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Cheese is definitely a staple of the American diet. In fact, on average Americans consume over 40 pounds of cheese per year! While this dairy product hasn’t always had the best reputation as far as healthy foods go, this is in large part based on how it is consumed. Americans put cheese on everything, but it is synonymous with cheese burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, nachos and above all – pizza. While these may not be the most healthful combinations, independently cheese can provide a lot of “grate” nutrition!
Cheese is a dairy product typically produced from the milk of cows, goats, or sheep, but can be made from the milk of other mammals including buffalo, camel, llama, reindeer, and yak! It has been a part of the human diet since before recorded history (potentially as early as 8000 BCE), with some of the world’s oldest preserved cheeses discovered in Egypt and China from 3200-3600 years ago – talk about well-aged! Although it isn’t known exactly when or where this food originated, it is assumed that cheese was an accidental discovery resulting from storing milk in a container made from an animal stomach, causing it to turn into curds and whey. A fitting hypothesis given how cheese is produced.
Essentially cheese forms from curdling of the milk protein casein. Cheese production begins with the separation of milk into solids (curds) and liquids (whey), which occurs through the acidification of milk via the addition of an acid such as vinegar or more commonly with the introduction of a starter bacteria, which converts the sugar in milk (lactose) into lactic acid. Traditionally this step is followed by the addition of rennet, which is a group of enzymes (primarily chymosin) found in the stomachs of ruminant mammals such as cattle, sheep, and goats (thus explaining the accidental discovery of this ancient food!). Today, however, most cheese is made with chymosin prepared from bacteria – its function being to curdle the casein in milk. After the curds and whey have been separated (and before Little Miss Muffet arrives) the curds may be further processed. For some cheeses the curds are cut into smaller pieces to expel liquid – the extent depends on the type of cheese being produced (harder cheeses are drier), while others are heated, stretched, or washed before salting for flavor and preservation. Finally, the cheese is shaped and aged under controlled temperature and humidity anywhere from a few days to several years! World-wide there are over 1,000 types of cheese each with its own unique flavor, texture, aroma, and appearance, resulting from a multitude of factors including the type of milk used, pasteurization, fat content, processing, flavoring additives, country of origin, and aging to name a few. Surprised there are so many different types of cheese? You “cheddar” believe it!
Swiss cheese does not refer to cheese specifically manufactured in Switzerland, where hundreds of different types are produced, but is a generic North American term given to several varieties of mass-produced cheese that resemble Emmental cheese (which originated in Switzerland). Swiss cheese is readily identifiable via its characteristic “holey” appearance. (The holes are actually called “eyes” and swiss cheese without holes is called “blind”.) There is debate as to the origin of these “eyes”. Originally it was thought that the holes were created by carbon dioxide gas bubbles released from bacteria in the production of the cheese. However, a recent study has shown that the holes are caused by particulate matter, such as specs of hay dust, present in the milk, which weaken the curd, allowing gas to form and ultimately resulting in holes! This is why more sanitary, sterile, modern methods of producing cheese today result in fewer and smaller holes or “blind” cheese. Whatever the reason behind its appearance, the holes make this mild, sweet, nutty cheese a “hole” lot of fun to eat! (Hyuck)
Nutrivore Score for Swiss Cheese – 157
Swiss cheese has a Nutrivore Score of 157, making it a medium nutrient-dense food! Plus, it is a low-carb food; swiss cheese has 0.6 grams of net carbs per 1.5 ounce serving!
Per serving, swiss cheese is a best source (>50% daily value) of vitamin B12 (cobalamin); an excellent source (20-50% daily value) of calcium, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), selenium, and protein; and a good source (10-20% daily value) of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and zinc.
Swiss Cheese Nutrition Facts
One serving of swiss cheese is standardized to 1.5 ounces or about 42 grams. A typical slice of swiss cheese weighs 28 grams which means: one serving of swiss cheese is equivalent to 1 1/2 slices of swiss cheese. For reference, 1 cup of shredded swiss cheese weighs 108 grams and 1 cup of diced swiss cheese weighs 132 grams which means: one serving of swiss cheese is roughly equivalent to a little more than 1/3 cup of shredded swiss cheese or slightly less than 1/3 cup diced swiss cheese.
|Swiss Cheese||Nutrivore Score: 157||Nutrient Density: Medium|
|Serving Size: 1.5 ounces (42 grams)||Protein: 11.3 grams||Net Carbohydrates: 0.6 grams|
|Calories: 165||Total Fat: 13.0 grams||Dietary Fiber: 0.0 grams|
|Vitamin A||121.0 μg RAE||13% DV|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||4.6 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||126.8 μg||10% DV|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.0 mg||0% DV|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.1 mg||3% DV|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)||29.8 μg||2% DV|
|Vitamin B7 (Biotin)||1.3 μg||4% DV|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||4.2 μg||1% DV|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||1.3 μg||54% DV|
|Vitamin C||0.0 mg||0% DV|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0.0 μg||0% DV|
|Vitamin E||0.3 mg||2% DV|
|Vitamin K||0.6 μg||0% DV|
|Choline||5.8 mg||1% DV|
|Calcium||373.8 mg||29% DV|
|Copper||19.7 μg||2% DV|
|Iron||0.1 mg||0% DV|
|Magnesium||13.9 mg||3% DV|
|Manganese||10.9 μg||0% DV|
|Phosphorus||241.1 mg||19% DV|
|Potassium||30.2 mg||1% DV|
|Selenium||12.6 μg||23% DV|
|Sodium||78.5 mg||3% DV|
|Zinc||1.8 mg||17% DV|
|AMINO ACIDS & PEPTIDES|
Cheese Nutrition Varies With Type
There are over 1,000 types of cheese, each with its own unique flavor and nutrient profile, which means their Nutrivore Scores vary too! In general, dairy products, especially cheeses, have the lowest nutrient density among animal foods while also having the highest caloric density. The table below provides a sampling (a cheese board if you will) of Nutrivore Scores for differing types of cheese, all of which are similar in nutrient density.
Health Benefits of Swiss Cheese Nutrients
Let’s take a closer look at all of the best and excellent source of nutrients found in a 1.5-ounce serving of swiss cheese and see how they benefit our health.
Swiss Cheese Provides 54% DV Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Swiss cheese is a best source of vitamin B12 (cobalamin), providing 54% of the daily value per 1.5-ounce serving!
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin that serves as a cofactor for enzymes involved in energy metabolism, red blood cell production, DNA synthesis, neurotransmitter production, nervous system health, and folate metabolism. As a result of these roles, vitamin B12 is vital for maintaining brain and nervous system health, and may have a protective effect against dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. There’s also some evidence vitamin B12 may be cancer-protective, possibly through supporting folate metabolism (which then assists in repairing DNA damage). Learn more about vitamin B12 here.
Swiss Cheese Provides 29% DV Calcium
Swiss cheese is an excellent source of calcium, providing 29% of the daily value per 1.5-ounce serving!
Calcium is a major structural component of bones and teeth, and also serves as an electrolyte—a type of electricity-conducting mineral needed for regulating nerve impulses, muscle contraction (including the heartbeat), blood pH, and fluid balance. Getting enough calcium helps protect against osteoporosis and bone fractures, while also potentially reducing the risk of colorectal cancer, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, and kidney stones. It may even help improve PMS symptoms and assist in body weight regulation! Learn more about calcium here.
Swiss Cheese Provides 0.2 g of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Swiss cheese is also an excellent source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), providing 0.2 g of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) per 1.5-ounce serving!
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid mostly found in meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals. Despite technically being a trans fat, CLA exhibits a range of beneficial health properties, including anti-cancer, anti-obesity, anti-diabetes, and anti-heart disease activities. It also promotes gut health and immune function. Learn more about CLA here.
Swiss Cheese Provides 11.3 g of Protein
Swiss cheese is a great source of protein, providing 11.3 g of protein per 1.5-ounce serving!
Proteins are the molecules that actually perform most of the various functions of life. In addition to being major structural components of cells and tissues, they have incredibly diverse roles from driving chemical reactions (e.g., enzymes) to signaling (e.g., some types of hormones) to transporting and storing nutrients. Dietary protein is necessary to supply the amino acid building blocks for all of the proteins in our bodies. The recommended daily allowance of protein is 0.36 grams per pound body weight (0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight). That amounts to 56 grams for a 150-pound person. However, it’s important to emphasize that this number is considered a minimum daily allotment, and there is no established upper limit. In fact, many studies have evaluated diets containing three to four times more protein than this minimum and proven benefits to weight management, body composition, hormone regulation, and cardiovascular health. These studies suggest that an optimal protein intake for most people is probably in the range of 1.2 to 1.8 grams per kilogram bodyweight (82 to 122 grams for that same 150-pound person), and that people who are very active may see the best results at even higher intake. Learn more about protein and amino acids here.
Swiss Cheese Provides 23% DV Selenium
Swiss cheese is also an excellent source of selenium, providing 23% of the daily value per 1.5-ounce serving!
Selenium is a trace mineral needed by all mammals to sustain life. It serves as a component of the non-proteinogenic amino acids selenocysteine and selenomethionine, and also helps form over two dozen selenoproteins involved in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense, DNA synthesis, and immunity. Observational research suggests selenium could play a protective role against cancer, heart disease, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease, although human trials have generally been lacking or contradictory. There’s also evidence that selenium can play a preventative role in asthma and inflammatory bowel disease, while also reducing mortality in patients with sepsis. Learn more about selenium here.
How Much Swiss Cheese Should We Eat Per Day?
While dairy products may not be the most nutrient-dense foods, they are a “grate” source of calcium in addition to containing a range of other nutrients, all the while being a complete protein – “whey” better than you thought, huh?
Studies show a good target for most people is two servings of dairy products daily, with the most benefits coming from fermented versions like yogurt or kefir.
A 2021 meta-analysis of 55 prospective cohort studies found that dairy consumption in general was associated with a 10% lower risk of stroke, a 4% lower risk of coronary heart disease, and a 9% reduced risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). A 2016 meta-analysis of 29 cohort studies showed that cheese reduced cardiovascular disease risk, and fermented dairy reduced total mortality risk, albeit by a very modest amount (2% per 20 gram serving of fermented dairy or 10 gram serving of cheese). Importantly, a 2017 meta-analysis revealed a U-shaped dose response curve for dairy products, with intake up to about 400 grams daily modestly reducing all-cause mortality (again, only about a 2% effect), but higher consumption levels no longer being beneficial—intake greater than 1000 grams per day was associated with a 15% increased risk of total mortality.
A serving of milk or yogurt is 1 cup (8 ounces, or 250mL) and a serving of cheese is 1.5 ounces (about 42 grams). Learn more about dairy products here.
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