It’s easy to think of cheese as a discretionary “sometimes” food; a guilty pleasure; an occasional snack to be enjoyed with restraint.
But research is showing time and time again that cheese is an important staple to our diet – and that many of the popular assumptions about cheese are myths or misconceptions.
We now know cheese to be a fundamentally healthy food that most Australians can safely enjoy every day. In fact, it could actively improve your long-term health with the following benefits:
Cheese can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
We have been trained to think of salt and saturated fats as inherently bad for our health. However, what we now know is that it’s the overall impact of a food as a whole that is important, not just one constituent.
Thankfully for cheese lovers, there is now strong scientific evidence to show that cheese can actually reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, possibly explained by the complex combination of nutrients; fat excretion (not all of the fat ingested is absorbed); the specific effect cheese can have on gut microbiota; and other documented benefits that are still being avidly studied.
Extensive research also contradicts other alleged health risks of eating cheese – showing there is no association between cheese consumption and high blood pressure or risk of type 2 diabetes or mortality. There is also no connection between cheese and obesity, long-term weight gain or waist circumference. In fact quite the opposite. If you’re on a reduced kilojoule diet that includes cheese, you can expect to lose more weight than someone who is avoiding cheese – especially from the waist area.
Cheese is a vital source of calcium
As a dairy product and a member of one of the five food groups, cheese plays an incredibly important part of our long-term health. It’s the second largest source of calcium in the Australian diet, making it crucial for our bone and dental health.
This is particularly important considering 9 out of 10 Australians aren’t reaching their minimum recommended daily dairy intake. Post-menopausal women over 50 require 4 serves per day.
One of these all-important dairy servings is:
- Two slices (40g) of a hard cheese such as cheddar, or
- 1/2 cup (120g) of ricotta cheese
Cheese is also rich with other important nutrients such as proteins, vitamin A, riboflavin, phosphorus and zinc.
Cheese offers similar health benefits whether hard or soft
If you prefer a strong slice of camembert, brie or blue cheese, rest assured soft cheeses can just as easily become a part of your daily diet.
Despite common assumptions that soft cheeses contain more fat than hard, there is very little difference between the two.
Cheese has been a part of our diet for millennia
Even historians have cited the benefits of cheese. Recent archaeological findings have revealed that cheese has been an important part of the human diet for at least the past 8,000 years, and has played an invaluable role in human survival and development with “irreplaceable nutritional advantages”.
Cheese can be effortlessly worked into an existing diet
Best of all, cheese is perhaps the easiest dairy product to work into a meal – whether as a core ingredient, a topping, a side or an entree.
If you need inspiration on how to work more cheese into your diet, our friends at The Dairy Kitchen have developed a ‘Healthy Meals with Cheese’ recipe collection. You can also follow the link below to download or order your free guide for cheese inspiration: