Cheese is an ancient food that has been produced and eaten for thousands of years. Even a small amount of cheese can really transform both the flavour and texture of a dish, so it’s no wonder that people are curious about the effects it can have on your health. Here we explore the historical and more recent health claims about cheese. We are not nutritionists though and these are just the opinions of people who are obsessed with both cheese and healthy living!
We always recommend eating organic cheese as the animals have a better life and we believe the cheese always tastes better – without question! Studies have shown that organic dairy produce contains far greater amounts of omega 3 fatty acids (essential for good health!) than non-organic. This is most likely due to the diet for fresh natural grass rather than conventional feed.
Try to buy local and organic cheeses or at the very least buy a cheese where it clearly states where it has come from.
Be Wary of Low Fat and No Fat Cheese
Organic and 100% cows, goats or sheep’s milk cheese will have very few ingredients. You should be able to recognise every ingredient! Low fat or no fat cheeses on the other hand are processed and can have lots of nasty chemicals (and even sugar!) added to them to reduce the fat without reducing the flavour. There is lots of scientific evidence now coming through that low fat products could actually contribute to poor health and obesity rather than helping.
Over the past 30 years, cheese has had a bad reputation due to the levels of saturated fat contained in it and the purported link between saturated fat and heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity. Recently though, lots of new scientific studies have actually discredited these links and it is now coming to be accepted that cheese has little effect on cholesterol and heart disease.
So it seems that smaller quantities of full fat organic cheese could be much healthier than larger quantities of low fat or no fat cheese.
Benefits of Eating Cheese – Nutrient Profiles
Lots of factors affect the nutrient profile of cheese – the type of milk used, the diet of the cow, sheep, goat or buffalo that provided the milk and whether or not the milk has been pasteurised (pasteurising milk involves gently heating the milk).
There are thousands of different types of cheese but what they all have in common is that they all contain both protein and fat. Protein helps keep you feeling fuller for longer, so using even a little cheese to keep hunger at bay could help prevent snacking on unhealthy foods. This could be one of the big benefits of eating cheese.
Each type of cheese will have a slightly different nutrient profile from the next. Generally, most cheeses contain calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12. Most cheese will contain sodium too as this is essential to the cheese making process.
Salt/Sodium Content in Cheese
As salt is essential for creating cheese, all cheeses contain sodium. Again, the quantity will vary depending on the type of cheese. Processed cheese contains the largest amount of sodium, so steer clear when you can. If you feel you have too much salt in your diet and are trying to lower your sodium intake, check the labels on different cheeses so that you can choose the one with the lowest sodium content.
Cheese Could Help Protect Your Teeth
Cheese contains certain components which help protect against tooth decay. It is actually one of the most effective anticariogenic foods (foods that protect against the decay of your teeth). It helps lessen the damage done by acid-causing foods which attack the teeth, like sugary drinks and treats.
Other Disputed Benefits of Cheese
There are other health claims about the supposed benefits of cheese but most of these are far from being scientifically proven. This includes the claim that eating cheese can reduce certain types of cancer or that it can aid weight loss. There just isn’t enough supporting evidence for either of these claims though.
People who are lactose intolerant cannot digest the lactose found in dairy produce. More people than you might think suffer from lactose intolerance. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all cheeses are off limits though. Cheese made from Sheep’s milk (often called Ewes Milk Cheese) is often suitable for those with lactose intolerance because it is easily digestible. Some studies have shown that the lactose in sheep’s milk is tolerated better by everyone’s tummies, not just the lactose intolerant.
Most of the lactose is removed alongside the whey at the initial stages of the hard-cheese making process, so hard sheep’s cheese is usually well tolerated by the lactose intolerant. Even Goats Cheese contains somewhat less lactose than cheese made with cows milk, so if you have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance then check with your doctor to see if you could experiment with small amounts of Goat Cheese.
Like lots of things, cheese should be eaten in moderation and enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet. Use it as a flavour enhancer for recipes – even the smallest bit of strong cheese makes a huge difference. Or enjoy the cheese on its own to really appreciate it’s unique flavour and texture.
Why Not Try Our Different Types of Cheese!