6 surprising benefits of cheese
We all know a slice of cheese makes most things better — bread, burgers and emotional blues. And one Chicago expert says certain cheeses are good for the heart too, despite warnings to the contrary.
“High fat cheeses can contribute to heart disease, but if you like cheese, feta, mozzarella and Swiss are the most heart healthy,’’ says Dotty Berzy, MS RD, LDN, CNSC, a senior clinical dietitian at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “Save the higher fat cheeses such as cheddar for your holiday mac and cheese or use in small portions as a dessert,’’ Berzy says.
Berzy says wildly held views that cheese is an indulgence and should be avoided aren’t always to be believed and offers these six surprising benefits:
- Metabolism boost. “Cheese can help you stay slim in moderate portions, as some cheeses are high in a short chain fatty acid called butyrate, which is fuel for your gut and may increase your metabolism. However, these cheeses are also high in fat, so they should be eaten in moderation if you are trying to control your caloric intake,” Berzy says.
- Muscle building. Ricotta cheese is a great source of whey protein, which helps build muscle and is a more natural source of whey than protein powders.
- Bone strengthening. “Cheeses with the highest calcium content per ounce are Parmesan, 336mg, Romano, 332mg, Gruyere, 287mg and Swiss, 224 mg,” Berzy says. One ounce of these cheeses provides about a third of the daily calcium recommendations for men.
- Smile causing. The phosphorus and calcium content of cheese are minerals that fight the lactic acid that’s naturally present in our mouths and prevent it from breaking down tooth enamel. And, when you need a quick emotional boost, avoid the cookie trap and try cheese instead — preferably string or cubed cheese.
- Pairs well with dishes. Low fat cheeses such as feta, mozzarella and Swiss enhance most meals, salads, roasted veggies and omelets without significant increases in fat content.
- Is tolerable. A little natural cheese goes a long way for those who are lactose intolerant. The lactose is almost totally removed during the aging process from natural cheeses like Parmesan, cheddar, Gouda, Swiss and mozzarella. “One ounce of these cheeses contains less than a gram of lactose, compared with the 12 grams you’d get from a glass of milk,” says Berzy.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.