Yes, Cheese Can be Part of a Healthy Diet!

With each passing year, there seems to be another beloved food or beverage that people who want to stay slim, prevent chronic illness, and enjoy longevity should avoid.  First, they came for the fats, then sugar and carbs, and next was red meat and processed foods – now that it’s Dry January, it may seem like nothing but rabbit food left that’s safe to consume.   The findings of recent studies, however, may be music to the ears of cheese lovers everywhere – while dense in calories, small portions of aged cheese may actually help reduce the risk of weight gain and several chronic diseases when paired with a healthy diet. 

According to a recent Washington Post Well+Being report, a recent clinical trial found that the saturated fat in cheese did not raise LDL cholesterol levels to the same degree as butter.  Because most cheeses are fermented, they can contain beneficial compounds like Vitamin K which is important for blood clotting, and bone and blood vessel health.  Cheese, in moderation, is also a good source of calcium that may bind with fatty acids in the intestine, helping to flush them out of the body. 

We also know more now about how fermented foods like certain cheeses such as cheddar or provolone supply beneficial bacteria to help maintain gut macrobiotics that helps break down foods, prevent illness-causing bacteria from flourishing, and boost immune response.  Cheese may also help to satiate hunger more than other dairy products like yogurt, keeping people fuller, longer and helping to reduce cravings. 

People who are sensitive to dairy may find that aged cheeses are less reactive than milk or fresh soft cheeses.  The bacteria used to make fermented cheese break down most of the lactose in milk, making it easier for some people to digest.  Cheese and full-fat dairy may also help to reduce the risk of diabetes and hypertension.  

If you do enjoy a bit of fromage with your fruit, veggies and whole grains, the health benefits are most significant if you replace red or processed meats with some aged cheese – but watch out for the sodium content.  If you eat cheese, aim for about 1.5 ounces to 3 ounces per day for a neutral or beneficial effect and otherwise try to stick to a Mediterranean-style diet.  

Read more about the benefits of including small portions of cheese as part of a healthy diet by following this link to Consumer’s Reports.