CHEESE doesn’t often have a great reputation when it comes to healthy eating, but contrary to what many people believe, the dairy product does contain some nutrients vital to the human body. Here are three health benefits of cheese and why you should include some in your diet.
Overindulging in cheese every day is not a healthy diet to follow, especially if you want to cut down on saturated fat. But, the dairy product does contain essential vitamins and minerals, and for this reason health experts recommend including a small amount in your diet. “Cheese is often demonised for being high in calories, fat, saturates and salt, but it’s also packed with a variety of other nutrients,” said dietician Juliette Kellow. “It has become commonplace to label foods as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ when people talk about diet and nutrition. This has led to some foods gaining a bad reputation, even those that are 100 per cent natural such as cheese,” added Rob Hobson, nutritionist and head of Nutrition at Healthspan.
“These full fat dairy products are high in sat fat, salt and calories, but if eaten in moderation have many health benefits to offer the diet.”
Here are three reasons to include some cheese in your diet:
Good for your teeth
Cheese has high levels of calcium, which is vital for healthy bones and teeth. According to Bill Schaeffer, dental surgeon and co-founder of The Implant Centre, calcium helps form teeth and also contributes to a strong jaw bone.
In addition, cheese helps to lower the pH level in the mouth, helping fight plaque. “Research has shown eating cheese after a sugary snack can help the pH of the saliva return more quickly to normal, and so may reduce the risk of decay,” said Schaeffer.
“We would far rather our patients reach for a cheeseboard than a supposedly ‘healthy’ juice drink made of fruits containing heaps of sugar when it comes to the health of their teeth.”
According to Kajsa Ernestam, in-house dietitian at Lifesum, recent statistics from the UK government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey showed five per cent of men and eight per cent of women are calcium deficient.
Contains essential vitamins
Different types of cheese also contain different vitamins, including vitamins A, B2, B6, B12, D and K.
Vitamin A helps the immune system function; Vitamin B2 helps keep the skin, eyes and nervous system healthy; and B6 helps form haemoglobin.
Vitamin B12 is involved in the production of red blood cells; vitamin D helps regulate calcium in the body; and vitamin K is needed for blood clotting – helping wounds to heal properly.
Good source of protein
In addition, cheese is a good source of protein – an essential nutrient responsible for building tissue, cells and muscle, as well as making hormones and antibodies.
Ernestam recommends quark in particular for its high protein content, explaining that it is a “complete protein”, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids the body needs.
It is recommended – feta cheese as a good source of protein, and also for its lower fat content compared to some other cheeses.
The serving of cheese is 30g per day, which is about the size of a matchbox. The nutrition specialists guidelines suggest eating two to three servings of low fat dairy foods daily.
Kellow advises opting for reduced-fat cheeses in order to keep saturated fat intake down. The dietician notes reducing the fat in cheese doesn’t affect any nutrients, aside from vitamin A which is lower in reduced-fat products.