Don't be afraid of cheese calories!

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Cheese has received a bad rap over the years, but that doesn't mean you need to keep it off your plate. Its high nutritional value and vitamin content make it an important part of a healthy diet.

According to the American Dietetic Association, one ounce of cheese (roughly the size of four dice) is considered one serving and provides 200 - 300 mg of calcium. On average, cheese contains about 100 calories and 8 or 9 grams of fat per ounce. As with many milk-based products, cheese provides a good source of protein and vitamins.

You might be surprised to know that harder, longer-aged cheeses have a higher fat content than creamy, rich cheeses. Fat in cheese is measured in parts per dry matter. That means one ounce of an aged cheese, like Gruyere will have more fat than an ounce of a triple creme, since soft cheeses like Brie or St Andre contain more water.

It is important, however, to pay attention to the type and amount of cheese you eat. Cheese can be a very healthy addition to your diet when you follow a few simple guidelines. Moderation is the key, along with choosing high quality products. Take an intense flavor, like Bleu d'Auvergne, or Comte, and you need only a small portion to enhance any recipe. So enjoy, and "Say cheese"!

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