There’s a reason cheese is a key ingredient in many comfort foods. It’s thick, creamy and rich in flavor. In fact, one scientific study found that eating cheese lights up the same part of the brain as opioids, so eating cheese can actually be addictive.
Is it delicious? Absolutely. But is the secret useful? On the one hand, cheese is widely known to contain calcium, which supports bone health. But on the other hand, most cheeses are high in fat. This secret makes health a mystery. Let’s see what registered dietitians have to say.
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Is cheese useful?
“Cheese offers people rich flavors and taste and fits easily into a healthy lifestyle,” he says Judy Simon, RDis a registered dietitian, owner of Mind Body Nutrition, and faculty member of the University Washington Nutritional Sciences Program.
registered dietitian Miranda Galati, RD, agree that cheese fits into an overall healthy diet. “Cheese can be a healthy addition to a well-balanced and nutritious diet,” she says. But Galati adds that personal factors must also be taken into account. “It depends on your overall diet, health concerns and frequency of cheese consumption,” he says.
In this case, Simon says that those with high cholesterol or other cardiovascular problems should be mindful of the fat content of the cheeses they consume. “Cheese is different in its fat content,” he says, adding that most of that fat is saturated fat.
If you’re trying to reduce your saturated fat intake, she recommends using cheese sparingly, such as grating Parmesan or sprinkling feta cheese (which has fewer calories than other types of cheese) on salads or vegetables. He adds that processed cheese can be high in sodium, another thing to consider.
As any cheese lover knows, there are many types of cheese. What should someone consider when buying cheese if they want to make a healthier choice? “All types of beans can be included in a balanced and healthy diet. I recommend choosing the cheeses you like best and aiming to get a variety of plant-based foods elsewhere in your diet,” says Galati. “Cheese is nutritious and very tasty, but replacing it with plant-based proteins and healthy fats is important for optimal health.” Galati added that since it’s a high-calorie food, it’s also important to consider how much cheese you’re eating.
With these caveats in mind, there are many ways in which regular moderate cheese consumption can benefit the body.
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5 health benefits of cheese
1. It contains protein
Registered dietitians note the health benefits of cheese, which contains protein. “Cheese is a quick and easy way to add energy to high-carb snacks like crackers, fruit and bread,” says Galati. But the amount of protein you get depends on the type of cheese you eat. Galati says firm cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar, gouda and mozzarella offer more protein, especially the full-fat varieties. “Cheese is another great protein-rich option. Soft and creamy cheeses like ricotta and cream cheese offer less protein and can be less filling,” she adds.
2. Eating cheese is good for bones
Another benefit of eating cheese is that it’s a good source of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, which Simon says all directly support bone health. Calcium is also important for muscle and cardiovascular health. Feta, mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan and gruyere are particularly high in calcium.
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3. May reduce feelings of depression
While you may have noticed that eating cheese can lift your mood, did you know there’s more to it than the taste? Simon points out that one nutrient in cheese is magnesium. Magnesium has been linked to reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Perhaps another reason why cheese is often used in comfort foods.
4. Eating cheese supports brain health
According to two nutritionists, cheese contains vitamin B12. Knowing this food is especially important for health. If you really want to get vitamin B12, go for Swiss cheese, which has more nutrients than other cheeses.
5. Cheese supports eye health
Simon and Galati say cheese also contains vitamin A, an important nutrient for vision health. (Vitamin A also supports the immune system.) For a particularly high vitamin A meal, add your cheese to a salad with leafy greens, red bell peppers, tomatoes, eggs, and salmon.
As if you needed another reason to eat cheese, now there are five. “As a nutritionist, I love cheese and enjoy it all the time!” Galati says. “Food choices alone are not bad for your health. If you love cheese, continue to enjoy it. Be sure to add variety to your cheese choices and your overall diet.”
Now that you know the health benefits of cheese, which 10 types of cheese do you think are the best for your diet?
Judy Simon, RD, is a registered dietitian, owner of Mind Body Nutrition, and a faculty member at the University of Washington Nutritional Sciences Program
Miranda Galati, RD, is a registered dietitian