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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is cheese healthy?

Who doesn’t like cheese?  Cheese pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese and crackers.  Many studies have been done on cheese and its health benefits.  So what is the latest – is cheese healthy or bad for our hearts and bodies?

The recent issue of the Wellness Letter from the University of California reported on the latest cheese research (Say Cheese?, September 2015). 

They noted the French consume a lot of cheese as I can verify having visited France last year.  Cheese and bread at breakfast, cheese and bread at lunch.  The French love their cheese.  Yet, the French have relatively low heart disease rates.  Why?

  •  Heart Health – many people say cheese is not good for your heart because cheese has some bad fat in it, saturated fat.  A study in 2013 found no link between eating a lot of cheese and heart disease.  Another 2012 study found followed Swedish women for 12 years.  Surprisingly, the women who ate the most cheese had the lowest rate of heart attacks.  Other studies found that butter does raise your bad cholesterol, LDL but cheese does not.
  • Diabetes – rather than raise your blood glucose, cheese seems to help stabilize it.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that cheese and yogurt improved insulin sensitivity and control of blood glucose levels.  A Swedish study found that woman consuming cheese had a lower risk of diabetes.  They aren’t sure why but cheese does have fat and this slows stomach emptying which means less of a rise in blood sugar levels.
  • Anticancer – The more dairy the less your risk of colon cancer probably because of the calcium in dairy and thus in cheese.  But other studies have been mixed as to whether cheese consumption reduces cancer risk.
  • Weight – many studies have been done on dairy and weight.  A recent study suggests that cheese consumption is associated with less weight gain and may help a person control their weight.  A study in the Journal of Nutrition involving obese and overweight women found that those who consumer a high protein and a high dairy diet, exercised, restricted calories not only lost weight but loss more fat and gained muscle.
  • Cavities – what does cheese have to do with cavities?  First, cheese doesn’t promote cavities and some research shows it may help prevent cavities.  Cheese helps build up the minerals in your teeth, the calcium, phosphorus and even protein promote mineralization.
  • Nutrients – cheese is loaded with good nutrients: calcium, protein, vitamin A, B12, B2, zinc and other nutrients.  But most cheese has no or little vitamin D so milk or yogurt are needed to meet vitamin D needs. 

So enjoy some cheese this week.  If you want to cut back on the calories from cheese, choose part-skim mozzarella, mozzarella sticks, feta cheese, part-skim ricotta cheese, 2% cheddar, 2% Swiss which are made with 2% milk.  

Sources:  The Best Low-Fat Cheeses, Say Cheese?  Image source:  Cheese sticks

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