Is Cheese Good For You? - The Health Benefits of Cheese Explained

Is Cheese Good For You? - The Health Benefits of Cheese Explained

Posted at 11:00 • 8 August 2019 • Edward Hancock

From tasty Tunworth to yummy Yorkshire Pecorino, we’ve yet to find a cheese that doesn’t whet our appetites here at Cheese Geek HQ. We certainly couldn’t live without the stuff and, as well as enjoying its fantastic flavours, knowing that cheese comes with a few key health benefits makes eating it even more satisfying. However, you can still have too much of a good thing. It’s probably hard to imagine ever having any regrets when it comes to cheese, but sometimes less can be more. Here’s the lowdown on what our cheesy passion could mean for our health.

Cheese nutrition

As well as tantalising our taste buds, cheese is chockablock with body-boosting vitamins and minerals. One of the most well-known is calcium, while you’ll also find vitamins A, B2, and B12 in every mouthful. Sounds promising, but life’s never that easy. Like many of the most mouthwatering foods, cheese can be high in calories, saturated fat and sodium—all of which have been shown to increase blood pressure. Sure, it tastes amazing, but aside from not being able to squeeze into your best jeans, too much cheese might not be the best idea for your vital organs.

However, the reason we’re so crazy about the stuff is that no two cheeses are the same, and each variety looks, smells and tastes completely different. This variation applies just as much to what goes into your favourite cheeses. Here’s roughly what you’ll find in one ounce of some of your favourites:

Cheddar

  • 120 calories
  • 10g fat
  • 1g carbohydrates
  • 7g protein
  • 200mg calcium
  • 190mg sodium

Brie

  • 100 calories
  • 9g fat
  • 1g carbohydrates
  • 5g protein
  • 150mg calcium
  • 170mg sodium

Halloumi

  • 90 calories
  • 7.5g fat
  • 1g carbohydrates
  • 6g protein
  • 250mg calcium
  • 330mg sodium

Feta

  • 60 calories
  • 4g fat
  • 1g carbohydrates
  • 5g protein
  • 140mg calcium
  • 360mg sodium

Mozzarella

  • 85 calories
  • 6g fat
  • 1g carbohydrates
  • 6g protein
  • 143mg calcium
  • 138mg sodium

What are the health benefits of cheese?

Thanks to all the nifty nutrients we consume when we devour some cheese, it’s not just our stomachs thanking us for this tasty treat. Including the right amount of it in our diets can actually make many parts of the body a little healthier.

Contributes to bone development

Scientists estimate that 99% of the calcium in our bodies can be found in our bones. However, the human body can’t actually produce the mineral itself, so the state of our skeleton depends entirely on our diet. Small amounts of calcium are continually removed and replaced, effectively “remodelling” each bone. If there isn’t enough to restore what’s been taken away, the bones will become weaker and more likely to break. Luckily for us, cheese is a perfect part of a calcium-rich eating plan, and you don’t need to chomp through a whole block to get a decent hit either

Enhances dental health

Cheese has been proven to enhance dental health as calcium plays an important role in tooth formation. Other studies have shown that eating cheese can also raise the pH level in dental plaque. A low pH level could put you at risk of tooth erosion, but the higher you are on the scale, the lower the chance of you developing cavities. We wouldn’t recommend swapping your Colgate for Camembert outright, but you can take pleasure in knowing the right amount of cheese can keep your pearly whites strong and healthy.

Helps to reduce blood pressure

Even though it can sometimes be rich in fat and sodium, statistics have shown that cheese-lovers still tend to have low blood pressure. Once again, this is down to the wonder-nutrient that is calcium, which helps improve how our blood vessels perform. Lower blood pressure can help reduce the strain on your arteries, prevent strokes, and give you a very happy heart.

Boosts healthy gut bacteria

We’ve all heard of probiotics—the “good bacteria” that help maintain balance in your gut. They are especially important after you’ve been ill or had medical treatment—both of which send your bacteria levels all over the place. But what does this have to do with cheese? Well, as a fermented food, cheese is thought to be a probiotic haven. You’ll enjoy cheese a lot more if your belly is in ship shape, but more importantly, a healthy gut aids digestion can help you maintain your weight, and prevent intestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

cheese actually makes parts of the body healthier

What are the health risks associated with cheese?

Though cheese can sometimes be full of fat and high in calories, you can avoid a diet disaster by being sensible with portions. A slice of Old Amsterdam in your toastie is fine. Half a block of Keen's Cheddar over your spaghetti? Not so much. Believe us, we know how hard it is to avoid overindulgence, but a little common sense is all you need to avoid some nasty health risks:

obesity

Unsurprisingly, too much cheese can lead to weight gain, and eventually obesity, if you don’t tackle the problem head-on. Just as you wouldn’t eat a whole cake or an entire bag of frozen chips in one sitting, don’t think that cheese is the exception. If you want to eat copious amounts, expect the number on your scales to skyrocket.

Cardiovascular Disease

A diet high in saturated fat is strongly linked to a rise in cholesterol and blood pressure, both of which increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you already suffer from any of these conditions, it’s probably safest to be sparing with any high-fat cheeses. But as long as you’re aware of the fat content come snack time, there’s no reason for you to cut cheese from your diet entirely. You could even opt for cheeses that are made either entirely, or in part, with semi-skimmed milk. Cheeses like Parmesan, Grana Padano or Dorset Blue Vinny.

Diabetes

French researchers have previously suggested that excessive cheese consumption could be linked to type 2 diabetes, due to the acid produced when the food is broken down in the body. Though this theory hasn’t been scientifically proven yet, you could still choose a cheese with lower acidity to be on the safe side. For example, cottage and cream cheese are far less acidic than American cheese and other hard and/or processed types.

What are the healthiest types of cheese?

All cheeses have different nutritional benefits, which makes it difficult to say which types are “healthy” and which aren’t. For example, Feta is lower in calories and fat compared to other varieties but also contains a whopping 360mg sodium. Just one ounce eats up a seventh of your daily sodium requirement. Whereas a blue cheese like Cashel Blue is higher in fat and calories but it’s packed with calcium and can help give us all the great health benefits associated with the mineral. Mozzarella is a pretty good all-rounder—not too high in calories, fat, or sodium, and packs a decent calcium punch.

We love all kinds of cheese and are pleased to report that you don’t need to label each type as “good” or “bad”. To eat cheese in a healthy way, you just have to look at the rest of your diet. For instance, if you’re having a very calorific day, choose a little goats cheese like Innes Brick, which typically has just 75 calories per ounce. If you’ve been neglecting other calcium-rich foods, such as yoghurt, beans, or lentils, treat yourself to a slice of Gruyere, which covers roughly 40% of your daily requirement.

How much cheese is too much cheese?

We’re all in luck! It’s A-OK to eat cheese every single day. Here in the UK, it’s recommended that we consume three 30g portions of dairy daily, where one standard portion is roughly the size of a small matchbox. So regularly eating this amount means you should reap all the health benefits associated with cheese, while minimising all the risks that come with high-calorie, fat, and sodium foods. In conclusion, we’re delighted to announce that cheese really is good for you, as long as you enjoy it in moderation.