Stop Giving Up Cheese In The New Year
Are you among those who have decided to swear off dairy in the new year? Before you toss out those orange blocks of cheddary goodness, listen to this: Cheese isn't bad for you. According to Erin Freeman, a registered and licensed dietitian at the Kentucky Children’s Hospital, Division of Genetics and Metabolism in Lexington, Kentucky, dairy products, including cheese, are a good source of protein and healthy fats. Not only are the aforementioned macronutrients a source of fuel, but they also “promote muscle growth, decrease blood pressure, and reduce cholesterol,” says Freeman. It turns out all of those ’90s Got Milk? advertisements were onto something.
Freeman explains that cheese can help cover myriad health bases because it’s a great source of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins A, B-12, and K. “Adequate calcium and phosphorus reduces your risk for developing osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak and brittle. Zinc and vitamin A both help to reduce inflammation in the body, boosting immune health and speeding wound healing. Vitamin B-12 helps to promote red blood cell growth, which prevents anemia and boosts your energy levels. Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and bone development,” she says.
So what gives? When did cheese become the bad guy? Freeman explains the myth is in our heads. “Commonly people associate cheese and other dairy products with a high-fat diet or a high-sodium diet and will avoid eating it. However, cheese also has many health benefits and when added to the diet in moderate amounts can actually promote weight loss and heart health,” not to mention limiting foods can ultimately backfire. “Restricting or avoiding foods altogether is not recommended and can lead to binge-eating behaviors,” she says.
Instead of avoiding cheese, Freeman says to incorporate those types that work best for your personal needs, health goals, and taste preferences. According to a 2019 Washington Post story, hard cheeses are good options for those with lactose sensitivity. As a whole, Americans tend to gravitate toward cheddar cheeses. Renards Artisan Cheese in Door County, Wisconsin, produces nearly 3 million pounds of cheese per year and specializes in aged hard cheeses such as traditional Wisconsin cheddar. The company’s cheese is made using local dairy milk, is hormone-free, and even uses natural dyes to get that recognizable cheddar yellow. Each of those details makes a higher quality, better for you cheese.
While hard cheeses are lower in sodium, they are higher in fat. Soft cheeses, on the other hand, are well-suited for those needing a lower fat option. Bonus: Some soft cheeses, such as mozzarella, brie, and chevre, are natural probiotics. According to Freeman, that means they “have been shown to improve gut health, promote immunity, and fight inflammation in your body.” When in doubt, fresh, local options are always the best choice.
When it comes to selecting cheese for your own diet or for your next charcuterie, look for cheeses that balance your taste buds with your body’s needs. As always, consult your doctor or a registered dietitian to learn specifics. One cheese does not fit all!