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There’s nothing I love more than a hunk of fresh bread, some real butter and a slice of mature cheddar cheese.

Healthy Ageing. Cheese, the unsung protein hero.

If you come to visit you’ll always find cheese in our fridge.

If you ask me why, I’ll tell you we love cheese, because it tastes great and because it’s so versatile.

But there’s also another health reason too: cheese packs a healthy protein punch and helps to keep me ‘Lovin’ Life :)’

Protein is important for our ageing bodies because there’s research to suggest that eating quality protein, like cheese, along with doing the right exercise, can improve our physical status as we get older, and help with healthy ageing.

We’re living longer

It’s true that we’re living longer than previous generations, so we need to maintain our health and continue to enjoy life as much as we can, for as long as we can.

But keeping strong and fit in our second ‘hurrah’ of life takes a little more conscious effort than perhaps it did when we were in our twenties and thirties.

I’ve been told that one of the culprits leading to poor health as we age is a decrease of our muscle mass.

Muscle can lose its size and strength which very often means we become less active and take less exercise (or none at all) which can lead to a whole slew of health problems – balance and mobility can also be affected.

What can we do to keep on the right path?

We need to step up to the mark and regularly engage in resistance training which might include using weights or using our own body weight to do squats and push-ups (make sure you get professional advice from a physical trainer if you’re not used to this sort of exercise).

We should also make a conscious effort to eat enough high quality protein, split between three of our main meals per day.

Can cheese help with healthy ageing?

Research suggests that one of the solutions to our continual quest for good health and independence lies in optimising muscle mass by combining the right exercises with the right amount and right type of protein. And not just any dietary protein!

A study conducted by the Dairy Health and Nutrition Consortium, led by Dr Kathy Zhu, found that elderly women who had more serves of milk, cheese and yoghurt had greater whole lean body mass, compared to those women who ate less dairy.

Four or more serves a day

But, and this is a big BUT… according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics  less than 1 in 10,000 women in the 50+ age group are getting the recommended four serves of the dairy food group each day. Check out what we should be eating Here.

Resistance training

On the physical front, resistance training in the form of strength training or weight training, is considered a great way to maintain muscle when coupled with dietary protein.

Resistance training, healthy ageing.

“Muscle improvement is helped by getting adequate dietary protein. When protein intake is combined with resistance exercise the result is the body ‘turning up’ muscle building and ‘turning down’ muscle breakdown,” writes Amber Beaumont, an Accredited Practising Dietitian. *

So how much protein do we need?

“You should aim for around 25 – 30g of protein at each meal – that’s breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Amber says. *

What does this look like in real terms?

The following foods contain approximately 10g protein:

  • 40g of cooked lean beef/pork/lamb
  • 40g skinless cooked chicken
  • 50g of canned tuna/salmon or cooked fish
  • 300 ml of milk/ Milo
  • 200g tub of yoghurt
  • 300ml flavoured milk
  • 1.5 slices (30g) of cheese
  • 2 eggs

So to achieve roughly 25-30g of protein at a meal, here are some suggestions:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs on toast, topped with grated cheese
  • Lunch: Chicken, cheese and salad sandwich followed by a tub of yoghurt
  • Dinner: Tuna pasta followed by a glass of warm milo

(Healthy snacks can also be eaten between meals such as fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers etc.)

Some types of protein are better than others at supporting healthy muscles.

“A key trigger for switching on muscle protein synthesis is an amino acid called ‘leucine’. The highest concentrations of leucine are found in whey protein from dairy products. Studies using dairy protein supplements have shown greater increases in strength and lean body mass compared to all other protein sources,” says Amber. *

A Protein Hero

Yes, there’s a high quality protein hiding in our fridges – cheese, of course.

It’s been an important part of Western diets for thousands of years.

It’s versatile and yummy and can be the main event in a meal, or part of a snack to perk you up mid-afternoon.

Healthy-ageing, cheeseboard

How was cheese discovered?

Who knows? Possibly the process of milk turning into cheese was discovered in a kind of happy accident when someone left an urn of milk in the sun, or put a bowl of milk too close to a wood fire.

These days of course dairy producers take care of the cheese making process for us and we have easy access to high quality protein whenever we want it.

For more about the nutritional content of various cheeses you might like to check out the helpful fact sheet Here:

When you need a boost of easy to access, high quality protein, cheese may well be the unsung protein hero hiding in your fridge – eaten, of course, alongside your resistance workout 😉

Tasty ways to include cheese in your diet

You’ll find some great tips on the Legendairy website, and you might like the suggestions in this post Healthy Cheese Snacks.

Amber Beaumont, Dairy Australia

*Many thanks to Amber Beaumont (above), Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) at Dairy Australia for access to her article, “Optimising muscle mass and protein intake to keep ageing at bay.”

Here’s to keeping healthy as we age, and fit enough to keep on Lovin’ Life! Do tell … What’s your favourite cheese, and do you do any resistance training? Please share in the comments section below this post.

Are you Lovin’ Life?

The Lovin’ Life Team includes:
Kathy from 50 Shades of Age
Deb from Debbish
Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit
and Me at Lifestyle Fifty

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Showing 20 comments
  • Sydney Shop Girl

    Thank you for providing the evidence for my love of cheese, Jo.

    On a more serious note, I’ve also made the effort to include more protein in my diet. Hopefully it’s paying off!

    SSG xxx

    • Johanna

      Hope you go well with your new protein efforts – and yes, Here’s to Cheese! Cheers Sydney Shop Girl!

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

    I’m glad my cheese eating habits of late may be doing me some good!

    • Johanna

      Love to think that you’re keeping your bones strong, and eating protein Leanne 🙂

  • jodie filogomo

    This cheesey information (sorry, couldn’t resist) will make my husband extremely happy!!
    He has never met a cheese he didn’t like!

    • Johanna

      Pleasure to provide ‘cheesey information’ Jodie!

  • Reply

    Thanks for sharing this great info with us Jo. I didn’t know we needed so much protein at each meal. I know I’m not eating that much! Guess it’s time to review my meals 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Johanna

      It’s actually quite hard to eat enough protein at each meal isn’t it Lyndall? We have to make a conscious effort most of the time.

  • Jo Tracey

    Great post. I love nothing more than bread, wine & cheese, but have my hand in the air firmly re not enough dairy & not enough resistance or weight bearing exercise. Your post is a reminder on both fronts.

    • Johanna

      Hi Jo, great that this post has flagged reminders for you 🙂

  • Kathy Marris

    I avoided cheese, milk and yoghurt in my diet for years believing they were too high in fat and bad for me. I’ve always loved cheese so I’m so glad it’s back in favour again! My new outlook on dieting is eating for health as opposed to eating to look good. I would much prefer to be a little plump rather than stick thin and unhealthy. 🙂

    • Johanna

      Hell yeah Kathy! High fives! Embracing food for its nutritional value rather than avoiding things because they have myths built up around them and are perceived as bad, is a much healthier way to live. Let’s be brimming with good health rather than stick insects.

  • [email protected]

    Such a wonderfully informative post Jo! That’s one thing I’ve got right – I get a good amount of protein each day. I do need to do some weight training though and that is on my ‘to do’ list to get sorted for this year. I find I become much higher maintenance as I get older but it’s worth the effort to feel good isn’t it?! 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Johanna

      Hi Min, yes I know what you mean about the higher maintenance as you get older. You can’t just do some of the things you once took for granted, unless you do some background work too! Yep, feeling good is worth the effort though! Good luck with the weight training this year 🙂

  • Vanessa

    My dietican was a bit concerned about my dairy intake (though fixing my iron is the current focus) so she likes me easy (aka lazy) grab and go breakfast of a vegemite and cheese sandwich that I toast when I get to work!

    • Johanna

      Yumm Vanessa – that sounds a delish way to get a punch of protein and dairy for breakfast – and easy peasy too. I’m going to take your lead and do the same tomorrow. When I was in England my Mum introduced me to toasted sandwich bags into which you pop the sandwich and put it straight into the toaster. I’m wondering if you can get them in Aus as they make perfect toasties with no fuss or washing up.

  • Deborah

    A great post Jo and nice reminder of all of the ways we can get some protein! Since my weight loss surgery protein has become a big focus for me as I’m supposed to have at least 60g a day and am a tad paranoid about my hair falling out etc (which it is) given the changes to my diet. So… getting my protein in is huge for me and I’m trying to have at least 80g a day.

    I must admit one of my easy go-to meals over the past few weeks has involved using up my Christmas ham with some haloumi cheese and cherry tomatoes (the latter I grill). Or sometimes I make chicken kebabs with the haloumi and cherry tomatoes…

    • Johanna

      Thanks Deborah! It’s actually quite hard getting enough protein in our diet isn’t it? I like the sound of your go-to meal. Easy but nutritious with both proteins and dairy covered 🙂

  • Sue

    Great post and so informative. I think we all get caught up with ‘fad diets’ instead of looking at the benefits of the food we eat. Cheese can get a bad rap but it is vital for bone strength. Strength training is also important as we age. I’m 60 this year and feeling great thanks to a healthy and holistic approach to diet and exercise. Have a great week! Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond.

    • Johanna

      Hi Sue, I agree … fad diets and myths about dairy have been so much part of our generation. It’s great that you have combined a healthy and holistic approach to diet and exercise and here’s to celebrating milestone birthdays! May 2017 be your Festival of 60!

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