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Cheese Please!

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Cheese is ubiquitous! From pizza and pasta to cheesy enchiladas, everywhere we look there is cheese on our plate. Cheese is produced from milk. The curd (milk solids) is removed from the whey (milk liquid) and then the curd is processed for ripening. The flavor and texture of cheese depend on the time of ripening, also known as aging. The longer the aging process, the more brittle the cheese and the sharper the taste. In the US, the home of cheese is Green County, Wisconsin, where cheese production settled from Europe. According to the International Dairy Foods Association, 1/3 of milk produced in the United States each year is used to produce cheese and 10.6 billion pounds of cheese were produced in 2011 (1).

Types of Cheese

There are over 2,0000 types of cheese. Here we will discuss a couple of the most common cheeses consumed in the United States.

  • Swiss cheese is a light yellow cheese from cow’s milk. The origin of the cheese is from Switzerland, which is how it received its name. The distinctive characteristic of Swiss cheese of large holes is because of the carbon dioxide released during production of the cheese.
  • Feta cheese is a soft, white, sour cheese that came from Greece. Originally, feta cheese is made from sheep’s milk.
  • Blue cheese is made from sheep, cow, or goat’s milk and it has a strong, characteristic flavor. The color and aroma of blue cheese is from Penicillium, a type of mold that is added to the cheese for the district blue color.
  • Asiago cheese is from the Asiago Plateau in Italy where asiago cheese is produced. Asiago cheese made from a cow, and it can range from soft to crumbly depending on the age of the cheese.
  • Cheddar cheese is made from cow’s milk cheese and started in Cheddar, England. There are different flavors of cheddar cheese from mild to sharp. Cheddar cheese can be white or orange in color, the orange is from the addition of a natural dye called annatto.
  • American cheese is a processed orange cheese made from a mixture of at least two cheese cheeses such as cheddar and Colby (2).

Nutrients in Cheese

MyPlate guidelines recommend 3 cups of low fat dairy each day. The nutrients in cheese include protein, fat, milk, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, riboflavin, B12, and zinc. The amount of nutrient varies for each type of cheese. Cheese is known for a good source of calcium which is beneficial for bone and dental health. The protein content in cheese is also high. As for fat, cheese is the most common source of dietary saturated fat. Saturated fat can raise cholesterol in the blood and increase risk of cardiovascular disease. Health professions recommend the consumption of low fat cheese to decrease fat intake. Another factor to consider is the sodium content in cheese. The more processed the cheese, oftentimes the higher the sodium content (1).

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Cheese Powders and Spray Drying

Have you ever made a packet of Macaroni and Cheese and think how does this yellow dry powder make a cheesy end product?

Cheese can be converted into a cheese powder by dehydration. Cheese powder is made by melting cheese and spray drying it to produce a thick powder. After spray drying, salt, whey, and additive are often added. Powder cheese allows the cheese to be kept longer and not refrigerated since the water is removed. When cheese powders are dried, there are more versatile uses for cheese. Cheese powder in the food industry are used on popcorn toppings, cheese sauces, and soups.

Download our Guide to Spray Drying


References

Kirschmann, J. D. (2007). Nutrition almanac (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Types of Cheeses | International Dairy Foods Association. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2017, from http://www.idfa.org/news-views/media-kits/cheese/types-of-cheeses

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