Is cheese bad for you?

Cheese is widely enjoyed. Many dishes contain it, from classic comfort foods, like mac & cheese, to sandwiches, casseroles, salads, pizza and more. Cheese elevates culinary dishes with flavor, aroma, texture and color. And with an impressive nutritional profile, cheese provides protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin B12, making it one of the important foods for a balanced diet.

Yet cheese often gets a bad reputation because of its high fat content. Does its reputation make you wonder what would happen to your body if you ate cheese every day? Keep reading to find out what the research has to say.

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Health benefits of cheese

You can achieve your daily calcium intake

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommend that adults between the ages of 19 and 50 consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Most cheeses are rich in calcium, and hard cheeses generally contain more calcium than soft cheeses.

For example, according to the USDA, a 1-ounce serving of Cheddar cheese contains about 200 milligrams of calcium, which makes up almost a third of your daily calcium needs. But a 1-ounce serving of Brie contains only 52 mg.

Calcium is known for bone development and maintaining healthy bones, and it also plays an essential role in blood circulation and muscle and nerve functions, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

A 2020 review published in Food sciences and nutrition suggests that eating cheese with higher calcium content may protect against obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. A 2022 review Advances in nutrition suggests similar findings regarding dairy in general and states that further research needs to be done as the results of the studies are mixed.

You may have healthy intestines

While there is a lot of focus on yogurt providing probiotics – the good bacteria that keep the gut healthy and contributing to overall health – some cheeses such as Swiss cheese, Cheddar, cottage cheese, Gouda, Edam and Gruyère also contain probiotics. These probiotics can keep the intestines healthy by producing short-chain fatty acids, according to a 2021 publication in the International Journal of Dairy Technology. The short-chain fatty acids can support the maintenance of acid-base balance, absorb calcium, iron and magnesium, and maintain the overall structure and function of the intestines, according to a 2020 review published in Nutrients.

It’s best to eat the cheese fresh and uncooked, as heat can destroy the probiotics. So add slices of cheese to your favorite sandwiches or serve cottage cheese as a salad with crispy peppers and tomatoes for a light afternoon snack.

You can improve your oral health

Eating cheese can also benefit your oral health. The presence of probiotics and other components in cheese can positively influence the types of bacteria and the pH in the saliva. A 2022 study in the Journal of Translational Medicine suggests that eating cheese creates a more alkaline environment in the mouth, which together with the nutrients in cheese, reduces cavities, inhibits tooth demineralization and promotes remineralization.

You may have a lower risk of heart disease

An article from 2022 in Limits in nutrition states that saturated fats make up about 60% of the fat in most cheeses. Although saturated fats have been linked to increasing the risk of heart disease, this finding cannot be generalized because there are different types of saturated fats. And not all types, including those found in cheese, necessarily lead to an increased risk of heart disease. In fact, this study found that those who ate full-fat cheese saw a reduction in total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol, bringing their numbers into a healthy range.

And a review from 2022 in Nutrients found that those who regularly consumed dairy had a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Note that it didn’t matter whether the dairy was full or low fat. In particular, the study authors say fermented dairy products, including yogurt and cheese, appear to have the greatest benefits. That said, they also note that this includes moderate intake of these foods and that research is less conclusive when a larger amount is consumed. Based on the studies in this review, they recommend 200 grams of dairy per day – approximately one cup of yogurt per day or three portions of cheese per week.

It’s important to remember that these are just guidelines and depending on your health, lifestyle choices and genetics, you may be able to eat more or less than this recommended amount.

Potential risks

You can increase your sodium intake

From a food safety perspective, sodium is added to cheese to minimize the growth of bacteria and mold, which can cause spoilage. Sodium also improves the flavor of the cheese, making it tastier and more satisfying to the taste buds. However, high sodium intake can negatively impact your health, especially your heart health.

According to the American Heart Association, limiting your salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day — and ideally less than 1,500 mg — can help keep your blood pressure and heart healthy.

Some cheeses, including Cheddar, mozzarella and Swiss, often contain less sodium than others. For example, according to the USDA, one slice of Cheddar cheese (1 ounce) contains approximately 180 mg of sodium, which makes up 8% of your daily sodium limit. But even within one variety, sodium content can vary from brand to brand, so it’s best to check the Nutrition Facts label for each product.

You may cause digestive problems (but you may not!)

If you have lactose intolerance, you may have avoided eating lactose-containing dairy products to avoid cramps and unnecessary bathroom trips. While you may have chosen lactose-free dairy products and non-dairy alternatives to get your dairy fix, you may be happy to know that you can still enjoy eating plenty of plain cheeses, as aged and hard cheeses are naturally low in lactose, per a 2020 article published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

Which types of cheese are best to eat every day?

A 2022 review published in Cardiovascular examination also showed that eating moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt as part of a balanced meal pattern may be protective against heart disease. In general, mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss cheese and cottage cheese are some of the most popular types of cheese, but all types of cheese can be part of your diet as long as you enjoy them in moderation.

Depending on your age and energy consumption, the number of recommended servings of dairy may differ. To determine a modest amount, check the amount and serving sizes listed on USDA’s MyPlate. For example, if you eat 2,000 calories daily, MyPlate recommends including three servings from the dairy group, including yogurt, milk and cheese. One serving of cheese is equivalent to 1.5 ounces of hard cheese (Cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan), 1/3 cup of grated cheese, 1 ounce of processed (American) cheese, ½ cup of ricotta, 2 cups of cottage cheese or 2 ounces of Queso -fresco.

It comes down to

If you are not allergic to milk proteins, it is probably fine to enjoy cheese every day. As with many foods, eating cheese in moderation can provide potential health benefits. Cheese complements a wide range of delicious culinary dishes. Find out how to do that by trying our cheese recipes.

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