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Should I Avoid Cheese To Lose Weight

Should I Avoid Cheese To Lose Weight? An A-Z Guide

by zilvinas.juraska

Cheese is a delicious and nutritious food that’s a staple in many people’s diets. However, some people may wonder if they should avoid cheese if they are trying to lose weight. There are pros and cons to consider when deciding whether or not to eat cheese while dieting.

The Calories in Cheese

One of the biggest downsides of cheese is that it is high in calories. One ounce of cheddar cheese contains about 110 calories. One ounce of brie has 95 calories. Parmesan cheese has even more – one ounce packs in 122 calories. The calories can quickly add up if you’re eating cheese in sandwiches, on top of salads, snacking on cheese sticks or digging into that charcuterie board. Cheese is considered a high-fat food.

Fat from dairy products like cheese may not negatively impact health like other high-fat foods, however. The primary types of fat found in cheese are saturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Research shows that dairy fat may not raise cholesterol and risk of heart disease in the same concerning way as fat from meats and other sources. Still, for weight loss keeping total fat and calorie intake in check is important. Cheese is energy dense and the calories can accumulate easily.

Protein and Other Nutrients in Cheese

On the positive nutrition side, cheese is an excellent source of protein. Protein helps keep you full and satisfied, prevents muscle loss when dieting, and lowers levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Cheese is also packed with important vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus, selenium and vitamin A. So while cheese does come with a good amount of fat and calories, it provides key nutrients that your body needs.

The most nutrient-rich cheese choices are:

  • Parmesan – loaded with calcium and protein, parmesan packs a nutritional punch without the high calories of many other cheeses. Grated parmesan you sprinkle on a salad or soup has only 22 calories per tablespoon.
  • Swiss – Swiss cheese is low in calories at just 110 calories per ounce. It’s also packed with vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Cottage Cheese – a half cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese has 103 calories but a whopping 13 grams of filling protein. Cottage cheese is excellent source of calcium and vitamin B12 as well.
  • Goat Cheese – goat cheeses like feta and chevre are slightly lower in calories than cow’s milk cheeses. Feta has only 75 calories per ounce. Goat cheese is packed with calcium and protein.

So cheese does provide important nutrients, but calories still need consideration.

Cheese and Weight Loss Studies

Several studies have looked specifically at how eating cheese impacts weight loss. The findings may alleviate some guilt for cheese lovers.

In one study, people who ate a calcium-rich diet that included cheese lost more belly fat than those who ate a diet low in calcium and dairy. In another study, women who consumed cheese ate less at other meals throughout the day. The women did not gain weight, despite eating more calories overall from consuming cheese.

A review of randomized controlled trials concluded that eating cheese leads to greater weight loss compared to control groups in studies. However, the amount of weight loss was small, about 2 pounds over 6-12 week periods. More research is still needed on how cheese consumption impacts weight management long-term.

Tips for Enjoying Cheese While Trying to Lose Weight

Here are some tips for savoring cheese in moderation to make it work in a weight loss diet:

  • Stick to 1-2 ounces a day – Measuring portions with a food scale can help you keep cheese intake reasonable. 1-2 ounces of cheese daily is a moderate amount that can fit into a calorie-controlled diet.
  • Choose reduced-fat options – The lowest calorie cheeses that still provide great flavor are part-skim mozzarella, feta, parmesan, light Swiss, reduced-fat cheddar and part-skim ricotta.
  • Shred or grate your cheese – You’ll get more flavor and use less cheese when shredded or grated. A little sprinkle of parmesan or cheddar on a salad or baked potato goes a long way.
  • Use it as a topping or condiment – When cheese is used as a topping for things like salads, sandwiches, omelets or baked potatoes, you use less than you would in a cheese-heavy main dish like mac and cheese or pizza.
  • Eat cheese with fiber-rich foods – Pairing cheese with vegetables, fruits, whole grains or beans slows digestion so you feel fuller longer.
  • Avoid extras like fatty or sugary dips – Skip the ranch dressing, butter on bread or sugary accoutrements with your cheese to avoid excess calories, fat and sugar. Enjoy cheese solo or with a drizzle of olive oil and herbs.
  • Portion your cheese – Precutting cheese slices, cubes or shreds makes it easy to grab a pre-portioned amount for a snack or meal. This prevents overdoing it on cheese portions.

The Bottom Line

You don’t necessarily have to avoid all cheese if you are trying to lose weight. The strategy that works best for most people is moderation. You can still include reasonable amounts of cheese in a diet geared towards weight loss, especially nutritious low-fat varieties like part-skim mozzarella, feta, cottage cheese and parmesan. Try sticking to 1-2 ounces a day, measuring portions carefully and pairing cheese with fiber-rich foods like fruits, veggies and whole grains. This allows you to get the great taste, nutrition and satisfaction that cheese offers without overdoing calories and fat. With smart portioning of cheese and a well-rounded diet full of nutrient-dense foods, you can enjoy cheese as part of an effective weight loss plan.

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