March 04, 2024

Cheese, please, for those pearly whites

Warm your heart and belly this February with Gouda mushroom soup.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month — a time to recognize the importance of prioritizing oral health at an early age. St. Louis District Dairy Council annually celebrates this month with school nurses and dental health professionals by providing resources that highlight the beneficial role of calcium-rich dairy foods in oral health. This February, the organization is distributing 500 dental health posters and 4,000 toothbrushes to school nurses in eastern Missouri and southern and central Illinois.

Cheese takes the spotlight when it comes to oral health. This dairy food is a great source of calcium and phosphorus, both of which strengthen teeth. The protein in cheese builds up the enamel in teeth, helping prevent cavities. Cheese is also a great way to finish a meal or snack. The act of chewing cheese stimulates saliva production, which helps clean teeth.

Because the main ingredient of cheese is milk, cheese is packed full of the same nutrients that milk has to offer, including many vitamins and minerals. Cheese is the No. 2 source of calcium in the diet, coming second only to milk. Because of this, cheese helps keep bones and teeth strong. Cheese also provides high-quality protein, the nutrient that provides energy, and helps build and repair muscles.

Another unique quality of cheese is that it is low in lactose, allowing many individuals who are lactose-intolerant to enjoy this dairy food. Lactose is the sugar naturally found in milk and dairy foods. During the cheese-making process, the whey (the liquid where the lactose is stored) is removed from the cheese. The removal of the whey results in the removal of the majority of the lactose. This allows those with lactose-intolerance to enjoy a great source of calcium and protein, without the addition of digestive discomfort.

Celebrate With Cheese

Created over 8,000 years ago, cheese made its way to the United States in the early 17th century. More than 2,000 different kinds of cheese exist across the world, 300 of which are available in the United States. Today, cheese is categorized into eight varieties, including pasta filata, fresh soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, hard, soft-ripened, blue-veined and processed. With so many different varieties, textures and flavor profiles, cheese pairs well with almost every food, and has become a staple in many American households. According to the USDA, Americans consumed approximately 42 pounds of cheese per person in 2022.

It is important to note that cheese can be enjoyed not only during the month of February, but year-round. Whether enjoying a charcuterie board at a family gathering, cheese on top of a sandwich or salad at lunch, or refueling at the end of a sports game, the nutrient profile of cheese offers benefits for everyone.

Individuals should be striving to get three servings of dairy every single day. By adding 1 1/2 ounces of cheese to a meal or snack throughout the day, an individual is consuming a serving of dairy, allowing them to get closer to that goal.

For more information on dairy’s benefits, visit www.stldairycouncil.org. Follow St. Louis District Dairy Council on Facebook and Instagram at STLDairyCouncil.

Gouda Mushroom Soup

Warm your heart and belly this February with Gouda mushroom soup. Rich with creamy broth and hints of caramel flavors, you can easily fall in love with this soup.

Servings: 6

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon. ground allspice

1 container (32 ounces) chicken broth

1 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese

Chives and smoked paprika for garnish

Procedure

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, pepper and allspice until smooth.

Gradually add in broth, cream and milk. Bring to a boil.

Add mushrooms and garlic. Reduce heat.

Simmer 5 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.

Add cheese. Cook and stir until melted.

Garnish with chives and paprika, if desired.

Monica Nyman

Monica Nyman

Monica Nyman is a senior educator and registered dietitian with the St Louis District Dairy Council. For more information on the health benefits of dairy, visit www.stldairycouncil.org.