Despite the fact that studies have already proven cheese has some known health qualities, it's often regarded as, well, not good. It's called an extraneous topping, it's called addictive, it's called bad for your skin — people are all over the place when it comes to cheese. For every study in favor of cheese, there's another article condemning it. So, when Time reported on a new study in the European Journal of Nutrition that analyzed the effects of longterm cheese consumption when it comes to the development of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke, I was initially apprehensive. What more could this be other than another voice added to the choir of cheese naysayers? However, it was anything but — in fact, it may inspire you to add another slice of cheese to your breakfast table from now on.
That's right: the study found that in moderation (up to 40 grams of cheese a day, roughly the size of a matchbox), long-term cheesing has been linked to a lower chance of developing heart disease or having a stroke, compared to people who rarely or never ate cheese. While this information is promising, it's hard to pinpoint whether the cheese was actively diminishing the chances of health issues in the heart, or rather, if the calcium, protein, and probiotics found in the cheese were increasing other health systems that then created a series of reactions that indirectly benefited the heart's health.
The results showed that people who consumed high levels of cheese had a 14 percent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and were 10 percent less likely to have a stroke — compared to people who rarely or never ate cheese. So whether it's the cheese's positive qualities that offset the negative qualities or whether the negative qualities are much less harmful than previously believed, a little bit of cheese a day seemed to keep the doctor away — within this substantial study that included 200,000 people monitored over the span of 10 years.
As aforementioned, this isn't the only health benefit cheese has been said to have; in fact, for every study claiming it's terrible, there are two supporting its consumption in moderation. To get more information on what nutritionists are saying with regard to studies about cheese, I spoke with Nikki Ostrower, a nutritionist and founder of NAO Nutrition. And sure enough, Ostrower says she sees the most virtue in raw cheese. "Raw cheese contains a plethora of anti-inflammatory fatty acids like omega 3 and CLA," Ostrower tells Bustle. "Inflammation is at the root of most diseases, so enjoying anti-inflammatory-rich food will help prevent and heal disease faster."
Um, hell yes! Add a point to the "Cheese is Life" tally, please.
As a diehard lover of cheese, I'm always on the hunt for evidence that cheese is in the safe zone. So, in honor of this new study regarding cheese's potential ability to help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke, let's take a look at a few other chunks of cheese positive studies.
It's An Excellent Source Of Protein
Low moisture cheeses typically have a protein content ranging from six to 10 grams — Parmesan cheese has 10 grams per ounce, for instance, so pile it high! If you're looking to cut back on your meat consumption, cheese is a valuable protein replacement. Each person's daily protein intake suggestion is different, and can be calculated here — but many don't get enough in their diets. Protein can help to regulate blood sugar, improve muscle and bone health, strengthen hair, skin and nail quality, sharpen brain function, boost energy and increase the body's ability to absorb other nutrients.
It's Packed With Calcium & Other Vitamins
Calcium is essential for strong bones and luckily, a simple serving of cheddar cheese comes with 204mg of calcium. For adults over the age of 18, the daily suggested calcium intake is around 1,000mg. Keeping good levels of calcium in the body can also prevent teeth and gum diseases. Not to mention, the alkaline properties in cheese help to balance out the pH in the mouth and creates a protection against cavities, too. But the good doesn't stop there. According to Ostrower, "Cheese consumption has been shown to reduce allergies since there is an abundance of vitamin D, probiotics, and enzymes."
It's Good For The Gut
Unless you're lactose intolerant, certain cheeses that are high in probiotics are great for digestion. They can help to improve regularity, decrease bloating, and even improve vaginal health and pH. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, soft fermented cheeses like Gouda, some cheddars, and parmesan are filled with probiotics and can greatly impact your gut function. Ostrower shares, "Our gut is the seat of our immune system. The plethora of probiotics found in raw cheese is know to help absorb nutrients and heal and seal the gut, thereby strengthening your immune system."
It Can Improve Mood & Brain Function
Cheeses can contain an amino acid called tyrosine, which has been known to decrease stress responses in the body, and even trigger dopamine responses. Some studies even suggest that high dosages of tyrosine can decrease depressive thoughts. Additionally, cheeses with high levels of probiotics have been said to increase mood, decrease anxiety and work as a part of a strategy against depression, when consumed on a regular basis.
It Can Prevent Liver Diseases
Aged cheeses like parmesan, brie, and cheddar contain a compound called spermidine, which is thought to prevent liver fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma — the most common type of liver cancer. The compound can also slow down the regeneration of cancer cells.
It Can Reduce Inflammation
Some bacterias in certain cheeses can reduce inflammation and colon health. Researchers in Korea found that the probiotic propionibacterium freudenreichii (expialidocious) — which is found in Swiss cheese — can help to reduce inflammation in the body, and prevent acute colitis. Additionally, this probiotic also has the power to increase the body's immune system. Ostrower encourages cheese consumers to be sticklers for quality, telling Bustle, "quality is everything, therefore, in order to benefit from the positive aspects of cheese, it must be raw — unpasteurized, non homogenized cheese."
So check your labels, folks!