Cheese is an essential component of many comfort foods, and for good reason. It has a substantial body and a luscious taste. In fact, according to one study, cheese has the same addictive potential as opioids because it stimulates the same brain region.
Delicious? Absolutely. But, is cheese actually good for you? On the one hand, it’s common knowledge that the calcium in cheese helps keep bones strong. Conversely though, most cheeses are fairly fatty. Because of this, cheese presents a serious health dilemma. Let’s check in with some professional nutritionists, shall we?
Can You Trust Cheese to Keep You Healthy?
According to Judy Simon, RD, owner of Mind Body Nutrition and faculty member at the University of Washington Nutritional Sciences Program, “Cheese offers folks rich flavors and taste and easily fits into a healthy lifestyle.”
Cheese is acceptable as part of a healthy diet, according to registered dietitian Miranda Galati, RD. Adding cheese to a healthy, balanced diet is something she recommends. Galati counters that there are also person-specific considerations to take into account. “It depends on your overall diet, your unique health concerns, and the frequency with which you consume cheese,” she says.
Simon warns that people with high cholesterol or other cardiovascular concerns should be aware of the fat content in cheeses. She says, “Cheese varies in its fat content,” adding that the majority of this fat is saturated.
She suggests using cheese sparingly, such as grating Parmesan or sprinkling feta cheese (which is lower in calories than many other kinds of cheese) on salads or veggies, to help reduce your intake of saturated fat. Additionally, she mentions that processed cheese may contain a lot of sodium and should be avoided.
All cheese lovers know that there is a great selection of cheeses available. What considerations should someone make when selecting a cheese for their healthy diet? You can eat cheese of any kind as part of a healthy diet. To complement a diet rich in plant-based foods, Galati suggests selecting cheeses that you particularly enjoy. Cheese is nutrient-dense and delicious, but it’s important to balance it out with plant-based proteins and healthy fats for optimal health. Cheese is high in calories, so it’s important to watch how much you eat, says Galati.
In spite of these limitations, there are numerous health benefits associated with eating cheese on a regular basis.
5 Ways Cheese Improves Your Health
For one, it’s a protein-rich food.
Both RDNs highlight the protein content of cheese as a potential health benefit. Cheese, Galati says, is a simple way to increase the satiety of carbohydrate-rich snacks like crackers, fruit, and bread. However, the amount of protein you’re getting from cheese varies widely by variety. Galati claims that the protein content of harder cheeses, such as Parmesan, cheddar, gouda, and mozzarella, is higher, and that this is especially true of lower-fat varieties of these cheeses. You can also get a lot of protein from cottage cheese. She also notes that “cheeses that are easier to spread, such as ricotta and cream cheese, contain less protein and may be less filling.”
Eating cheese can help your bones.
Third, it may help alleviate depression.
You may have experienced an uplift in mood after eating cheese, but did you know there’s more to it than just the flavor? Magnesium, as Simon mentions, is one of the nutrients found in cheese. Anxiety and depression may be alleviated by getting more magnesium in your diet. This could be another reason why cheese is frequently used in dishes meant to bring comfort.
In addition to its other benefits, cheese is good for your brain.
Nutritionists agree that cheese is a good source of vitamin B12. The brain and nervous system need this nutrient the most. Swiss cheese has more vitamin B12 per gram than any other cheese, making it the best choice if you’re trying to increase your B12 intake.
5 Cheese is good for your eyesight.
Vitamin A is crucial to maintaining healthy eyesight, and Simon and Galati say that cheese has some of this vitamin. (The immune system benefits from vitamin A, as well.) Include your cheese in a vitamin A-rich salad with dark greens, red bell pepper, tomato, an egg, and salmon.
You now have five more good excuses to indulge in the deliciousness that is cheese. “Even though I’m a registered dietitian, cheese is one of my favorite foods.” A claim made by Galati. “Your health is not dependent on any one food. I say, by all means, keep on eating cheese if that’s what you enjoy. Just make sure to eat a wide variety of cheeses and other foods.
Now that you know cheese is good for you in general, it’s time to learn which 10 varieties are the healthiest to incorporate into your diet.
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