Cheese is a solid food made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep and other mammals, by coagulating the milk.
There are hundreds of types of cheese produced all over the world. Different styles and flavors of cheese are the result of using milk from various mammals or with different butterfat contents, employing particular species of bacteria and molds, and varying the length of aging and other processing treatments. Other factors include animal diet and the addition of flavoring agents such as herbs, spices, or wood smoke. Whether the milk is pasteurized may also affect the flavor. The yellow to red coloring of many cheeses is a result of adding annatto. Cheeses are eaten both on their own and cooked as part of various dishes; most cheeses melt when heated.
Cheese is an ancient food whose origins predate recorded history. There is no conclusive evidence indicating where cheesemaking originated, either in Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East, but the practice had spread within Europe prior to Roman times and, according to Pliny the Elder, had become a sophisticated enterprise by the time the Roman Empire came into being.
In general, cheese supplies a great deal of calcium, protein, and phosphorus. A 30-gram (about one ounce) serving of cheddar cheese contains about seven grams of protein and 200 milligrams of calcium. Nutritionally, cheese is essentially concentrated milk: it takes about 200 grams (seven ounces) of milk to provide that much protein, and 150 grams to equal the calcium.
Cheese potentially shares milk's nutritional disadvantages as well. The Center for Science in the Public Interest describes cheese as America's number one source of saturated fat, adding that the average American ate 30 lb (14 kg) of cheese in the year 2000, up from 11 lb (5 kg) in 1970. Their recommendation is to limit full-fat cheese consumption to 2 oz (57 g) a week. Whether cheese's highly saturated fat actually leads to an increased risk of heart disease is called into question when considering France and Greece, which lead the world in cheese eating (more than 14 oz/400 g a week per person, or over 45 lb/20 kg a year) yet have relatively low rates of heart disease. This seeming discrepancy is called the French Paradox; the higher rates of consumption of red wine in these countries is often invoked as at least a partial explanation.
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