CHEESE: MILKY FOOD

DR. S. M. ALAM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Oct 24 - 30, 2011

Cheese is a food made from the curd of milk coagulated by rennet separated from the whey and pressed into a solid mass.

Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced throughout the world in wide-ranging flavors, textures, and forms. Cheese consists of proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep.

It is produced by coagulation of the milk protein casein. Typically, the milk is acidified and addition of the enzyme rennet causes coagulation. Some cheeses have molds on the rind or throughout. Most cheeses melt at cooking temperature.

Hundreds of types of cheese are produced. Their styles, textures, and flavors depend on the origin of the milk (including the animal's diet), whether they have been pasteurized, the butterfat content, the bacteria and mold, the processing, and aging. Herbs, spices, or wood smoke may be used as flavoring agents.

The yellow to red color of many cheeses is from adding annatto. For a few cheeses, the milk is curdled by adding acids such as vinegar or lemon juice. Most cheeses are acidified to a lesser degree by bacteria, which turn milk sugars into lactic acid, then the addition of rennet completes the curdling.

CHEESE PRODUCTION: TOP 10 COUNTRIES

S. NO. COUNTRY PRODUCTION (000 MT)
1 EU-27 7,050
2 United States 4,870
3 Brazil 675
4 Argentina 555
5 Russian Federation 440
6 Australia 328
7 Canada 305
8 Mexico 267
9 New Zealand 255
10 Ukraine 205
US Department of Agriculture, 2011

Cheese is valued for its portability, long life, and high content of fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Cheese is more compact and has a longer shelf life than milk. Cheese makers near a dairy region may benefit from fresher, lower-priced milk, and lower shipping costs. Encasing in protective rinds elongates cheese shelf life.

Cheese is 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, Gorgonzola and Danish Blue

Cheese is an ancient food whose origins predate recorded history. There is no conclusive evidence indicating where cheese making originated, either in Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East, but the practice had spread within Europe prior to Roman times and, according to Pliny the Elder, had become a sophisticated enterprise by the time the Roman Empire came into being. Proposed dates for the origin of cheese making range from around 8000 BCE (when sheep were first domesticated) to around 3000 BCE. The first cheese may have been made by people in the Middle East or by nomadic Turkic tribes in Central Asia.

Since animal skins and inflated internal organs have, since ancient times, provided storage vessels for a range of foodstuffs, it is probable that the process of cheese making was discovered accidentally by storing milk in a container made from the stomach of an animal, resulting in the milk being turned to curd and whey by the rennet from the stomach. There is a legend with variations about the discovery of cheese by an Arab trader who used this method of storing milk.

Cheese making may have begun independently of this by the pressing and salting of curdled milk to preserve it. Observation that the effect of making milk in an animal stomach gave more solid and better-textured curds, may have led to the deliberate addition of rennet. The earliest archeological evidence of cheese making has been found in Egyptian tomb murals, dating to about 2000 BCE. The earliest cheeses were likely to have been quite sour and salty, similar in texture to rustic cottage cheese or feta, a crumbly, flavorful Greek cheese.

Cheese produced in Europe, where climates are cooler than the Middle East, required less salt for preservation. With less salt and acidity, the cheese became a suitable environment for useful microbes and molds, giving aged cheeses their respective flavors.

In general, cheese supplies a great deal of calcium, protein, phosphorus, and fat. A 30-gram (1.1 oz) serving of cheddar cheese contains about seven grams (0.25 oz) of protein and 200 milligrams of calcium. Nutritionally, cheese is essentially concentrated milk: it takes about 200 grams (7.1 oz) of milk to provide that much protein, and 150 grams (5.3 oz) to equal the calcium.

Cheese does not get enough credit for its health benefits which include things like cancer prevention, bone strengthening, and cavity fighting - but the best part is that is also tastes great.

1. NUTRITION - There is a very high concentration of essential nutrients in cheese including high quality proteins and calcium. There are also other elements in cheese such as phosphorous, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.

2. CAVITY PREVENTION - Cheese is extremely high in its calcium content. This is the most important thing when it comes to strong teeth. In addition, cheese has a very low content of lactose. Lactose is a substance that comes from food and can harm teeth: the older the cheese, the lower the lactose levels. Eating certain varieties of cheese such as aged cheddar, Swiss, Blue, Monterey Jack, Brie, Gouda, and processed American cheese immediately after a meal or as a snack has been proven to prevent tooth decay.

3. CANCER PREVENTION - Cheese contains substances called conjugated linoleic acid and sphingolipids that help prevent cancer. In addition, the vitamin B in cheese is good for maintaining body functions and protecting the body from disease.

4. WEIGHT GAIN - Be careful if you are trying to loose weight - cheese contains a lot of natural fats which may cause weight gain. There are cheeses which have a low-fat content that can be very healthy for you to eat and perfect for keeping your weight balanced. However, if you are trying to gain weight, whether its muscle weight, fat, or bone density, cheese is the healthy way to go. Cheese is full of protein, fat, calcium, and vitamins and minerals that keep muscles and bones strong and healthy. The vitamins and minerals are better for a balanced metabolism.

5. BONE STRENGTH - Cheese is high in calcium content and rich in vitamin B. This is especially good for the bones of children, elderly people, and pregnant and lactating women for strengthening bones and cartilages. The vitamin B in cheese helps the body absorb and distribute calcium.

6. OSTEOPOROSIS - Since osteoporosis is a deficiency disease caused due to a lack of calcium. Cheese is a perfect way to help the bone density of those suffering from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can be treated with protein, calcium, and a high intake of vitamins and minerals. All three of these things are found abundantly in cheese.

7. HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE - Sodium and cholesterol are the elements that are considered harmful in people with high blood pressure, and hypertensive people are told to avoid them. Cheese in this situation must be considered critically. The fat in cheese depends on the quality of the milk it was made with. Full fat or cream milk, or low fat or fat free milk will determine how high the fat content of the cheese is. Typically, high fat cheeses are more popular because they taste better, but many low-fat cheeses are introduced to shelves. The sodium content in cheese depends on the amount of salt added to the milk before it was turned into cheese. There are low-sodium cheese that are helpful in reducing agents which are associated with heart disease. The content of vitamin B in cheese is also helpful for those with high blood pressure.

Cheese potentially shares other nutritional properties of milk. The Center for Science in the Public Interest describes cheese as America's number one source of saturated fat, adding that the average American ate 30 lb (14 kg) of cheese in the year 2000, up from 11 lb (5 kg) in 1970. Their recommendation is to limit full-fat cheese consumption to 2 oz (57 g) a week.

Some studies claim that cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and American cheeses can help to prevent tooth decay. Several mechanisms for this protection have been proposed:

* The calcium, protein, and phosphorus in cheese may act to protect tooth enamel.

* Cheese increases saliva flow, washing away acids and sugars.

A study by the British Cheese Board in 2005 to determine the effect of cheese upon sleep and dreaming discovered that, contrary to the idea that cheese commonly causes nightmares, the effect of cheese upon sleep was positive. The majority of the two hundred people tested over a fortnight claimed beneficial results from consuming cheeses before going to bed, the cheese promoting good sleep. Six cheeses were tested and the findings were that the dreams produced were specific to the type of cheese. Although the apparent effects were in some cases described as colorful and vivid, or cryptic, none of the cheeses tested were found to induce nightmares. However, the six cheeses were all British. The results might be entirely different if a wider range of cheeses were tested. Cheese contains tryptophan, an amino acid that has been found to relieve stress and induce sleep.

Like other dairy products, cheese contains casein, a substance that when digested by humans, breaks down into several chemicals, including casomorphine, and opioid peptide. In the early 1990s, it was hypothesized that autism can be caused or aggravated by opioid peptides. Studies supporting these claims have had significant flaws, so the data are inadequate to guide autism treatment recommendations.

Cheese is often avoided by those who are lactose intolerant, but ripened cheeses like cheddar contain only about five per cent of the lactose found in whole milk, and aged cheeses contain almost none. Nevertheless, people with severe lactose intolerance should avoid eating dairy cheese. As a natural product, the same kind of cheese may contain different amounts of lactose on different occasions, causing unexpected painful reactions.

Some people suffer reactions to amines found in cheese, particularly histamine and tyramine. Some aged cheeses contain significant concentrations of these amines, which can trigger symptoms mimicking an allergic reaction: headaches, rashes, and blood pressure elevations.

Pregnant women may face an additional risk from cheese; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has warned pregnant women against eating soft-ripened cheeses and blue-veined cheeses, due to the listeria risk, which can cause miscarriage or harm to the fetus during birth.