Cheese is popularly consumed across the globe, mostly because of the delicious flavor it imparts to dishes. Nevertheless, is cheese healthy enough to be part of our daily diet? Well, the answer is not a straightforward 'yes' or 'no'. What exactly makes anything good or bad - its constituent elements! Similarly, if cheese has to be graded, it will be graded on its constituents. Some components of cheese are healthy, while the others are not so healthy. So consuming cheese in limited quantities is the key to being benefited by cheese and at the same time, not getting affected by its unhealthier side. To understand more, let's have a look at the nutritional value of cheese. The actual content of nutrients will vary from one type of cheese to another. So we will have a look at the nutritional values of some popular cheeses we consume on a day-to-day basis.
Thus, we see how cheese contains ample amounts of fats, sodium and calcium. Now considering the table shown above, let's find out if cheese is healthy or not!
Cheese and Weight Gain
The fat and calorie content in cheese is quite high. Due to the high fat content, several people eliminate cheese from their daily diet. In fact, the papers of February 2010, flashed the news that parents are concerned about child obesity issues and requested for healthier school lunches. St. Vrain School District and Douglas County school nutrition directors worked with Leprino Foods and came forth with a hundred percent, real low-fat Mozzarella cheese to replace the regular Mozzarella cheese on the pizza.
All this extra elbow grease was released to minimize the amount of fat children take in from their daily lunches. Cheese in burgers and pizzas are not healthy, because they have been heated at high temperatures, thereby resulting in the change of its chemical composition. Moreover, it is added to deep-fried burger patties and refined flour base, which increases the unhealthy content.
Consuming cheese in small amounts, on a daily basis is recommended in most weight loss diets. Thus, cheese need not be a taboo for weight watchers. Moreover, if one exercises regularly, then one need not worry about weight gained from cheese. Therefore, cheese cannot be termed as good or bad in case of weight gain, if we consider all these points.
Is Cheese Good for the Heart?
People with high blood pressure need not completely eliminate cheese from their diet, but need to have cheese in moderate amounts. Cheese contains a lot of sodium, which is not good for hypertensive people. The label of the cheese will tell you how much sodium the cheese contains. This will help you regulate your sodium intake through cheese consumption. These days cheese with low sodium and fat content is available, so opt for these types of cheese. Comte (Gruyere) is one such type of cheese which is low in sodium content, because salt is added only to its surface. Moreover, people with high cholesterol levels should also refrain from consuming too much cheese, because it contains a lot of saturated fats.
How does Cheese affect one's Teeth?
Cheese is not only high in calcium content, but is also the best source of calcium. Calcium is an important mineral, required for the body, as it along with other minerals like phosphorus forms our bones and teeth. It also regulates our muscle contractions, assists blood clotting, regulates hormones and helps maintain regular blood pressure. An adult (18-50) requires around 900 mg of calcium every day, while people beyond 50 require 1200 mg of calcium every day. Our bodies require a constant supply of calcium, to maintain healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis. Since cheese contains ample amounts of calcium, consuming it helps us furnish the body with required amounts calcium. Moreover, cheese is also seen to bring down the levels of bacteria, which would otherwise corrode the teeth.
Cheese and Pregnancy
Is cheese good for you if you are pregnant? The demand for iron, iodine, calcium and folates by the body increases during pregnancy. During the last trimester, the growing fetus requires a lot of these nutrients for healthy bone and body growth. Beyond four months of pregnancy, pregnant women are recommended to take 1000 mg of calcium every day. Consuming 30g of cheese daily will help furnish the body with the required amounts of calcium.
A mere ounce of cheddar gives 200 mg of calcium. Thus, considering the calcium benefit we receive from cheese, cheese is good for pregnant women. However, when one consumes soft cheese like feta, goat cheese, brie, etc. there are chances that the cheese is contaminated with a bacterium called Listeria. Consuming contaminated cheese can make you and your baby sick. Thus, to ensure the baby's safety, one should stick to eating hard cheeses during pregnancy.
Cheese and Protein Source
Besides being rich in calcium, cheese is also rich in protein. It is also easily digestible, thereby not putting too much strain on the digestive system. Cottage cheese or goat cheese can be safely consumed, because they are healthier and less fattier than the other types of cheese. Cottage cheese in particular has a higher content of protein casein, which promotes muscle tissue growth and repair. Ricotta cheese is also good as it spearheads quick muscle recovery. Moreover, cheese is also good for growing children, especially the fussy ones, because any dish with added cheese tastes delicious. Melted cheese over steamed vegetables is a favorite snack of many.
Cheese and Lactose Intolerance
The intensity of lactose intolerance varies from people to people. While some may have consumed quite a few dairy products before experiencing discomfort or lactose intolerance symptoms, others may encounter severe difficulties after just one bite or sip of a dairy product. Thus, lactose intolerant people need to be careful and keep away from cheese if their body reacts negatively to it.
However, as cheese ages, the lactose sugar in the cheese gradually transforms into lactic acid. Lactose intolerant people are unable to digest the lactose because of the absence of enzyme lactase, however, lactic acid causes no distress to such people. Another point to be noted here is that, this will work only for people who are mildly lactose intolerant. As the cheese ages, the less lactose it contains and the less trouble it will cause.
Cheese and Hormones
Cheese is prepared from the milk of cows, goats, buffaloes, etc. However, the milk we get in the stores is not like what our parents or grandparents drank when they were kids. The cows today are injected with hormones and antibiotics. These hormones seep into the body system from the milk consumed. So when such milk is used to prepare cheese, what can we expect from cheese!
Cheese and Vegetarians
Since vegetarians abstain from meat products, many are at a risk of becoming vitamin B12 deficient. This deficiency can result in pernicious anemia. However, cheese is high in vitamin B12, which solves the problem for vegetarians. The vitamin B12 content increases on fermentation, making cheese a good source of vitamin B12.
Overall cheese cannot be termed as good or bad. Consuming cheese in moderation will help prevent excessive weight gain; will not increase blood pressure and will help strengthen one's teeth. It's always important to remember to consume a healthy, balanced diet and not indulge on one particular food item in excess. The key here is balance!
Disclaimer: This NutriNeat article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.