parajumpers beige a European tradition

parajumpers beige a European tradition

parajump jacken a European tradition

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Cheese is synonymous with Europe. Parmesan and Mozzarella from Italy, Gouda from the Netherlands, Danish Blue from Denmark, Brie and Camembert from France, Feta from Greece; the list goes on. In fact, European countries dominate both the world’s production and consumption of this popular food. The Greeks, French, Swiss and Danish are among the high cheese consumers, whereas the Hungarians and Irish eat the least.1

Cheeses fall into several categories, but irrespective of type, all cheese making requires the separation of milk into solid curds and liquid whey. This usually involves souring the milk with bacteria and adding rennet, which firms the resulting curds. This, however, is where uniformity ends. From here, a cheese may be washed, drained, heated, stretched, aged or ripened, depending on the desired end product. For example, heating and ageing produces a hard cheese, stretching gives us mozzarella and ripening produces the delicious array of brie, camembert and blue cheeses.

Cheese is a major source of protein and calcium for many Europeans. These nutrients are both essential for normal growth and development, particularly of bones and teeth. A match box sized piece of hard cheese (40 50 g) provides about a fifth of an adult’s protein needs and approximately a third of the calcium needed by teenagers each day. The calcium in cheese and other dairy products is more easily used than that in plant foods. Cheese also contains vitamins A, B2, niacin, B12, and D, plus minerals such as zinc and phosphorus.2 Harder cheeses tend to contain greater amounts than soft cheeses, but all provide some. The same is true for fat and salt harder cheese often being higher in both.

The fat content of cheese ranges from below 10 g to about 35 g per 100 g of cheese; cottage cheese the lowest, harder cheeses nearer the top end. Whether a high fat Cheddar or a lower fat cottage cheese, the majority of fat is saturated usually over 60% (Table 1).2 With health advice across Europe encouraging a reduction in saturated fat intake, cheese makers are offering lower fat versions, particularly of the hard cheeses.3 Yet not all saturated fatty acids have the same health impact, and milk and dairy products commonly form part of national dietary recommendations.4,5 Therefore, using smaller amounts of the regular varieties may be an acceptable compromise for those trying to eat less (saturated) fat.

The other nutrient in cheese raising health concerns is sodium. In a similar way to fat, salt (sodium chloride) has some key functions in cheese, contributing to flavour, texture and, importantly, safety. Bacteria are used in almost all cheese production, but there are those which are unwanted as well as those needed for ripening and production of specific flavour compounds. Salt controls the growth of all these bacteria. Producing acceptable lower sodium cheeses remains a challenge, therefore efforts to reduce sodium may be more successful in other foods. In addition, the calcium and potassium in cheese may help counteract sodium’s potentially negative health effects, underlining the benefit of nutrients working synergistically in whole foods.3

Part of a healthy balanced diet

Cheeses are generally well liked and enjoyed in European food cultures in a variety of ways: on top of bread, as a menu item, and as a component adding to flavour and texture. In its natural state, cheese is relatively high in fat and salt, but also high on taste, convenience and safety. Reducing fat alters texture and flavour, reducing salt jeopardises safety, but doing both increases nutritional value. As all cheese contains essential vitamins and minerals, whichever is your favourite, it’s a nutrient dense food. Cheese, when consumed in moderation, is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and at the centre of European culture.

Table 1 Nutritional composition of some common cheeses per 100 g2

Rohner Thielen E (2008). From grass to glass; a look at the dairy chain. Eurostat Statistics in focus 76/2008.

Food Standards Agency, Science and Research section. Dietary surveys.

Johnson ME, Kapoor R, McMahon DJ, McCoy DR, Narasimmon RG (2009). Reduction of sodium and fat levels in natural and processed cheeses: scientific and technological aspects. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 8:252 268.
parajumpers beige a European tradition