October 31, 2016
Despite almost universal popularity, cheese often has its nutritional value questioned.
The reason for this is due to the high fat content.
However, recent research shows that dairy is an incredibly beneficial food group — especially the high-fat variety.
This article will present nine science-backed reasons why cheese is good for you.
- Cheese is Good For Heart Health
While cheese — and saturated fat in particular — have been demonized for their high saturated fat content, recent research shows a different story.
You may have heard that cheese is bad for your heart and arteries, but the truth is that cheese is a heart healthy food (1, 2).
In fact, higher consumption of high fat cheese appears to actually lower heart disease risk, as well as improve blood sugar control (3, 4, 5).
However, when it comes to the health benefits of dairy, not all dairy is made the same.
The relationship between dairy products and heart disease is complex. For example, whole milk is better than skim milk for health.
Research shows that whole milk is inversely related to diabetes and heart disease risk. On the other hand, this association does not exist for skim milk (6, 7).
Therefore, it’s best to go for natural, unprocessed cheeses — don’t fear the fat content — as cheese is one of the best foods for your heart.
Key Point: Despite widespread belief that cheese is one of the worst foods for your heart, the opposite is true.
- Cheese Helps Improve Blood Sugar Control in Diabetes
Regarding cheese and diabetes, there is a divide between official advice and what the latest research shows.
Over recent decades, cheese has been one of the foods to avoid with diabetes.
Instead — and based on dietary guidelines — many diabetics tackle their condition through eating low-fat diets high in whole grains.
But is that the best way to manage diabetes? Unfortunately for them, recent research suggests it’s not.
For one thing, low-carb diets better control blood sugar and improve cardiovascular risk factors (8, 9, 10, 11).
Cheese is also convenient and easy to take to work or school, making it a good snack for diabetics.
At the end of the day; cheese is good for you, improves blood sugar regulation, and is not a food diabetics should avoid.
Key Point: Despite many conventional nutritionists viewing high-fat as bad for diabetics, the research shows the complete opposite. Cheese reduces negative risk factors and helps improve blood sugar control.
- Cheese Improves Your Dental Health
As you may know, cheese is one of the best dietary sources of calcium.
Just one slice of cheddar cheese provides 201mg — 20% of the RDA for calcium (12).
Calcium is important because it helps strengthen our teeth. Also, eating cheese stimulates our body to produce saliva (13).
The fact that cheese promotes salivation is important for a few reasons:
- Saliva helps restore mouth PH levels after eating a meal (14).
- Saliva flow also helps to rinse bacteria and sugars away from the teeth (15).
Of course, if you eat cheese with bread or crackers then you won’t get this benefit as refined carbohydrate damages dental health (16).
However, you can still make a cheese sandwich using healthier options such as cloud bread.
Key Point: Overall, cheese is a ‘superfood’ for dental health. Including cheese as part of your diet may help prevent tooth decay.
- Cheese May Help With Weight Loss
While it may sound like a crazy idea to some, cheese can be good for weight loss.
The simple fact is: fat doesn’t make you fat. Nutrition is a lot more complicated than that, and the overall macronutrient profile of our diet is also important.
Case in point: pizza, hamburgers, fried chicken; the commonality here is that these foods are all high in fat and refined carbohydrate.
First, consumption of carbohydrate increases our body’s insulin response, known as the fat-storage hormone.
In the context of a high-carb, high-fat diet, our body stores dietary fat with increased efficiency (17, 18).
A high-fat diet low in carbohydrate or even a high-carb diet low in fat both decrease the likelihood of fat storage.
In other words; avoid ultra-processed food!
So the truth is that cheese is not fattening, and in itself, it won’t make you gain weight.
Several recent studies also show beneficial impacts of cheese on weight loss. In dietary intervention research, those eating the most cheese also lost the most weight (19, 20).
Key Point: While it might sound crazy to some, it actually isn’t. Cheese can help you lose weight.
- Cheese May Be Suitable For People With Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a condition that affects a large percentage of people.
While this figure can be as low as 5-15% of the population in Britain, it reaches 85-95% in East Asia (21).
Of course, the degree of lactose intolerance varies wildly in every individual; some people cannot tolerate dairy at all.
However, some people may be less sensitive and can consume certain dairy without ill effect (22).
For these people, cheese can be suitable despite the fact they are lactose intolerant individuals.
The reason for this is because cheese is a fermented dairy product. During the fermentation process, a lot of the lactose content converts to lactic acid in a process known as ‘acidification’ (23).
Also, the best cheese to eat if you’re lactose intolerant is aged cheese.
As mature cheese has a longer fermentation period, it is naturally lower in lactose. Namely, aged parmesan and vintage cheddar are two of the lowest lactose cheese.
Some people recommend goat cheese for lactose intolerance, but the truth is that both cow and goat cheese have a similar lactose content.
If you can tolerate cheese from a goat but not a cow, then a cow milk allergy may be a possibility.
Key Point: While cheese does contain some lactose, the amounts are very small and lactose intolerant people may be okay with aged cheese.
- Cheese is a Good Source of Calcium
Dairy products are one of the best sources of calcium.
Calcium is important for protecting against osteoporosis — a disease of the skeletal system in which bones become fragile (24, 25).
Especially, deficiencies in vitamin D and calcium significantly increase the risk of osteoporosis (26).
As discussed earlier, one of the benefits of cheese is that it’s among the best sources of calcium.
In studies, cheese shows application for improving bone strength and encouraging optimal bone health.
This research shows that cheese intake three times a week is strongly protective against fracture (27).
Also important to realize is that calcium loss is just as important as consuming enough calcium rich foods.
Refined carbohydrate and grains inhibit the proper absorption of calcium, which may cause deficiency problems if you eat these foods in excess (28).
Key Point: Cheese is an excellent source of calcium. While dairy is good for bone health, we also need to ensure we are correctly absorbing calcium.
- Grass-Fed Cheese Contains the Essential Vitamin K2
If you haven’t heard about vitamin K2, then have a read about the benefits here.
In brief, just a few vitamin K2 benefits include;
- Prevention of calcified plaque in the arteries (29)
- Lower risk of heart disease (30)
- Promotion of apoptosis (death of cancer cells) (31)
As you can see from the above studies, vitamin K2 is essential for correct calcium assimilation in the body.
Notably, in the presence of sufficient vitamin K2, calcium is directed to the skeletal system and moved away from the arteries where it can lead to plaque accumulation (32).
Some research even shows that vitamin K2 may reverse arterial calcification — in effect reversing the progression of heart disease (33).
On the positive side, cheese is a good source of vitamin K2 — especially grass-fed cheese (34).
This vitamin is one of the most important for our overall health, but it’s relatively unknown to the general public.
Although rare in adults, vitamin K2 deficiency symptoms are a severe sign that you need to get more of this essential nutrient (35).
Key Point: Deficiency in vitamin K2 is a leading contributor to cardiovascular disease. Generally speaking, the best place to get vitamin K2 is from grass-fed animal products — just another reason why cheese is good for you.
- Cheese is a Great Source of Protein and Overall Nutrition
Animal foods as a whole are high in protein.
The nutritional value of cheese is impressive for many nutrients — and protein is no exception. The protein content in cheese is usually around 25g per 100g (12).
Coupled with the high fat content, this makes cheese a great food for a low carb diet.
Another great thing about cheese is how adaptable it is; cheese can be used for making a healthy pizza, as part of a platter to serve with wine, or just alone.
It’s highly nutritious and tastes great.
Key Point: Cheese is a good source of protein and contains 25g per 100g.
- Cheese Contains Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a kind of naturally occurring trans fat — but don’t panic — it’s extremely healthy.
The benefits of a diet high in CLA include cancer protection, weight loss, increased immunity and reduced inflammation (36, 37, 38, 39).
Fortunately, grass-fed cheese is high in conjugated linoleic acid (40).
For this purpose, try to choose cheese from cows raised on pasture whenever possible. Cheese from grass-fed cows is much higher in CLA than cheese from grain-fed cows.
If you have access to a local farm that produces grass-fed cheese, then this would be the best option.
For those of you who live in the United States, there’s an excellent resource here which lists all the grass-fed cheese brands by location.
Key Point: The high CLA content is just another reason why cheese is good for you. However, make sure you buy grass-fed cheese for the full benefits.
Final Word: Cheese is Good For You
To sum up, cheese is an incredible tasting food that offers a wealth of health benefits.
It is high in essential nutrients and also helps reduce the risk of a variety of health conditions.
As with most natural products, don’t fear the fat content — naturally occurring fat is no problem.
In short, dairy fat is not bad for you — and cheese is good for you.
Leave a Reply