Health benefits of cheese: your favourite indulgence is also good for your health!

Cheese made from the milk of animals that are raised 100% grass-fed contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K2.

Cheese is everywhere. It is a delicious indulgence for many a people. You can enjoy it melted on pizza, sliced for a sandwich, or sprinkled over a salad. But cheese also has a bad rap as a high-fat food. And while it may be true that cheese contains a high amount of fat, it can provide some surprising health benefits as well. 

Cheese is what’s known as a whole food: a food as close to its natural form as possible, with minimal to no processing.

The nutrition you get from cheese can vary a lot depending on what kind of cheese you eat — and how much. It is obviously advisable to steer clear of highly processed kinds, as they can contain additives and high levels of sodium. 

Beneficial nutrients present in cheese include:

  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin K
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D

28 grams of American cheese contains:

  • 104 calories
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 9 grams of fat (5 grams saturated)
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates
  • 0 grams of fiber
  • 0.6 grams of sugar
  • 293 milligrams of calcium
  • 468 milligrams of sodium
28 grams of Brie cheese, on the other hand, contains:

  • 100 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates
  • 9 grams of fat
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 150 milligrams of calcium
  • 170 milligrams of sodium

28 grams of Feta cheese:

  • 60 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates
  • 4 grams of fat
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 60 milligrams of calcium
  • 360 milligrams of sodium

The key to finding healthier cheeses is reading the label.

Harder cheeses tend to be higher in sodium, and nutrient content can vary from brand to brand. Avoid products that are cheese-flavored and opt for minimally processed varieties instead. When in doubt, always check the packaging.

Types of cheese

There are thousands of different varieties of cheeses made around the world. Many cheeses made in the United States use cow’s milk, but cheese can also be made from the milk of goats, sheep, and other animals.

  • Whole milk: Whole milk cheeses are made from regular, unskimmed milk. They can be high in saturated fat, so people with cardiovascular disease or high cholesterol may choose to limit their intake.
  • Low-fat and reduced fat: In the United States, cheeses labelled “low-fat” must contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving. A “reduced-fat” cheese has at least 25 percent less fat than the regular version of the cheese.
  • Aged cheese: These include cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss. They are firm in texture, and some can be high in salt. Aged cheeses are stored before they are ready to sell, so they have time to mature. The aging process tends to create stronger flavors.
  • Fresh cheese: such as ricotta and cottage cheese are generally high in moisture and soft in texture. They’re ready to be eaten quickly, without needing time to age, so they are known as “fresh” cheeses.

Possible health benefits of cheese

Cheese made from the milk of animals that are raised 100% grass-fed contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K2, a nutrient your body uses to clot blood. Research has shown that dairy products like cheese can help keep you from getting cavities in your teeth.

  1. Bone health

The calcium, protein, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins A, D, and K content of cheese mean it can contribute to healthy bone development in children and young adults, and to osteoporosis prevention.

Some theories have proposed that eating dairy products leads to higher acid levels in the body, and that this can destroy rather than encourage healthy bones. However, scientific evidence does not support this view.

  1. Dental health

Cheese can enhance dental health. Calcium plays an important role in tooth formation, and cheese is a good source of calcium. In addition, at least one study has shown that eating cheese can raise the pH level in dental plaque, offering protection against dental cavities.

Milk and sugar-free yogurt appear not to have the same effect.

  1. Blood pressure

Statistics show that people who eat more cheese have lower blood pressure, despite some cheeses being rich in fat and sodium.

Calcium can help reduce blood pressure. Low-fat, low-sodium cheeses are recommended. A suitable low-sodium cheese would be low-fat or reduced-fat natural Swiss cheese.

Other low-fat cheeses include cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan, feta, and goat’s cheese, and low-fat cream cheese.

Many cheeses are now available in “lite” versions, such as cheddar, brie, havarti, and feta. Check the nutritional information, because some reduced-fat cheeses have added sodium.

Due to extreme processing, fat-free cheeses are not recommended as a regular part of the diet, even for those looking to reduce calories or fat.

  1. Healthy blood vessels

Some cheeses contain high levels of cholesterol and sodium, suggesting that they can lead to cardiovascular problems.

However, in 2014, researchers concluded that dairy products could be a good source of the antioxidant, glutathione. This antioxidant is crucial for brain health and for preventing age-related neurodegeneration.

In 2016, scientists also found that the antioxidant properties of cheese may protect against the negative effects of sodium, at least, in the short term.

In the study, the blood vessels of participants who consumed dairy cheese functioned better than the blood vessels of those who ate pretzels or soy cheese.

  1. Gut microbiota and cholesterol

As a fermented food, cheese may help boost healthy gut bacteria. This could have a positive effect on blood cholesterol levels, according to a small study published in 2015.

  1. A healthy weight

Studies show that a person with a high body mass index (BMI) is more likely to have low levels of calcium. Since cheese is a good source of calcium, there may be benefits for people on a weight-loss diet.

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

These have been found in some types of cheese, and especially those made from milk produced by cows that eat Alpine grasses. Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to benefit the cardiovascular system and the brain.

  1. Healthy cells

Cells need protein for building and repair. One ounce of cheddar cheese can offer 7 g of protein. The amount of protein recommended for each person depends on their age, size, and activity level.

Potential Risks of Cheese

Some people are allergic to a protein in cheese called casein. An allergic reaction to this substance can cause inflammation throughout the body, rashes, acne, headaches, and sinus congestion.

If your body can’t digest lactose, the sugar that’s naturally in cheese, this can also trigger a reaction. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.

If you’ve never been tested for these sensitivities, talk with your doctor or a dietitian about them.

Finally, while the saturated fats in cheese can be beneficial in small amounts, diets high in saturated fats and sodium have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Since cheese has higher amounts of saturated fat and sodium, it’s best to eat it in moderation.

They best way to get a healthy body is to maintain a well-balanced diet along with regular exercise. If cheese is your choice of food for adding certain nutrients to your diet, there is nothing wrong with that. However, it is always better to consult a dietician for your needs. And of course, keep in mind that excess of anything is bad.

So next time you add some cheese to your diet, you can be guilt free. But ensure that it isn’t too much!

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