Cheese – nutritional benefits versus weight gain

Cheese is a good source of both calcium and protein. However cheese can be high in sodium and saturated fats. Whether cheese is a healthy option depends on both the individual and the amount and type of cheese eaten.

There are many types of cheese. Cheese can range from mild to mature in flavour and low to high in fat composition. Cheeses that are low in both fat and sodium can be a healthy addition to most diets. Cheese can be made from cows, sheep, goats and other animals milk. Cheese is used on popular dishes such as pizzas, burgers, salads, sandwiches and Mexican dishes. Cheese can be eaten alone as a snack or appetiser. Cheese can be added to many dishes such as soups, pastas, sauces.

Nutritional content of cheese:

Cheese is a good source of calcium. Calcium is essential for healthy teeth and bones, blood clotting, wound healing and keeping normal blood pressure. Cheese can be high in sodium, calories and saturated fat. The breakdown of nutrients in cheese can vary a lot, depending on the type of cheese.

Health benefits of cheese:

The protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamins A, D and K content in cheese contributes to healthy bone development in children and young adults and to the prevention of osteoporosis.

Cheese is a good source of calcium. Calcium has an important function in tooth formation. It has been concluded from at least one study that eating cheese can increase the pH level in dental plaque which protects against dental cavities.

Calcium can assist in reducing blood pressure. Low fat and low sodium cheeses are recommended. Examples include parmesan, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, feta, goats cheese and low fat cream cheese.

It was concluded by researchers in 2014 that dairy products could be a good source of the antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione is vital for brain health and the prevention of age related neurodegeneration.

Protein is essential for the building and repair of cells. One ounce of cheddar cheese can provide 7g of protein. The amount of protein recommended for an individual depends on their size, age and activity level.

Negative aspects of cheese consumption:

One ounce of cheddar cheese can contain approximately 120 calories and 6g saturated fat. A high intake of saturated fat can raise the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Sodium can be especially high in processed cheeses and cheese flavoured products. There have been concerns raised about the presence of estrogen and other steroid hormones in dairy products. This could lead to a disruption of the endocrine system and could increase the risk of some types of cancer.

Individuals with lactose intolerance lack the enzyme required to break down and digest the sugar found in milk. The consumption of milk and dairy products can result in diarrhoea, bloating and flatulence.

Individuals with a milk allergy should avoid cheese. A sensitivity to casein (milk protein) can cause inflammation throughout the body. This can produce symptoms such as acne, sinus congestion, skin rashes and migraines.

Phosphorus can be present in high quantities in some cheeses. This may cause harm in individuals with a kidney disorder. If the kidneys are unable to remove excess phosphorus from the blood, this can be fatal.

Overall tips when choosing and consuming cheese:

Low fat and reduced fat cheeses are available. These can be good choices if a recipe calls for a large quantity of cheese.

It is important to remember that the sodium content of cheese varies. Processed cheeses generally contain high levels of sodium. Swiss cheese and Gruyere have lower levels of sodium.

To reduce calorie consumption, use strong flavoured cheeses i.e. Parmesan or blue cheese. You do not have to use as much, for example, in soups, salads, pastas, vegetable dishes.

My next blog topic – Nutrition and Resilience!





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