clotting, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, regulation of enzyme activity, cell membrane function and blood pressure regulation. Because these activities are essential to life, the body utilizes complex regulatory systems to tightly control the amount of calcium in the blood, so that sufficient calcium is always available. As a result, when dietary intake of calcium is too low to maintain adequate blood levels of calcium, calcium stores are drawn out of the bones to maintain normal blood concentrations. If a person's diet does not supply adequate calcium, this situation can result in osteoporosis after many years.

Dairy Products Protective against Gout

Gout, a common type of arthritis whose onset typically involves the big toe, has been linked to eating foods high in purines (organ meats, meats, shellfish, herring, sardines, mackerel, anchovies and Brewer’s yeast). A study published in the March 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine confirms that eating meat or fish increases the chances of developing gout, but adds a new point of protective data: eating more dairy actually decreases gout risk.

Purines, one of the nucleic acid building blocks of DNA and RNA, contribute to gout since they are metabolized to form uric acid, which if produced in excess, can deposit in joints causing pain, redness and swelling.

In addition to eating lots of meats and fish high in purines, consuming too much alcohol, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and simple sugars can also increase the risk of gout.

Alcohol increases the rate of uric acid production and also impairs kidney function, thus slowing the excretion of uric acid. Consumption of refined carbohydrates, simple sugars and saturated fats—all of which promote obesity—also result in increased uric acid production and decreased excretion.

Not surprisingly, in this study, in addition to men eating the most meat and purine-rich fish, both obese men and those drinking alcohol also had more gout.

The study, an analysis drawn from data collected during the prospective Health Professionals Followup Study on 47,000 adult men, revealed that among those who ate the most red meat, fish or seafood of any type, risk of gout was increased by as much as 50%. In contrast, risk of contracting gout decreased with increasing intake of dairy products. Men consuming the most dairy products cut their risk of gout by almost 50%! Although some vegetables like beans, peas, lentils, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach and mushrooms are also high in purines, no association was found in this study between eating purine-rich plant foods and an increased risk of gout.(May 6, 2004)

A Very Good Source of Protein

Mozarella cheese is a good source of low-cost high-quality protein, providing 6.9 grams of protein (13.8% of the daily value for protein) in one ounce for a caloric cost of only 72 calories. The structure of humans and animals is built on protein. We rely on animal and vegetable protein for our supply of amino acids, and then our bodies rearrange the nitrogen to create the pattern of amino acids we require.

Cancer-Protective Selenium

Mozzarella cheese is a good source of the trace mineral, selenium. Selenium is of fundamental importance to human health. It is an essential component of several major metabolic pathways, including thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function. Accumulated evidence from prospective studies, intervention trials and studies on animal models of cancer have suggested a strong inverse correlation between selenium intake and cancer incidence.

Several mechanisms have been suggested to explain the cancer-preventive activities of selenium. Selenium has been shown to induce DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells, to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, and to induce their apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to eliminate worn out or abnormal cells. In addition, selenium is incorporated at the active site of many proteins, including glutathione peroxidase, which may be the most important for cancer protection. One of the body's most powerful antioxidant enzymes, glutathione peroxidase is used in the liver to detoxify a wide range of potentially harmful molecules. When levels of glutathione peroxidase are too low, these toxic molecules are not disarmed and wreak havoc on any cells with which they come in contact, damaging their cellular DNA and promoting the development of cancer cells. Just one ounce of mozzarella cheese provides 5.8% of the daily value for selenium.

Promote Healthy Thyroid Function

Mozzarella cheese is a good source of iodine, which as a component of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), is essential to human life. The thyroid gland adds iodine to the amino acid tyrosine to create these hormones. Without sufficient iodine, your body cannot synthesize them. Because these thyroid hormones regulate metabolism in every cell of the body and play a role in virtually all physiological functions, an iodine deficiency can have a devastating impact on your health and well-being. A common sign of thyroid deficiency is an enlarged thyroid gland, commonly called a goiter. Goiters are estimated to affect 200 million people worldwide, and in all but 4% of these cases, the cause is iodine deficiency. One ounce of mozzarella cheese supplies 6.7% of the daily value for iodine.

Description

Not only is cheese a nutritious food, it is one of the most prized and enjoyed foods in the world. The process of making cheese is actually considered an art, akin to winemaking. While all cheeses are made from the same raw ingredient – the milk of an animal such as a cow, sheep or goat – there are thousands of different varieties of cheese throughout the world, all of which feature unique tastes and textures.

Cheese is often classified into categories that reflect its texture and/or processing. Some of the categories and the cheeses that are included are:

  • Fresh cheese: Marscapone, Ricotta and Quark
  • Soft cheeses: St. Andre, Bel Paese and Brie
  • Semi-firm cheeses: Cheddar, Gouda, Monterey jack and Fontina
  • Firm cheeses: Jarlsberg, Raclette, Parmesan and Romano
  • Blue-veined (or bleu) cheeses: Stilton, Gorganzola and Danish Blue

History

Although it is uncertain when it began, the practice of cheese making is thought to be ancient, dating back more than 10,000 years. The discovery of being able to create cheese from milk is thought to have arisen by accident. The legend surrounding its discovery tells of an Arabian traveler who placed milk in a canteen made from sheep’s stomach that he was carrying during a journey across the desert. To his surprise, after several hours he found that the milk had changed into cheese curds, the alchemical process owing to the combination of the sun’s heat and the coagulating enzyme rennin that was present in the sheep’s stomach.

Every since this early time, cheese has become a greatly appreciated food in many cultures. It was an especially popular food in ancient Rome. It was so important that larger houses actually had separate rooms where cheese was made and matured. Cheese was so honored that it was also served at many of the emperors’ banquets. During these times, the art of cheesemaking was greatly advanced with certain varieties, such as Parmesan and Pecorino, being developed by the Romans.

During the Middle Ages, the monasteries became the significant epicenters of cheesemaking. Many of the cheeses developed during that time still carry the name of their monastic origin including Limburger, Munster and Pont-l’Évique. While cheese fell out of popularity in the Renaissance since it was thought to be unhealthy, its general appreciation was revived during the 19th century, when larger scale production techniques were developed.

One of the unique things about cheese is that not only is it produced in many different countries, but also that different cheeses are closely associated with their country of origin. Some examples include England, which is known for its Cheddar; Norway, which is known for its Jarslberg; Italy, which is known for its Parmesan; and the United States (specifically Wisconsin) which is known for its Colby.

How to Select and Store

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Cooking with Cheese:

If your recipe calls for grated cheese, use cheese that has a firm texture since it is the only kind suitable for grating. It will be easier to grate if it is cold, right out of the refrigerator, rather than if it has been at room temperature for a while.

For all other purposes, as the flavor of cheese is more intense when it is a bit warmer, remove it from the refrigerator at least thirty minutes before using.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Combine feta cheese with chilled cooked lentils, minced red onion and diced green pepper for a delicious cold salad.

Enjoy a classic Italian salad – sliced onions, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive oil.

Freshly grated cheese makes a nice addition to most any green salad.

For a quick, healthy "pizza," sprinkle mozzarella cheese on a whole wheat pita, top with tomato sauce and your favorite vegetables and cook in toaster oven until cheese melts.

Enjoy this refreshing salad - combine sliced fennel and orange pieces together and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Cheese makes a delightful pairing with fruits such as apples, pears and melons. Serve as appetizer or dessert.

Safety

Allergic Reactions to Cow's Milk Products

Although allergic reactions can occur to virtually any food, research studies on food allergy consistently report more problems with some foods than with others. Common symptoms associated with an allergic reaction to food include: chronic gastrointestinal disturbances; frequent infections, e.g., ear infections, bladder infections, bed-wetting; asthma, sinusitis; eczema, skin rash, acne, hives; bursitis, joint pain; fatigue, headache, migraine; hyperactivity, depression, insomnia.

Individuals who suspect food allergy to be an underlying factor in their health problems may want to avoid commonly allergenic foods. Cow’s milk, and products such as cheeses that are made from it, are among the foods most commonly associated with allergic reactions. In this case of full-fledged food allergy, it is a protein in cow's milk (typically casein) that causes the allergic reaction. Other foods commonly associated with allergic reactions include: beef, wheat, eggs, soybeans, oranges, corn, pork, chicken, peanuts, yeast, strawberry, tomato, and spinach. These foods do not need to be eaten in their pure, isolated form in order to trigger an adverse reaction. For example, yogurt made from cow’s milk is also a common allergenic food, even though the cow’s milk has been processed and fermented in order to make the yogurt. Ice cream made from cow’s milk would be an equally good example.

Lactose Intolerance

Cow's milk contains a special sugar called lactose. An enzyme called lactase is needed to digest this special sugar. Many individuals throughout the world do not have large enough supplies of this enzyme to keep up with their intake of dairy products containing lactose. While a cup of cow's milk contains about 10-12 grams of lactose, the bacteria used to produce cheese and the time required for cheese to ferment, both work to lower lactose levels. Soft cheeses typically have only half as much lactose as the milk they are made from, and sometimes even less. Aged cheeses, including most hard cheeses, have less lactose still. For example, an ounce of Swiss cheese or cheddar cheese typically has less than one gram of lactose - a safe level of lactose intake for most individuals, even those who are lactose intolerant.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.

 

Mozzarella Cheese, Part Skim, Shredded
1.00 oz-wt
72.08 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
tryptophan 0.08 g 25.0 6.2 very good
calcium 183.06 mg 18.3 4.6 very good
protein 6.88 g 13.8 3.4 very good
phosphorus 131.26 mg 13.1 3.3 good
iodine 10.09 mcg 6.7 1.7 good
selenium 4.08 mcg 5.8 1.5 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

References

  • Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW, Willett W, Curhan G. Purine-rich foods, dairy and protein intake, and the risk of gout in men. N Engl J Med. 2004 Mar 11;350(11):1093-103.
  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutriton Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Hajjar IM, Grim CE, Kotchen TA. Dietary calcium lowers the age-related rise in blood pressure in the United States: the NHANES III survey. J Clin Hypertens 2003 Mar-2003 Apr 30; 5(2):122-6.
  • Widcome, Richard. The Cheese Book. Chartwell Books, Secaucus NJ.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

This page was updated on: 2005-07-13 14:57:14
© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation