Cheese is an extremely popular food in many countries. Consumption in the U.S. alone has tripled over the last forty years. Part of the appeal is there is such a wide variety of cheeses on the market. Cheese makers are a specially trained, working to perfect new blends and master old favorites. Just as with anything that tastes so good, you may be thinking is cheese bad for you. Does its pros outweigh the cons. Let’s take a look, so you can decide for yourself.
Know the Good of Cheese
Calcium is a nutrient that is essential to your well-being. It is needed to maintain strong teeth and bones, muscles and good blood pressure, as well as many other health benefits. Cheese is high in calcium, and since adults need 1,000 mg per day, it is a great source. While on average one ounce serving of cheese can give you 20 percent of your daily calcium need, you must remember it can be high in sodium, saturated fat and calories. With this in mind, here are some of the benefits of consuming cheese:
1. Healthy Bones
Cheese gives your body more than just calcium. It is also full of protein, vitamins A, D and K, zinc, phosphorus, riboflavin and magnesium. These nutrients help with the development of bones in adolescents, as well as assist with the prevention of osteoporosis in older adults.
2. Strong Teeth
Calcium is vital to the formation of strong teeth. Even after your teeth have developed, studies suggest eating cheese can protect them from dental cavities as it raises plaque pH levels. Also, a bacterium naturally found in cheese can fight against yeast that causes decay.
3. Good Blood Pressure
When considering “Is cheese bad for you?”, remember that though it can be rich in sodium and fat, it has been found to be good for your blood pressure. Research has found evidence that if you eat more cheese, you may have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. Calcium content is probably the contributing factor, so look for cheeses that are low in sodium and fat. Examples include parmesan, cottage cheese, feta and ricotta cheese.
4. Benefits Blood Vessels
Studies have found that dairy products contain glutathione, an antioxidant known to thwart neurodegeneration caused by aging and promote brain health. You might think the sodium and cholesterol in cheese are bad for your blood vessels, but it seems its antioxidant content protects you against the negative properties. It also contains butyrate, a molecule known to fight bad cholesterol.
5. Healthy Gut
Fermented foods are known to be good for your gut and cholesterol. Keeping this in mind, cheese falls into this category of food and has been found to help maintain good cholesterol levels.
6. Strong Muscles
Besides calcium, cheese is also full of proteins. Good proteins are essential for strong muscles. While you might ask “Is cheese bad for you?” those without high fat content can help you maintain a healthy circulation system while building strong teeth, bones and muscles. Protein is also key to building and repairing muscles that have been damaged.
Know the Bad of Cheese
While there are several studies that show it provides a lot of benefits, research has also found eating cheese can be harmful to your health. Cheese is full of fat, calories and sodium, which if not kept in check, can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. Things to consider when comparing the good and bad in cheese include:
1. Weight Gain
Cheese is high in saturated fats, making it an attributing food to weight gain. Since your body processes cheese in a way that absorbs its fat properties, it is weight that is harder to loss. Along with the fat comes higher cholesterol levels and increased risks of heart disease. Cheese is so bad when it comes to weight gain, it is often categorized with bad carbohydrates.
2. High Sodium
Because of the way cheese is processed, it is high in sodium. Even though your body needs the mineral, excess amounts can cause havoc to your system. Elevated sodium levels can lead to diabetes, weak bones and teeth, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
3. Bad Bacteria
Even though cheese does contain good bacteria, it can come in contact with and transfer bad bacteria, too. Cheese comes from milk, which typically comes from cows. Cow’s milk can be tainted with bacteria or can be full of synthetic hormones fed to the animals. Studies have found these contaminates can cause memory problems, mood disorders, and infection. The hormones can also cause disruption in the endocrine system and increase cancer risks.
4. Cardiovascular Disease
When considering “Is cheese bad for you?” you should take note that it is high in fat and sodium. If your levels of sodium, fat and cholesterol are continually elevated, you raise your risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. The more excess weight you gain, the higher your chances of heart disease become.
5. Lactose Intolerance
Cheese is full of lactose, a form of sugar. Some people cannot digest lactose and when they eat cheese, they experience digestive problems. Gas, diarrhea and bloating are common in lactose-intolerant individuals. The level of discomfort depends on the person, as each individual’s reaction is different. There are medications that can help, but sometimes the best thing is to avoid all dairy, including cheese.
6. High Tyramine Content
Is cheese bad for you? If you are reactive to tyramine, then the answer is yes. Tyramine is an amino acid known to disrupt the nerve and brain systems, creating havoc for people with certain ailments. Foods containing tyramine, like aged cheese and red wine, can trigger headaches and migraines. It can also interfere with drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and depression. The more a food is aged, the more tyramine will be produced. Examples of other foods to avoid include beer, cured meats, pickled foods, soy sauce and sourdough bread.
7. Mold Dangers
Mold can be found on many types of cheese. Some cheeses are crafted so good mold forms on them and is consumed along with it. Lots of the time, people will cut a piece of moldy cheese off the block and eat the rest. What they don’t realize is small microscopic bits of mold can be hidden in what’s left. Most of the time, you will be fine. However, some people are highly allergic to mold and can have an allergic reaction. Other times, the mold may be made up of bad bacteria and consuming it can lead to illness.
What is the conclusion then? Is cheese bad for you or is it okay to eat? Most of the time, the answer will be it is good for you as long as you eat it in moderation and based upon the restrictions of your diet.
Remember, cheese comes in different shapes, flavors and sizes, and so does its fat content. If you are trying to stick to a low-fat diet, you will want to stay away from Brie or cheddar. Opt for feta or Swiss, instead. The same goes with sodium. Some cheeses are saltier than others. Softer cheeses tend to have lower sodium content as more salt is required in the aging process of hard cheeses.
Eating cheese requires you using your common sense. If you know you are lactose intolerant, eat cheese in moderation or not at all. If you are at risk of heart disease, eat low-fat and low-sodium cheese. Consume cheese in moderation. Sprinkling a little bit of shaved parmesan on your salad probably won’t hurt you, but eating an extra cheesy cheddar cheese pizza might not be as healthy.