Cheese is a foodstuff prolific in many American grocery hauls, but too much of a good thing isn’t always healthy. That said, the dairy product actually has a host of health benefits, many of which may surprise you. So without further ado, here are a few reasons to break out the cheese.
1. It contains an abundance of good fats.
For many years the general consensus was that fat was the root of all evil. And though it can lead to excessive weight gain and block arteries, it also a necessary part of our daily food intake. Fats are an essential aid in the body’s absorption of vitamins and they help maintain a feeling of fullness – which in turn prevents over-eating.
While it’s advised that fats should make up less than ten percent of our daily calorie intake, cheese is still a recommended source of the nutrient. For instance, parmesan and other aged cheeses can be a delicious addition to salads. Not only will it make the meal more filling, it will also assist your body in absorbing vitamins contained in the vegetables.
2. It can boost intelligence.
According to research by the International Dairy Journal, consuming milk and other dairy products can make you smarter. In a study of 900 men and women conducted at the University of Maine, experts learned that those who performed the best in cognitive challenges were the ones who regularly consumed dairy products.
The research participants, who were aged between 23 and 98, undertook tests designed to measure memory, verbal and visual-spatial skills. Those who consumed a minimum of one glass of milk every day recorded better results – whatever their age. The experts found that those who scored higher tended to be in better overall health, and that their brain function in particular had been aided by dairy consumption.
3. Cheese can assist in weight loss.
Contrary to common belief, cheese is thought to assist in losing weight when it’s consumed in moderation as part of a calorie-reduced diet. In 2009 a group of 40 participants took part in a study conducted by researchers at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia. The subjects were told to lower their calorie intake and increase their consumption of dairy products. And those who had up to five servings of milk-based items had less stomach fat, lower blood pressure and were less at risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
Nutritionist Karen Ansel told GQ magazine in 2016, “Cheese may help you stay slim thanks to a substance called butyrate, [which is] found in many cheeses.” Those such as cheddar, parmesan, gouda, Gruyère and blue cheese all have high amounts of the oily liquid. Ansel continued, “Research suggests that it may help boost metabolism. These cheeses also encourage the bacteria in our gut to make even more butyrate – so it’s a double win.”
4. It can help with muscle gain.
Protein is an essential part of any diet. It is what fuels our bodies and is one of the building blocks of body tissue. Protein is also necessary for body maintenance and is found in every cell we have. It’s key to a well-functioning immune system, repairs damaged cells and is also vital for forming muscle.
Of course, dairy products are packed with protein, and this makes cheese a useful tool when building muscle. Cottage cheese, for example, is favored by body builders and other athletes. That’s because for every four-ounce serving, you get 13 grams of protein and around five grams of fat and carbohydrates each. And with the whey and casein protein that it provides, muscle remains lean and recovery from workouts is more efficient.
5. It boosts the immune system.
A healthy immune system is vital for all of us, but this is particularly so for the elderly, who are susceptible to immunoesenescene. This is a condition which leaves people vulnerable to cancerous cells, and it lowers their response rate to vaccines and immunizations. However, research has shown that the probiotics found in some cheeses, such as gouda, can stimulate the immune system.
The probiotic bacteria found in some fortified cheeses is similar to the bacteria present in our guts. That’s where most of our immune system is situated and, as such, it gets a boost when it is topped up. When research on a group of people aged between 72 and 103 was carried out, some were fed a placebo cheese, while the others were given gouda. After four weeks, the volunteers who’d consumed the probiotic-rich cheese were found to have stronger immune systems.
6. Too much cheese can cause constipation.
Whether it’s loaded in a comforting mac and cheese, slathered on a pizza or layered on top of a burger patty, cheese can cause havoc with your bowel movements. It could be due to its makeup or down to what it lacks, for instance fiber, but too much cheese or other dairy products can cause constipation. The situation might be made worse if lactose causes gas and bloating.
According to Medicine Net, a study was once carried out on Iranian kids aged between one and 13 years old. And it found that those children who removed milk products from their diet experienced increased regularity in their bowel movements. The researchers concluded, then, that dairy can be a cause of constipation.
7. Cheese can promote thyroid health.
When it comes to optimal health, the thyroid isn’t necessarily an area many pay close attention to. But what the gland does is produce hormones which regulate almost all metabolic activities in a person’s body. Any fluctuations in the production of those hormones can cause issues such as unexplained weight loss or gain, insomnia, anxiety and infertility. However, there is a secret ingredient that can help to control it.
A mineral called selenium can help to keep the thyroid working as it should by regulating its hormone production. Cheddar and cottage cheese are a good source of selenium; indeed, a 100 gram serving of the former provides 50 percent of your daily needs. Meanwhile, adults should aim to consume around 55 micrograms of selenium a day for optimal thyroid strength, according to Health Line.
8. It’s a good source for vitamins B-12 and K2.
As well as minerals that are vital to our health, cheese also contains essential vitamins. For instance, B-12 is crucial to red blood cell, protein and D.N.A. production – as well as maintaining good mental health. A lack of this complex vitamin can cause lethargy, while a prolonged and severe lack of B-12 can cause neurological damage.
Cheese is also a good source of vitamin K2. It is believed to improve overall heart health along with decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease, and it can also strengthen bones. Interestingly, vitamin K2 may also help normalize blood glucose levels and reduce levels of depression and anxiety, too.
9. It’s packed with calcium and protein.
Calcium is essential for life; if we don’t get enough of it, our bodies instead take it from our bones instead– causing them to break more easily. You see, the body doesn’t produce calcium, so it needs to come from an external source. And while only one percent of our body’s calcium makeup is used to keep it working efficiently, the rest is stored as bone matter. Put simply, cheese is one of the best sources of calcium without taking a supplement.
Unlike calcium, however, the human body is unable to stockpile protein. It is therefore essential to consume enough each day to keep your body functioning optimally. Protein is vital for a healthy immune system and maintaining a good fluid balance. Furthermore, not enough of the macronutrient could cause fluid retention and muscle shrinkage. Cheese is a good source of protein – with hard varieties such as parmesan containing more per ounce than soft cheese.
10. Eating cheese can improve dental health
Teeth are made of the same material as bones, so it perhaps goes without saying that calcium plays a part in keeping them healthy, too. Consuming cheese, then, may help to keep your gnashers free from cavities and decay. According to the Lively Run Goat Dairy Farm and Creamery, studies carried out by dental professionals observed a group of cheese eaters and compared them to three other groups of volunteers.
Compared to the groups who ate paraffin, zero-sugar yoghurt and drank milk, the cheese eaters showed an increase in PH levels. This in turn meant that their teeth were theoretically more resilient to tooth erosion caused by acids present in our mouths. So, to keep dentures strong and healthy, eating cheese could help on top of a daily dental care routine.
11. Cheese is good for bone health in the elderly
Naturally, kids are often encouraged to drink milk to promote bone growth. But what many people don’t realize is that bone mass continues to increase throughout adolescence until it reaches optimum density as we reach our 30s. After that, bones gradually weaken, so it’s important to maintain as much bone density as possible in our later years.
Moreover, if bone mass isn’t dense enough it can lead to osteoporosis in later years. The condition is caused when bones become weak and porous – leaving them susceptible to fractures. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than ten million Americans, mostly women, have the condition, and a low calcium intake is believed to be the major cause. This can be helped by eating cheese, which, as already mentioned, is rich with calcium, so it can help to increase bone density.
12. Cheese can be packed with sodium.
Unfortunately, not all of the nutrients found in cheese are necessarily good for you. Many variations of the product are loaded with salt – which has a high sodium content. And the latter compound, while essential to regulating blood health, can be unhealthy if too much is consumed. Adults are recommended an intake of around 500 milligrams a day, according to Health Line.
However, many Americans consume too much salt – mainly through processed foods. The American Heart Foundation recommends a daily intake of 1.5 grams, but many people consume more than double that. Too much sodium can cause overeating and also lead to problems like high blood pressure – a condition which claims nearly eight million early deaths around the world every year. Cheese, then, should be eaten in moderation.
13. It lowers blood pressure and prevents hypertension.
When consumed in small portions, cheese can actually lower blood pressure, according to a number of studies. Scientists have learned that diets containing dairy products such as cheese can in fact reverse hypertension – due to the high levels of calcium. According to the Lively Run Goat Dairy Farm and Creamery, one unnamed study was conducted on two groups. One ate nothing but fruit and vegetables, and the other consumed dairy products which were low in fat.
Results indicated that the group consuming dairy had lower blood pressure levels after the experiment. It is also understood that pairing cheese with foods loaded with potassium can also reduce levels of sodium. People are advised to consume around 1,500 milligrams of the element per day, so opt for cheeses with a lower salt content.
14. Cheese can be good for pregnancies,
Many women believe that eating cheese during pregnancy can be harmful to their unborn baby. That may be true of some cheeses, and certainly there are those that should be avoided, but we’ll come to those later. However, other variants of the product can be beneficial to a pregnancy if eaten in moderation and prepared safely.
Hard cheese such as parmesan, cheddar and gouda are safe for consumption during pregnancy due to being made with pasteurized milk. For pregnant women, eating cheese can lower the chances of developing preeclampsia – which can be harmful to an unborn baby. The condition affects between five and eight percent of pregnancies in America, and its main symptom is hypertension. Furthermore, as previously mentioned, small amounts of cheese can help reduce high blood pressure.
15. Not all cheeses are safe to eat during pregnancy.
Soft cheeses are an attractive breeding ground for bacteria due to having a high water content. Dangers include listeria, which is an infection particularly harmful to pregnancies. This being the case, any cheese made from goats’ milk, or with a mold-ripened rind such as camembert or brie, should be approached with caution.
Pregnant women should also be wary of other moldy cheeses such as Roquefort, gorgonzola and Danish blue. However, if that craving can’t be sated in any other way, it is possible to consume all of these, along with soft cheese, provided that it is thoroughly cooked in order to kill off any bacteria. Stick to hard cheeses, though, if you’re concerned about listeria.
16. It might help to prevent diabetes.
Studies into the effects of how cheese influences diabetes is still fairly new. However, a study in the journal Diabetes has observed the impact one of its elements had on a group of mice. When the pancreas cannot generate enough insulin or the body becomes immune to it, type two diabetes can occur. However, there could be a way to reduce its effects.
As Karen Ansel described to GQ, “Although research in this area is just starting to emerge, a study in the journal Diabetes found that mice that ate chow containing added butyrate had insulin levels that were 50 percent lower than mice who ate the regular kind. Experts suspect that butyrate may help human bodies use insulin more effectively too, in its managing of blood-sugar levels.”
17. It may lower the risk of common cancers.
According to Cancer Facts & Figures 2019, more than 1.7 million such diagnoses were estimated to have been made in the U.S. that year – with around 600,000 cancer-related deaths. However, some scientists have suggested that cheese could play a part in preventing some of the most common forms of the condition – such as bladder and colorectal cancers. Apparently, they believe that it contains some vitamins and minerals that are active in warding off the disease.
Many observations have been made when it comes to diet and cancer. But those relating to dairy consumption have never offered a conclusive connection. Some scientists believe that nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium and lactic acid – which are all found in cheese – may play a part in preventing some forms of cancer affecting the digestive tract and colon. Meanwhile, a study by Texas A&M University suggests aged cheeses like cheddar and brie could help prevent liver cancer due to a compound called spermidine.
18. Cheese might help you live longer.
One nation famed for its cheeses is France, and the people there live longer and healthier lives, according to scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark. And this is despite the fact that their diets are typically loaded with saturated fats. Interestingly, the sensation has come to be known as the “French paradox.”
To learn more, food scientist Hanne Bertram studied the fecal matter and urine samples of 15 men. Some of those individuals had milk and cheese, while others only ate butter for their dairy consumption. Betram learned that those who included cheese in their diet showed a higher level of butyric acid, which is thought to combat obesity and increase metabolism. According to The Telegraph, he said that his finding “suggests a role for gut microbes and further shore up the connection between cheese and the French paradox.”
19. Eating cheese before bedtime affects your dreams.
A belief has long been held that eating cheese can cause nightmares. Some surveys have been conducted to establish a link, and results have suggested that different cheeses promote specific dreams. For instance, one study claimed that those who eat cheddar have dreams about celebrities, consumers of red Leicester witness images of the past and fans of Lancashire cheese have dreams about the future. However, the research which produced these results was not a scientific one.
So, is there a connection between cheese and dreaming? Well, it has been suggested that any meal loaded with fat eaten late at night might cause indigestion. And interrupted sleep can often lead to nightmares, because people tend to wake up more often and remember the dreams as a result. Cheese is also sometimes eaten as the final course of a meal – therefore suggesting a link with bad dreams.
20. Sometimes eating cheese is just comforting.
It could be a condiment to a burger or fries, the key ingredient in mac and cheese or pizza, or the star of the show in a platter. Whichever way it’s served, for some, nothing hits the spot like a good piece of cheese. And why burden yourself the stress of missing out if a small helping will bring a moment of satisfaction?
As nutritionist Karen Ansel explained to GQ, “Everybody needs comfort foods now and then. So if you’re going to reach for one, go for cheese, which has some big nutrition benefits compared with a pile of cookies or chips. But when you do, be sure to stick with a couple of small cubes and not a huge hunk of it. Those calories can add up quickly, too.”