Cheese may be healthier than you think. Evidence keeps growing about the nutritional benefits of cheese, and there are ways to enjoy it that are less fattening than a double cheeseburger.
If you’ve been cutting back on cheese because you’re trying to lose weight and protect your health, it may be time to go back to eating the foods you love. Take a look at the latest news about cheese and how to make it part of a balanced diet.
- Protect your heart. While cheese is a major source of saturated fat and sodium, it may actually be good for your heart because of the way its molecules work together. Calcium appears to keep some harmful fatty acids from breaking down.
- At the same time, full fat dairy products contain a fatty acid called Palmitoleate that is known to neutralize the effects of saturated fatty acids, fight inflammation, and reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Build your bones. You probably know that the calcium in cheese strengthens your bones. A single ounce of cheddar provides about 20% of your daily needs.
- Consume more protein. Protein is another important building block of bones, muscles, and hormones. It also speeds up your metabolism and helps you to feel full. Most cheeses contain almost as much protein as fat.
- Enjoy good bacteria. Microorganisms in your digestive tract affect your immune system and body weight for better or worse. Cheese is full of the beneficial bacteria that you want to cultivate.
- Strengthen your teeth. Calcium isn’t the only reason cheese is good for your teeth. When you eat hard cheeses, you reduce the acids in your mouth that can cause cavities.
- Get your vitamins D and B12. Cheese is one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, another requirement for healthy bones and immune functioning. It’s also a good source of B12 that’s central to brain functions and red blood cell formation.
- Limit your portions. While cheese is a nutritional powerhouse, the calories add up fast. One ounce of cheddar contains about 115 calories. That’s about the size of four regular dice.
- Choose soft cheeses. Most soft cheeses are lower in calories than hard cheeses. In addition to cottage cheese, you may want to try ricotta, mozzarella, and feta. Neufchâtel is also a delicious substitute for cream cheese with only one third of the fat.
- Add to vegetables. How you eat your cheese counts too. Think of it as a flavoring rather than a main course. Grate it onto salad greens or make a light sauce with nonfat milk.
- Serve with fruit. Make your desserts more wholesome. Instead of cakes and cookies, end a meal with figs and Camembert or blackberries and Brie.
- Sprinkle on soup. Soup is a filling way to start a meal, especially if you liven it up with a little cheese. Some tasty pairings include topping off an onion soup with a layer of Gruyere or garnishing a black bean and spinach soup with shavings of Manchego.
- Bake your own pizza. Instead of ordering a pie with double cheese and pepperoni, make your own lighter version. Use a whole wheat crust and top it with more spinach and less mozzarella.
- Go natural. Check the labels to be sure you’re buying cheese rather than cheese products. Processed cheese is often lower in protein and calcium and higher in calories and fat.
Eat your mozzarella with pride, knowing that it’s packed with essential nutrients. By controlling portions and making smart choices, you can enjoy cheese while you watch your weight.