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Posts Filed Under The ‘Health’ Category

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

New Year’s Resolution: Eat more Cheese!

New Year’s Resolution: Eat more Cheese!

During the first part of the year we make plans to take better care of ourselves: we try to go to the gym on a regular basis, we write ambitious to-do lists, we aim to get more sleep, we cut back on sugar and other carbs, we walk up stairs instead of taking the elevator, we schedule that overdue dentist appointment, and many people try to quit smoking. We all mean well but we can easily fall back into old patterns.

One of the easier resolutions to keep is to eat more cheese. By doing so you will be taking better care of yourself, you may even sleep better, you will likely cut back on other emptier calories. You may feel more like walking up the stairs, your dentist will notice your healthier teeth and gums, if you are unable to quit smoking it should offer some comfort knowing that the CLA derived from cheese has been shown to be an effective cancer fighter, and if you do head to the gym you will be a little more energized going in and you will recognize better results coming out. All this because you are eating a little more cheese!

However not just any old cheese.

When I update my picks for Max’s Especially Healthy Plate I make sure that each cheese in the collection is crafted from milk that has not been compromised by excessive heat treatment, as in pasteurization. There are plenty of good nutrients in the pasteurized varieties but not quite as many as you will get from the raw versions. Some of the nutrients are destroyed by pasteurization while others are far less bio-available. The fat soluble vitamins are reduced  significantly. According to recent studies conducted in Barcelona up to 80% of the vitamins A and D are lost in heat treatment. Whatever vitamin C may have been in the milk is zapped, the B vitamins are reduced, and some of the minerals that would have been chelated to the milk proteins are no longer available; the proteins that would enable their transport having been denatured by the high heat of pasteurization.

Again, there are plenty of nutrients in the pasteurized cheeses too, just not quite enough to hold up to the standards of my Especially Healthy Plate.

Do yourself some good and eat more cheese in 2014.

Max McCalman

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Skip Breakfast?

breakfast with beans e1379701588371 Skip Breakfast?

The New York Times printed an article recently debating the value of skipping breakfast with regard to weight loss. Sadly, it seemed like there was no specific conclusion on this point. I was reminded of an early afternoon a few years ago: I was sitting on the 1 train and could not help but hear a conversation between two young women sitting across from me.

One said to the other “I just had lunch less than an hour ago and I am already starving!”

I wondered what it was she had for lunch. I assumed it must have been a low-fat lunch, likely accompanied by a diet soda. I had not eaten since breakfast (which I rarely skip) and I was still sated. My breakfast that morning consisted of fruit, a handful of nuts, a 30-weight espresso to which a little honey had been added, and a small wedge of firm sheep cheese.

There is nothing quite like a little cheese to keep you going for hours.

If your day is rather sedentary I suppose skipping breakfast may be an option, though I do not see how one’s work performance can be adequately sustained without some sort of nutrient.

So, if nothing else, at least have a little cheese. Or if you are inclined to skip breakfast for whatever reason, make sure you have a chunk of cheese in your pocket.

- Max McCalman

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Probiotics in Dairy

10969 Large e1378238386784 Probiotics in Dairy

It seemed like it might be a nice piece at the start: someone accidentally left milk outside and it fermented. When did humans first recognize that this was a healthful product?

I had to read this one: an article on probiotics, and not for the fact that it came from a doctor.

Instead this online article concludes with a list of five things one can do to make sure they have great digestive health, avoiding all dairy products being at the top of the list. What went wrong with this article? How did we get from a healthful product to one that should be avoided? The good doctor does mention the negative effects of pasteurization: that it may destroy the lactase in the milk? He also points to the lactose in dairy, as though it is found in all dairy products, including aged cheeses.

If the probiotics are the key to the improved digestive systems and the enhanced immune systems, why not direct the reader to those cheeses that are full of probiotics, the uncompromised (raw) milk cheeses?

Interesting points are made throughout the piece, including the notion that about 85% of the bacteria in our gut is of the friendly variety, the rest being non-beneficial yet less problematic because they are outnumbered so greatly. This has been widely accepted as a given, that there are far more of the good guys than the bad, otherwise we would not be here.

But do not try and confuse the reader with all this hysteria-inducing talk, all for the sake of selling a lifetime supply of factory-made probiotics. You can get the more natural types directly from your raw milk cheeses, without the lactose, and in an incredibly effective and delicious form.

As I have noted before: they do not teach cheese in medical school. These guys had better watch out. Was it not the father of western medicine who said: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food?

- Max McCalman

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Addicted to Cheese

d1042 max Addicted to Cheese

A post on Vegetarian Blues has me in fits. An old article from the Orlando Sentinel is quoted:

Of all the potentially addicting foods, cheese may be the most complex. In research studies using vegan and vegetarian diets to control cholesterol or reduce body weight, most participants soon forget the lure of ice cream, sour cream, and even burgers and chicken. But for many people, the taste for cheese lingers on and on. Yes, 70 percent of its calories may come from waist-augmenting fat, and, ounce for ounce, it may harbor more cholesterol than a steak. But that cheese habit is tough to break.

Give me a break! Yes, cheese has addictive properties but I am fully certain that the consumption of cheese is a good addiction to have, and for many reasons. It is interesting to note that the first two foods cited as easy to “forget the lure of…” are also dairy products: ice cream and sour cream. The lure of dairy is always present, the primordial food that milk is in its many forms.

One of the biggest reasons why it is so difficult to give up on cheese is that our bodies know a good food when it eats it. Those addictive opioid peptides found in cheese actually help control our food intake. They also play a role in motivation, emotion, and the response to stress and pain. If a food delivers a lot of nutrition while helping to control our appetite then a little additional motivation and alleviation of pain should be permitted.

The article goes on to say that the cheese industry is looking for those Americans who will eat it straight out of the package, whatever the cost to their waistlines or cholesterol levels. It fails to mention a number of cheese components that can help you to slim down. Along with those appetite-controlling opioid peptides there is the satiety factor to be considered. Cheese (being a near-complete food) tends to satisfy us so that we do not crave excess amounts of food, cheese included. A little bit of cheese goes a long way.

A misconception I often hear is that it is the fat itself which makes us put on weight. More accurately it is instead the excess calories we consume but do not expend. Of course you can derive calories from fat, but you can also derive calories from protein and carbohydrates. The fat that is found in cheese not only makes the cheese taste good, it also helps to satisfy our cravings. That fat also breaks down into some mighty important fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. Multiple studies of the type of CLA found in dairy products have shown that it helps to reduce our weight; some studies indicate that a diet that contains this fatty acid can reduce abdominal fat! Another benefit of CLA is that it decreases whole-body glucose uptake. This is what we want.

mastering cheese 225x300 Addicted to Cheese

There are several other good qualities of this addictive food. Cheese is an excellent source of the amino acid which suppresses our appetites and helps to reduce body fat – tyrosine. Other amino acids, vitamins and minerals that are derived from cheese help to lower our cholesterol levels and control our appetites, and to metabolize the fats and proteins that we do consume.

The cheese industry does not claim that cheese is perfect but given a choice of foods there is no other that matches the complete nutrition that cheese provides, and there is no other food with a better track record for food safety. Cheese is derived from our first food – milk – our first and only food for the first several weeks or months our lives. Unfortunately, what in many cases passes for cheese is so far removed from our first food that it is no wonder that cheese has been repeatedly and viciously maligned. Yet even those processed cheeses are still better foods for us than most any other, and a safer food too.

By the way, my cholesterol levels are amazing and I am quite slim. My HDL is 163 and my LDL is 64, not bad for someone my age. Good genes don’t hurt but the 100 pounds of cheese that I eat each year does not seem to be hurting either.

Max McCalman

13628 Addicted to Cheese

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Calcium – the “Miracle” Mineral

The Consorzio Parmigiano Reggiano recently came out with an issue of their Pin Dot Press promoting the nutritional values that can be derived from Parm, particularly the Calcium. The article goes on to point out that sufficient vitamin D is required to pump that Calcium into our systems. The recommended minimums are listed for different age groups, from newborns to those over 70, as well as for pregnant or lactating women. The highest requirements for this mineral are for those last two cohorts, though the 9-18 y.o.’s and those over 70 are not far behind. One ounce of Parmigiano Reggiano supplies 300mg of Calcium. This makes this type of cheese one of the best sources of Calcium around. All cheeses supply the mineral and generally speaking, the harder the cheese (such as a Parm) the higher the Calcium content.

We associate Calcium with bones and teeth, yet it apparently offers several other benefits. Not only good for your teeth, it is also good for the gums that surround them. It is reported that it is important in the maintenance of a regular heartbeat and the transmissions on nerve impulses. Some reports claim that Calcium lowers cholesterol levels and that it can help prevent cardiovascular disease. It is required for muscular growth and contraction, and it helps prevent muscle cramps. There are several other benefits that have been associated with Calcium, including cancer prevention.

Again, the nutritive value that is most frequently associated with Calcium is that which it does for our skeletal system. A little extra calcium is required during the formative years so pack a little in your child’s lunch, then offer a little more for an after-school snack. And for anyone that is pregnant or is lactating, make sure that you get that extra bit of cheese. And to help prevent osteoporosis later in life, start loading up on your cheese today.

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Cheese and Health: Another reason to eat cheese

Sounds like a mismatch perhaps? One of the unexpected bonuses of incorporating a little cheese into your diet is what it can do for your hair.

Cheese (especially those that are crafted from sheep milk) is an excellent source of vitamin B2, also known as Riboflavin. This vitamin facilitates the use of oxygen by our hair while it also helps eliminate dandruff. Young men may want to consider this one: a deficiency of Riboflavin can lead to hair loss.

Another B vitamin that is found in elevated levels in cheese is Biotin. A sufficient quantity of this vitamin is essential for healthy hair. A deficiency of Biotin can also lead to hair loss.

The amino acid that is named after cheese – Tyrosine – is a precursor to melanin, which is responsible for the color of our hair, among many other wonderful things.

A significant component of hair is a protein called keratin. This protein is formed by polypeptides constructed from amino acids that are found in high concentration in cheese.

Bottom line: eat cheese and provide the nutrients required for healthy, colorful hair, without dandruff. Start today.

Friday, January 21st, 2011

How Much Cheese Can I Eat?

You can eat as much cheese as you want to and not worry. This is my opinion.

It could be said that eating too much cheese would not be good for you. Some people go so far as to say that no cheese is good for you. Too much of anything may not be a good thing. “Everything in moderation” is the preferred phrase.

I recall a phase early in my cheese career where I decided to have a little competition with a colleague to see how much weight we might put on by eating as much cheese as we possibly could. We went through this for about a month and discovered that we were both losing weight, especially around the abdomen. This was years before we knew about the weight-reducing properties of CLA – conjugated linoleic acid.

As I recall, we were eating quite a lot of cheese during that time, yet we were not eating as much other foods. No surprise there; we were sated. Fortunately cheese is a near-complete food.

If you only eat one pound of cheese each week you still will not be eating as much as the Greeks. I eat a little more than that but I don’t seem to be suffering for it. And as a matter of fact, my appetite for other foods has not suffered either. This brings to mind all of the other attributes of cheese – it has components that help to metabolize the foods that we eat, including the cheese itself.

Yet with cheese, a little bit can go a long way. Most everyone will reach a point where they will say (regarding eating cheese) “I’m good.”

I know several people who have said that they could be paid for their work in cheese, and indeed cheese was used as a form of currency in the not-too-distant past. I just happen to be someone lucky enough to eat cheese for a living.

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

What’s so healthy about cheese?

At this time of year when the stresses of cold weather, holiday planning and travel place extra demands on us, it is good to know that cheese can help us deal with all of it by giving us a broad array of nutritional benefits.

Cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Cheese is a protein-rich food. Those proteins break down into amino acids. Some of these amino acids found in high concentration in cheese help us respond to stress, anxiety and pain in a number of ways. They help to stabilize moods. A deficiency of one of those amino acids can lead to depression, while another helps give us a good night’s rest. Some of those amino acids can be useful for people with atherosclerosis, heart disorders, and hypertension. They have been shown to play a role in sparing the loss of potassium from the heart muscle. A lack of one of them may contribute to coronary artery spasms.

Cheese is also a good source of beneficial fats. The fats break down into fatty acids. A fatty acid derived from cheese has demonstrated several benefits including a reversal of arteriosclerosis.

Cheese is also a great source of many important vitamins and minerals. It is important to note that cheese is the best source of Calcium, which is important in the maintenance of a regular heartbeat, among other things.

Don’t forget the weight-reducing properties of cheese! The more weight that we carry, the more work is demanded of our heart.

These and many other valuable tidbits are presented in our Cheese & Wine 201 class. I also take the relative nutritional quantities into consideration when I choose the cheeses for Max’s Healthy Plate.