June 21, 2024

Care Nex

Stay Healthy, Live Happy

Is Cheese Bad for You?

5 min read

Cheese is widely enjoyed. Many dishes include it, from classic comfort foods, like mac & cheese, to sandwiches, casseroles, salads, pizzas and more. Cheese elevates culinary dishes with flavor, aroma, texture and color. And with an impressive nutritional profile, cheese offers protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin B12—making it one of the important foods for a balanced diet.

Still, cheese often gets a bad rap for its high-fat content. Does its reputation make you wonder what would happen to your body if you were to eat cheese every day? Keep reading to find out what the research has to say.

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Health Benefits of Cheese

You May Reach Your Daily Calcium Intake

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults between the ages of 19 and 50 get 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Most cheeses are rich in calcium and hard cheeses tend to have more calcium than soft cheeses.

For example, according to the USDA, a 1-ounce serving of Cheddar cheese contains about 200 milligrams of calcium, making up almost one-third of your daily calcium needs. But, a 1-ounce serving of Brie only has 52 mg.

Calcium is well-known for bone development and maintaining healthy bones, and it also plays an essential role in blood circulation and muscle and nerve functions, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A 2020 review published in Food Science & Nutrition suggests that eating cheese with higher calcium may protect against obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. A 2022 review in Advances in Nutrition suggests similar findings regarding dairy in general and states that further research needs to be done since the studies’ results are mixed.

You May Have a Healthy Gut

While there is a lot of focus on yogurt offering probiotics—the good bacteria that keep the gut healthy and contribute to overall health—some cheeses such as Swiss, Cheddar, cottage cheese, Gouda, Edam and Gruyère also have probiotics. These probiotics may keep the gut healthy by producing short-chain fatty acids, per a 2021 publication in the International Journal of Dairy Technology. The short-chain fatty acids may support maintaining the acid-base balance, absorbing calcium, iron and magnesium and maintaining the overall structure and function of the gut, per a 2020 review published in Nutrients.

Eating the cheese fresh and uncooked is best, as heat can destroy the probiotics. So add cheese slices to your favorite sandwiches or serve cottage cheese as a salad with crunchy bell peppers and tomatoes for a light afternoon snack.

You Might Improve Your Oral Health

Eating cheese may also benefit your oral health. The presence of probiotics and other components in cheese may positively influence the types of bacteria and pH in the saliva. A 2022 study in the Journal of Translational Medicine suggests that eating cheese creates a more alkaline environment in the mouth, which together with nutrients found in cheese, reduces cavities, inhibits demineralization of the teeth and encourages remineralization.

You Might Have a Lower Risk of Heart Disease

A 2022 article in Frontiers in Nutrition states that saturated fats make up about 60% of the fat in most cheeses. While saturated fats have been linked to elevating the risk of heart disease, this finding cannot be generalized, as there are different types of saturated fats. And not all kinds, including those found in cheese, necessarily lead to a heightened risk for heart disease. In fact, this study found that those who ate full-fat cheese saw a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol, bringing their numbers into a healthy range.

And a 2022 review in Nutrients found that those who regularly consume dairy had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Of note, whether the dairy was full fat or low fat didn’t seem to matter. In particular, the study authors say that fermented dairy—including yogurt and cheese—seems to have the greatest benefits. With that said, they also note that this includes a moderate intake of these foods and that research is less conclusive when a larger amount is consumed. Based on the studies included in this review, they recommend 200 grams of dairy per day—about a cup of yogurt a day or three servings of cheese per week.

It’s important to remember that these are just guidelines and depending on your health, lifestyle choices and genetics, you might be able to eat more—or less—than this recommended amount.

Potential Risks

You Might Increase Your Sodium Intake

From a food safety perspective, sodium is added to cheese to minimize bacterial and fungal growth that can cause spoilage. Sodium also enhances the cheese’s flavor, making it more savory and satisfying to the palate. However, high intakes of sodium can negatively impact your health, especially your heart health.

According to the American Heart Association, limiting your salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day—and ideally less than 1,500 mg—can help keep your blood pressure and heart healthy.

Some cheeses, including Cheddar, mozzarella and Swiss, are often lower in sodium than others. As an example, according to the USDA, one slice of Cheddar cheese (1 ounce) has about 180 mg of sodium, making up 8% of your daily sodium limit. However, even within one variety, sodium content can vary from brand to brand, so it’s best to check the Nutrition Facts label for each product.

You Might Trigger Digestive Issues (but You Might Not!)

If you have lactose intolerance, you may have avoided eating lactose-containing dairy products to prevent cramps and unnecessary bathroom trips. While you may have turned to lactose-free dairy products and non-dairy alternatives to get your dairy fix, you may be pleased to know that you can still enjoy eating many regular cheeses, since aged and hard cheeses are naturally low in lactose, per a 2020 article published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

Which Types of Cheese Are Best to Eat Every Day?

A 2022 review published in Cardiovascular Research also showed that eating moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt as part of a balanced meal pattern may be protective against heart disease. Generally speaking, mozzarella, Cheddar, Swiss and cottage cheese are some of the most popular types of cheese, but all kinds of cheeses can be a part of your diet as long as you enjoy them in moderation.

Depending on your age and energy expenditure, the number of recommended servings of dairy may differ. To gauge a moderate amount, check the quantity and the portion sizes listed on USDA’s MyPlate. For instance, if you eat 2,000 calories daily, MyPlate recommends including three servings from the dairy group, which includes yogurt, milk and cheese. One serving of cheese is equivalent to 1.5 ounces of hard cheese (Cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan), 1/3 cup shredded cheese, 1 ounce of processed (American) cheese, ½ cup ricotta cheese, 2 cups cottage cheese or 2 ounces of Queso fresco.

The Bottom Line

If you are not allergic to milk protein, enjoying cheese every day is probably fine. As with many foods, eating cheese in moderation may offer potential health benefits. Cheese complements a wide array of delicious culinary dishes—find out how by trying out our cheese recipes.

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