Dairy Nutritional Information
Milk and milk products are important to any
American diet. The government estimates that dairy foods (not including
butter) provide the following percentages of nutrients available
in the nation's food supply:
*73% of the calcium
*33% of the phosphorus
*31% of the riboflavin
*19% of the protein
*16% of the magnesium
*21% of vitamin B12
*17% of vitamin A
*10% of vitamin B6
*appreciable amounts of vitamin D
and niacin equivalents
Milk and other dairy foods produced only
9% of the total calories
available in the typical diet. These foods
are nutrient-dense foods, providing a high concentration of many nutrients
in relation to their calories. Now can you see why dairy is very
important to our body's health.
Cheese provides many essential nutrients.
Cheese contributed 8% of the protein available in the food supply, 23%
of the calcium, and 5% of the riboflavin, as well as many other nutrients
in significant amounts. Cheese contains, in a concentrated form, many of
milk's nutrients. About 5 quarts of whole milk are needed to make 1 pound
of whole milk cheese and 9 pounds of whey.
The composition of milk used in cheese-making
changes as a result of separation of the curd from the whey, and ripening
or curing of cheese. Separation of the curd from the whey in cheese-making
causes a significant partition of nutrients and a considerable change in
the nutrient content of cheese compared to that of the original milk. Milk's
water-insoluble components which are primarily retained in the curd, are
concentrated in cheese. Most ripened cheeses contain about 10 times the
amount of water-insoluble components as in milk. For example, in Cheddar
cheese the 3.2% fat (in milk) is increased to 32% (in cheese) and the 2.3%
protein is increased to 23%. Most of milk's water-soluble constituents
remain in the whey. These nutrients are therefore lower in cheese than
in milk, with the amount in cheese depending on how much whey is entrapped
in the curd. The proportions of the nonfat nutrients are about the same
as in whole milk cheese.
A typical partition of nutrients between
curd and whey in cheese-making is found in Table 30. The amount of various
nutrients retained in the curd and whey largely depends on the type of
cheese being manufactured, the type of milk (whole, reduced fat, nonfat)
or whey used, and the manner of coagulation (enzyme or acid coagulated).
Ripening also influences the nutrient content
of cheese, although to lesser extent than separation of the curd from the
whey. Protein, carbohydrate, and fat are the nutrients mainly affected
during ripening. The end products of alterations in these nutrients are
responsible for the characteristic odor and flavor of the finished cheese.
In certain varieties of cheese, the B complex vitamins may increase due
to the synthesis of the vitamins, mainly on the outer layers of the cheese.
However, on a moisture-corrected basis, little difference in the vitamin
content may occur.
Cheese is an important source of high-quality
protein, vitamins, and minerals, as indicated below. Because of its nutrient
content, cheese is considered to be a nutrient-dense food, providing a
high concentration of nutrients relative to its energy content.
Among dairy foods, cheese is the largest
contributor to the amount of protein available in the food supply. Further,
the proportion of protein from cheese has increased more than five-fold
since the turn of the century. Cheese is a source of high-quality protein
. Casein is the main protein in cheese, although the water-soluble milk
proteins lactalbumin and lactalglobulin may also be present, depending
on the amount of whey entrapped in the cheese.
Both the method of coagulation of milk and
the degree of ripening influence the protein in cheese.
In enzyme-coagulated cheese, protein is
present as di- and mono-calcium paracasein. A portion of the calcium is
removed by lactic acid produced during cheese-making, resulting in calcium
lactate and free paracasein. During curing, the rigid insoluble paracasein
is hydrolyzed into smaller molecular and soluble nitrogeneous forms, resulting
in a softer, more pliable, partially digested food. The extent of protein
hydrolysis and the resulting compounds determine the characteristics of
the final cheese. In some varieties of soft cheeses, much of the protein
is converted to water-soluble compounds, including peptides, amino acids,
and ammonia. The softness of these types of cheese is due to the extensive
solubilization of the proteins as well as to the high moisture content
of the cheese. In hard cheeses, less protein hydrolysis occurs than in
Protein in acid-coagulated cheese is isoelectric
casein. This protein is not greatly hydrolyzed or digested before use.
Acid-coagulated cheeses treated with a high temperature contain all
three milk proteins -- casein, lactoglobulin, and lactalbumin -- in appreciable
. In ripened cheeses, the carbohydrate content,
mainly lactose, is not nutritionally significant. Lactose is largely removed
in the whey during cheese-making. The small amount of lactose entrapped
in the curd is transformed to lactic and other acids by bacterial action
during curing. Most varieties of cheese contain an insignificant amount
of lactose . The legal addition of optional ingredients such as nonfat
milk and cheese whey during the manufacture of process cheese products
may increase their carbohydrate content compared to natural cheeses. The
wide range of lactose in process and cottage cheeses may be explained by
the addition of lactose as an optional ingredient to the creaming mixture.
The fat content of cheeses varies
widely, mainly because of the type of milk and milk product used
to make cheese. Nonfat cottage cheese contains less than 0.5 g per 4-ounce
serving, whereas a serving of Cheddar cheese (1.5 oz.) contains 14 g of
fat. A high-fat cheese, such as cream cheese, is always enriched with cream
and as such contains a greater proportion of fat than protein. Cheeses
such as Cheddar, Brie, blue, Limburger, Muenster, Gouda, and Swiss are
generally made from whole milk and have about the same amount of fat and
protein. A lowfat cheese has a higher protein-to-fat ratio.
The minimum milk fat and maximum moisture
content of most cheeses is governed by federal and state regulations. Recently,
federal standards of identity for lowfat and nonfat cottage cheeses have
been removed. These types of cottage cheese are now subject to the requirements
of FDA's "general standard," which permits foods to be named by a defined
nutrient content claim (e.g., lowfat) and a standardized term (e.g., "cottage
cheese"). Lowfat cottage cheese (2% milk fat, 1% milk fat, or .5% milk
fat) must contain no more than 3 g total fat per serving (about 4 oz.).
Nonfat cottage cheese must contain less than 0.5 g total fat per serving.
The content of cholesterol, like that of
fat, varies widely in cheese. Cheddar cheese contains 105 mg cholesterol
per 100 g, whereas nonfat cottage cheese dry curd contains about 7 mg cholesterol
per 100 g. The fat and cholesterol content of cheeses can be found by referring
to the Nutrition Facts panel on product labels.
Cheese is a good source of the essential
fatty acids linoleic and linolenic acids and is low in trans fatty acids.
Fatty acids are precursors of prostaglandins, which have unique physiological
roles in the body. During cheese ripening, a small amount of the fat is
hydrolyzed to volatile fatty acids, butyric, caproic, caprylic, and capric
acids and higher carbon chain fatty acids, which contribute to the flavor
of cheese. Cheese is a significant source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
(refer to Table 19). Recent scientific research supports potential roles
for CLA isomers in reducing the risk of certain cancers and heart disease,
enhancing the immune function, and regulating body weight/body fat distribution.
Cheese is also a good source of sphingolipids (Table 20). Preliminary scientific
findings indicate that this milk fat component may help reduce the risk
of heart disease and colon cancer.
The vitamin content of specific cheeses
varies widely as a result of the vitamins in the milk used, the manufacture
of cheese, the cultures or microorganisms used, and the conditions and
length of the curing period. As most of the fat in milk is retained in
the curd, cheese contains the fat-soluble vitamins of the milk used in
cheese-making. Cheddar cheese, which is made with whole milk, contains
1,059 International Units (IU) or 278 ug Retinol Equivalents (RE) of vitamin
A per 100 g, whereas cottage cheese dry curd, made with nonfat milk, contains
a comparatively smaller amount of this vitamin (30 IU or 8 ug RE per 100
g). Ripening results in little, if any, change in the vitamin A content
The water-soluble vitamins in cheeses vary
widely. Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, biotin,
and folate remain in the whey. The more whey retained in the cheese, the
greater the content of these water-soluble vitamins in the cheese. The
bacterial surface-ripened and mold-ripened cheeses may contain a
higher concentration of the B-complex vitamins than the hard and semi-hard
types of cheese. In the bacterial surface-ripened varieties of cheese,
the B-complex vitamins can be synthesized by the surface-ripening microorganisms
during curing. In soft-ripened cheeses, an increase in several of the B-complex
vitamins occurs on the outer layers with little vitamin change in the center
portion. In general, cheeses in which proteolysis is extensive have
a higher content of the B-complex vitamins than hard and soft-unripened
Cheeses are a good source of several minerals,
although the amounts of specific minerals in different cheese types vary
according to manufacturing procedures. Cheese's mineral content is influenced
by the addition of salt and optional ingredients, the method of coagulation,
treatment of the curd, and the resulting acidity. Refer to Table 13 and
USDA's Nutrient Database for the calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus,
zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium content of specific cheeses.
Cheese is a good source of calcium. The calcium
content of cheese is largely influenced by the acidity at coagulation and
the degree of expulsion of whey from the curd. In ripened whole milk cheeses
made with a coagulating enzyme (e.g., Cheddar, Swiss, brick), the calcium
and phosphorus largely remain in the curd. Cheese coagulated by lactic
acid alone (e.g., cottage cheese) retains less calcium and phosphorus because
the calcium salts are removed from the casein as casein is precipitated
at its isoelectric point. Cheddar cheese contains 721 mg calcium per 100
g, whereas dry curd cottage cheese contains 32 mg calcium per 100 g. Regular
cottage cheese contains more calcium (60 mg calcium per 100 g), indicating
that the creaming mixture or other additives contribute calcium to the
Generally, cheeses that are high in calcium
contain other minerals such as magnesium in appreciable amounts. Cheddar
cheese, for example, contains about 28 mg magnesium per 100 g, whereas
nonfat cottage cheese dry curd contains about 4 mg magnesium per 100 g.
Manufacturing procedures can affect the content of several minerals. For
example, if a high acidity is developed during the manufacture of a specific
variety of cheese, calcium and magnesium salts become more soluble and
are removed with the whey. Likewise, frequent washings tend to lower the
mineral content of the curd.
The sodium content of cheese is variable
due to the addition of sodium chloride (salt) as an optional ingredient.
One ounce of Cheddar cheese contributes only 7.3% of the recommended 2,400
mg daily sodium limit and 1 ounce of Swiss cheese contributes only 3.1%.
Standards of identity are established for two low-sodium cheeses: low-sodium
Cheddar and low-sodium Colby. These cheeses must contain no more than 96
mg sodium per pound. An ounce of either of these low sodium cheeses would
supply no more than 0.25% of the recommended limit of 2,400 mg sodium per
day. Other low-sodium cheeses are available. Low-sodium cheeses are defined
as those containing 140 mg or less sodium per serving; very-low-sodium
cheeses contain 35 mg or less sodium per serving; and sodium-free cheeses
contain 5 mg or less sodium per serving (Table 9).
Other Dairy Foods
Many dairy foods such as yogurt, other cultured
milk products, and ice cream are important sources of many of milk's nutrients,
including high-quality protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, riboflavin,
and vitamins A and B12.
In general, the nutrient content of cultured
and culture-containing dairy foods is similar to that of the milk from
which these products are made. However, factors such as the type and strain
of bacteria, milk (whole, lowfat, nonfat) used, fermentation conditions,
storage, and other treatments such as the addition of milk solids-not-fat,
sweeteners, and fruits can influence the nutrient composition of
cultured and culture-containing dairy foods. Recent regulations allowing
yogurt to meet all or part of the meat/meat alternate requirement for child
and adult nutrition programs attest to the high nutrient value of this
The nutrient content of ice cream varies
as a result of such factors as the milk fat content, and the addition of
dairy and other ingredients (e.g., milk solids-not-fat, stabilizers such
as caseinates and hydrolyzed milk proteins, sweeteners). The Nutrition
Facts panel on product labels indicates the nutrient content.
A typical serving of butter contains 45 calories
or only about 2.2% of a daily 2,000-calorie diet and approximately 7% of
the corresponding daily recommended fat intake. The cholesterol content
of butter is 33 mg per tablespoon, an amount well below the daily limit
of 300 mg per day. Butter contains 66% saturated fat, 4% polyunsaturated
fat, and 30% monounsaturated fat. Some of butter's saturated fatty acids,
specifically stearic acid and short-chain fatty acids, may have little
or no blood cholesterol-raising effects.