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