Is Cheese Good for You?

Here's the question we've all been asking… Is cheese good for you?

It’s hard to come up with a food that isn’t better with a sprinkle of cheese on top. I mean, pasta, tacos, even vegetables—they’re all better with this food of the gods. But how much is too much? Let’s dive into the possible risks and surprising benefits of everyone’s favorite pizza topping.

Is Cheese Good for You?

We have long known that cheese is a great source of protein and calcium. In fact, 2 ounces of cheese can take care of almost half of your body’s calcium needs for a day.

Research now also shows that eating cheese could prevent certain chronic diseases. Full-fat cheese contains the compound conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA has been proven to prevent atherosclerosis, a hardening of the blood vessels that leads to heart disease. It also reduces body fat and inflammation while improving the body’s immune response.

Cheese might even help you live longer! A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men who regularly ate cheese had a higher life expectancy than those who didn’t. So in summary, eating cheese will give you more years to enjoy even more cheese. It’s the definition of a win-win.

But before you dive headfirst into a plate of nachos, it’s important to remember that cheese is healthy in moderation. It’s high in sodium and saturated fat, which can lead to obesity and other chronic conditions. For example, one-quarter cup of cubed cheddar cheese has about 133 calories, ½ gram of carbs, 11 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein.

Low-fat and nonfat cheeses cut down on the calories, but may not give you the same health benefits. One-quarter cup of nonfat mozzarella cheese has 42 calories, 1 gram of carbs, 0 grams of fat and 9 grams of protein.

What Is the Healthiest Cheese?

Ricotta

Fresh cheese like ricotta is usually lower in cholesterol and fat than other types. Adding ricotta cheese to your diet could give you an edge in the gym. A study in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging found that adding ricotta cheese to your daily diet could improve muscle mass and balance in older adults. Try this creamy cheese over a warm apple & pistachio spinach salad.

Goat cheese

You either love it or hate it, but goat cheese is worth trying. Cheese made from goat’s milk is higher in protein and minerals like calcium, iron and potassium. It has a high fat content, but because of its strong flavor, you only need a little to enjoy. Try roasted herbed squash with goat cheese for a satisfying, delicious side dish.

Full-fat cheeses

Enjoying a small amount of rich, full-fat cheese could be healthier than opting for the low-cal version. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that overweight adults who ate full-fat cheeses regularly lowered their cholesterol numbers more than individuals who ate reduced-fat dairy. Scientists believe this may be due to the fat in dairy behaving differently with our own blood lipids.

Is It Healthy to Eat Cheese Every Day?

As long as you don’t have a sensitivity to lactose or dairy, eating cheese every day can be part of your healthy eating plan. In addition to the protein and calcium benefits, cheese is a fermented food and can supply a good source of probiotics for a healthy gut. The trick is to enjoy it in moderation. Try sprinkling it over healthy meals like salads, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, as opposed to making it the main event.

Here are a few ideas for enjoying cheese in moderation:

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Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.