Cheese is a favorite food for many and given its versatility this really isn’t a surprise. Cheese can be enjoyed alone, added to casseroles, as a part of a sandwich, on salads, with fruit, salty snacks or in a sauce for vegetables. While cheese is a nutritional powerhouse recently it has come under question for its salt content.
Cheese contributes 21% of our dietary calcium, 11% of the phosphorous, 9% of the protein and vitamin A and 8% of the zinc but it also contributes almost 8% of our sodium intake. Given that cheese has so many nutrients it’s important to recognize that 8% of our sodium is a small amount of the daily intake for so many positive nutrients but why does cheese provide sodium? Salt, and therefore sodium, is essential to cheese making with it helping with flavor and texture, preservation of the cheese and in the prevention of foodborne bacteria. Natural cheeses like Swiss, cheddar, brick, Muenster and many others are made from four ingredients milk, which contains sodium naturally, a starter culture, rennet for thickening and salt. Even though the ingredients in cheese are few in number two of the four ingredients are a source of salt. Processed cheeses like American and others contain more sodium due to the use of stabilizers, emulsifiers and/or flavor enhancers.
If you are concerned about the sodium content of the cheeses you purchase make sure you follow these tips.
*Choose natural cheeses most often
* Check Nutrition Facts panels to compare brands
* Limit usage of processed cheeses to sauces or other uses that require better melting
Cheese can fit into a healthful eating plan if you think about how you are using it and check labels before buying.