dairy

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A Cheesy Post

Published February 9, 2014 by Jennie

cheese

So cheese is one of my favorite foods.  Nothing is more comforting then curling up with a grilled cheese (and maybe some tomato soup) especially when it is rainy or cold outside  Cheese is not something I will ever give up so I wanted to learn how it may impact my fertility and overall health.  Here is what I found.

Fertility

As I researched cheese, I kept seeing warnings about listeria.  I had heard about this in the past but was not really sure what it is.  According to WebMD, consuming listeria can increase the chance of miscarriage.  According to foodsafety.gov, the following foods can become contaminated:

  • Ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs
  • Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products
  • Soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, such as queso fresco, Feta, Brie, Camembert
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Raw sprouts

It looks like avoiding soft cheese may be a good idea (especially if I ever do become pregnant).  While I have never taken a pregnancy test, I think there may have been times I was pregnant and lost it very early.  My cycle is usually like a clock but a few times I was a week late and felt several pregnancy symptoms.  Even though I love cheese, I rarely eat soft versions so for me this will not be to difficult to avoid.  There are other foods on this list that I plan to deal with later.

While information sources do not always agree, many claim that for women, cheese is ok for fertility.  Some sources recommend it due to its calcium (of course in moderation!).  Other sources state that it can aggravate conditions such as PCOS and Endometrosis.  I have unexplained infertility and testing indicates these conditions are not an issue for me.

I did learn that cheese may impact male fertility.  Men who eat 3+ serving of full fat dairy may have poorer quality sperm (You can read more about this here and here.  Lucky for me, my DH is not big on dairy.  He has also had several tests which indicate his swimmers are super healthy.  I know that these tests do not tell you everything but this is still good news.

Nutrition

As I have said before, one of my health goals is to cut out processed food by paying attention to food labels and ingredients.  I took a look at a few of the cheeses I sometimes buy.

Shredded Cheese 

kraft

Shredded Cheese is so convenient!  Unfortunately, I found that it may not be the healthiest option.  According to Fooducate, here are the ingredients

Vermont White Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Sharp Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto [Color]), Mild Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto [Color]), Potato Starch, Cellulose Powder, and Calcium Sulfate Added to Prevent Caking, Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor).

Um, this looks a little scary.  Lets check out a few of the ingredients

Annatto: This is a seed or extract primarily used to give cheese its yellow/orange color (apparently, cheese is not naturally bring yellow/orange).  The FDA states that certification of this food additive is not necessary to protect public health.  Some sources suggest that there may be issues with annatto but overall, it does not look that bad.  Even so, I do like to avoid food dye and additives when I can.

Cellulose Powder: health.com states that cellulose is derived mainly from wood pulp and cotton, is used in paper ­manufacturing—and sometimes added to food.  Humans can’t digest it(this does not mean it harms us).  The FDA says it is safe but I am thinking this may not be the best thing to consume if my goal is to focus on avoiding processed foods.

Natamycin: This is also used to treat fungal eye infections.  It has a C rating for pregnancy which simply means that one can not rule out a risk (it does not mean that it is dangerous for sure).  The European Food Safety Authority  also says it is safe to consume and I could not find any FDA warnings.  One concern I did find is that it can lead to antibiotic resistance.

Sliced Cheese

I often use sliced cheese to make sandwiches.  This helps me with portion and calorie control.  While those are not my primary health concerns, it is good to keep them in check.  Using a slice prevents helps me control my serving.  One cheese I like is Trader Joe’s sliced provolone.  It has a 100 calories per slice.

provolone

According to Fooducate, here is the list of the ingredients: pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, animal rennet, salt.

Animal Rennet: Rennet is a complex of enzymes found in the stomach of baby mammals that allows them to process mother’s milk (consumethisfirst.com).

According to , here are some things to know

What you need to know:

1. Cheese has been manufactured using rennet for thousands of years, mostly in Europe.

2. Indeed, rennet is extracted from the lining of the inside of the stomach of mammals, and most commonly from the fourth stomach of young calves.

3. Rennet contains enzymes that cause milk to become cheese, by separating it into the solid curds and the liquid whey.

4. Different animal rennet are used as well to create other types of cheese.

5. Most cheese in the US is NOT manufactured using rennet, mostly due to the availability of cheaper alternatives.

6. Vegetable rennet is made from certain vegetables that have coagulation properties as well. Thistle is the most common form.

7. Microbial rennet is derived from molds. Yum. A side effect is a slightly bitter tasting cheese.

8. Genetically engineered rennet is derived from plants that have been injected with cow genes.

What to do at the supermarket:

9. Companies are not legally required to disclose the source of the rennet, so unless the product specifically states a non-animal source for rennet, you won’t know.

10. Another way to verify that the rennet is not from an animal source is to look for a kosher symbol. According to Jewish dietary laws, milk and meat ingredients cannot be mixed or eaten at the same time.

Overall, animal rennet does not look awful and may be hard to identify.  It does though have a pretty big ick factor.  If I had a choice, I would choose cheeses that did not contain it.

Block Cheese

Here are a few I sometimes buy

kraft

Ingredients: Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color)), Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor).

gc

Ingredients: cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes, annatto.

Cheese from Walmart actually looks better.  Even so, for many reasons, I am trying to shop less at Walmart.  Next I looked into other options.

c

Ingredients: Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes. Contains No Animal Rennet.

HOORAY!  It has no dyes (annatto) and specifically states that it has no animal rennett!  For some reason though, I had a hard time accepting that it is not yellow/orange.  I don’t know why this was an issue but it was.  After trying it, my concern subsided.  It is delicious!  It is also not crazy expensive.  An 8 oz block at Harris Teeter (a common grocery store in my area) costs $3.49, Kraft costs $3.89, and Harris Teeter store brand costs $3.19.  Of course this is not the only cheese I will ever eat.  Even so, I now have a lot of information I can use when buying one of my favorite foods.

I am now ending with a cheesy quote 🙂 (Get it?  I know I’m awful)

sweet

Milking it!

Published January 29, 2014 by Jennie

almond-meme-generator-milk-me-65369d

I never though that choosing milk could give me a mild panic attack but it totally did.  There are so many options it can make one’s head spin.  To start with I will share my original milk status.  For as long as I can remember, I have purchased and used skim milk.  I rarely drink it by itself but I do cook with it and have been known to make a mean hot chocolate every once and a while that calls for milk.  I decided to investigate milk options to enhance fertility and improve my overall health.  My primary nutritional goal is to find foods that are minimally processed which usually means I can pronounce all the ingredients.  Here are the contestants.

Skim Milk (Of course nutrition facts can vary from brand to brand).

skim

I did not realize how much protein was in skim milk and it is also low in calories.  Calories are not my primary focus but I do want to make sure I do not get too many or too few throughout the day.  Unfortunately, several sources say that skim milk is not good for fertility.  Apparently, it can actually be worse for you fertility wise than higher fat milk (who knew?),

2% (I know I am skipping a few)

2percent

 

This one has the same amount of protein about and more calories.  I also really do not like the taste of 2% (it tastes like cream to me and I can not even consider switching to whole milk).  Additional studies also this low fat milk can lead to fertility problems.  Specifically, it can interfere with ovulation.  According to my many many medical tests, I have no issues with ovulation but I am starting to think that these tests do not always give you a complete picture and if there is a risk, it is probably best to stay away from this.

Coconut Milk (again there are many varieties!)

coconutmilk

 

I am going to stay away from milk with flavors but I though I would keep the nutrition information in there for fun.  Calories look good but I am not sure where all the protein went :(.  I also know there are about a bazillion health benefits of coconut and coconut oil.  It can also help enhance fertility (although I am not sure if that applies to coconut milk but I would think it would).  This could definitely be an option.

Soy Milk (Going to skip this one because I am avoiding soy since many studies suggest it can mess with your hormones and fertility).

Hemp Milk (Unsweetened of course!)

hemp

Nutrition appears similar to coconut milk and I did not find anything negative about it fertility wise.  I saw a lot of sites that could show you how to actually make it at home but I do not think I will try that.

Almond Milk (Nutrition is from almond breeze milk)

almondstuff

 

Looks about the same.

There are also other kinds I did not look at (like goat and raw milk).  Overall, it looks like traditional milk has the most protein but may negatively impact fertility.  I did not see much of a difference between the alternatives.  I decided to pick up some unsweetened almond milk at Trader Joe’s.  I actually really like it!  I also like that it lasts much longer than traditional milk.  Since my husband and I do not drink much, we often end up throwing a lot away even when we buy half gallons.  I may try coconut milk next or take advice from someone who can give me a little direction and good information.  I very much appreciate suggestions and feedback!  Who knew that something as simple as milk could be so complex.