Home Health Why Cheese Is Good For You? Everything You Need to Know
Why Cheese Is Good For You

Why Cheese Is Good For You? Everything You Need to Know

by zilvinas.juraska

Cheese has long had a mixed reputation when it comes to health. On one hand, cheese is high in saturated fat and sodium, which have traditionally been seen as unhealthy. On the other hand, cheese is a great source of several important nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamins A, B12, D and K2.

Recent research has shown that the nutrients in cheese may actually outweigh some of the negatives when enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Here is an overview of the many potential health benefits of cheese and why it can be part of a nutritious diet:

The Benefits of Consuming Cheese

1. Calcium for Bones

One of the biggest benefits of cheese is that it is an excellent source of calcium. Just one ounce of cheddar cheese provides 20% of the recommended daily value. Calcium is essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It also supports proper function of the muscles, nerves and heart.

Since cheese is high in calcium but lower in lactose than milk, it may be easier to digest for those who are lactose intolerant. The calcium in cheese is also more bioavailable than that found in some plant sources meaning the body absorbs and utilizes it efficiently.

2. Protein for Muscles

Cheese is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids the body needs. Just one ounce provides 7 grams of protein. Protein helps maintain and repair muscles and tissues in the body. It also helps regulate appetite by making you feel fuller for longer.

The protein in cheese has a high bioavailability meaning the amino acids are more readily absorbed and used by the body compared to plant proteins. The protein and fat in cheese also helps slow digestion so you feel satisfied longer after eating it.

3. Vitamin B12 for Energy

Cheese is naturally high in vitamin B12 providing about 15-20% of the recommended daily amount per ounce. Vitamin B12 is important for keeping the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. It is also crucial for DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, depression and neurological problems.

Since vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, cheese is one of the few non-meat sources. Just one ounce of Swiss cheese provides 20% of an adult’s vitamin B12 needs for the entire day.

4. Vitamin A for Immunity

Cheese made from whole milk is high in vitamin A, providing 15-20% of the recommended daily amount per ounce. Vitamin A plays a critical role in maintaining healthy vision, teeth, bones, organs and also boosting immunity.

Vitamin A deficiency is common in developing countries leading to increased infectious disease risk and blindness. Cheese’s vitamin A content can help prevent this deficiency. Just one serving can meet about a fifth of your daily needs.

5. Vitamin K2 for Heart Health

Cheese contains vitamin K2, a unique form of vitamin K. Vitamin K2 helps regulate where calcium ends up in the body by directing it into bones and teeth where it is needed instead of arteries where it can cause problems.

Getting adequate vitamin K2 may protect against heart disease, osteoporosis and prostate cancer. Cheese is one of the best sources providing about 10-25% of the recommended daily intake per ounce. Hard cheeses tend to be higher in K2 than soft cheeses.

6. Conjugated Linoleic Acid for Weight Loss

Cheese contains a unique type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that is linked to weight loss. CLA may help reduce body fat percentages in adults while preserving muscle mass. It may also help prevent increases in body fat.

While CLA is found in small amounts in some plant oils, cheese is one of the most concentrated dietary sources providing up to 30-50 mg per ounce. The CLA in cheese may support fat burning while maintaining calorie-burning muscle.

7. Prebiotics for Digestion

Cheese contains prebiotics — types of fiber that feed the good bacteria in your gut microbiome. Prebiotics act as fuel for beneficial probiotic bacteria to grow and flourish. They help maintain digestive regularity and optimal digestion.

The natural milk sugars and proteins in cheese provide an abundant source of prebiotics. Eating cheese helps stimulate bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, two of the most beneficial strains of intestinal bacteria. This helps create a healthy gut environment.

8. Immune-Boosting Zinc

One mineral that is abundant in cheese is zinc. Just one ounce of cheddar cheese provides about 10% of the recommended daily amount of zinc for adults. Zinc deficiency is relatively common and can cause a weakened immune system and other problems.

Zinc boosts the production of white blood cells that fight infection in the body. It also acts as an antioxidant protecting cells from damage. The zinc in cheese can help keep your immune system strong and resilient.

9. Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Cheese contains bioactive compounds including specific peptides and sphingolipids that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the underlying cause of many chronic diseases like heart disease and arthritis.

Some studies suggest cheese has anti-inflammatory effects that may help prevent DNA damage and premature aging of cells. The nutrients, probiotics and anti-inflammatory compounds in cheese could collectively contribute to reduced disease risk.

10. Longevity and Heart Health

Population studies have associated cheese consumption with increased longevity and reduced heart disease mortality. A 2019 analysis of over 200,000 people found those who consumed about 1.5 ounces of cheese daily had significantly reduced rates of heart disease and stroke compared to those who rarely ate cheese.

The cheese eaters were 14% less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 10% less likely to have a stroke. While more research is needed, the nutrients in cheese like calcium, vitamin K2 and CLA may help protect heart health.

11. Mental Health and Depression

Interestingly, some research has linked cheese consumption to improved mental health. A 2019 study of about 1,000 adults found those who consumed cheese daily had significantly lower rates of depression and anxiety.

While the mechanism is unknown, it’s possible the vitamin B12, calcium, probiotics and antioxidants in cheese may support brain health and mental wellbeing. More studies are needed but the nutrients in cheese appear beneficial for both physical and mental health.

Tips for Enjoying Cheese Healthfully

To gain the most benefits from cheese while limiting negatives, here are some serving tips:

  • Stick to 1-2 ounces at a time. This gives you plenty of nutrients without overdoing calories or sodium.
  • Choose full-fat instead of low-fat or fat-free. The fat helps keep you full and aids nutrient absorption.
  • Go for harder, aged cheeses which are lower in lactose than soft fresh cheeses. Try cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss, Gouda.
  • Pair with other nutritious foods like vegetables, whole grains, nuts or fruit. This boosts the overall nutrient density of your meal.
  • Read labels and look for cheeses made from organic grass-fed milk for maximum nutrition and health benefits.
  • Avoid highly processed cheese products like cheese spreads, spray can cheese or deep fried cheese.

The Bottom Line

Cheese contains a wealth of important vitamins, minerals, proteins and anti-inflammatory compounds. When enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, the nutrients in cheese can benefit bone, heart, digestive and immune health. Cheese may even support longevity, mental health and weight management.

So don’t feel guilty about enjoying your favorite cheeses in moderation. Just be mindful of portions since cheese packs a lot of calories into a small serving. Focus on quality over quantity by choosing cheeses made from organic grass-fed milk for maximum nutrition. With its unique nutrient profile, cheese can be part of an overall healthy diet.

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