For years, cheese has been made out to be an unhealthy food item that’s high in calories, fat, saturated fat, and lactose.
However, cheese boasts plenty of key nutrients, including protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium, which play a crucial role in staying healthy.
And as 95% of the global population has a health problem, upping the amount of cheese you eat on a daily basis could even ward off some of these conditions and make you healthier as a whole.
A longer life
The average life expectancy worldwide is 72.6 years of age, according to Our World in Data. But various studies have found that regularly munching on cheese could increase your chances of living longer than this.
There’s good news for blue cheese fans as a 2016 study revealed that high levels of spermidine – a compound found in blue cheese – protects against cardiovascular disease (CVD).
As CVD is the leading cause of death around the globe, this is reassuring news for people who are most at risk of it, including the over 50s and people who are overweight or obese.
There’s further evidence that cheese can extend your life expectancy from researchers at the European Society of Cardiology Congress. They found that cheese consumption lowered the risk of mortality by 8%.
McMaster University has also looked at the link between whole-fat dairy consumption, such as cheese, and life expectancy. Their results showed that consuming 3.2 servings of dairy per day lowered mortality rates by 3.3% and reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by almost 4%.
World Sleep Day reports that up to 45% of the adult population is affected by insomnia. Insomnia is terrible for both your physical and mental health and has been linked to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and poor cognitive performance.
But despite the old wives’ tale that you should never eat cheese before bed, research shows you should do just that. A study by the British Cheese Board found that consuming 20g of cheese 30 minutes before bed benefited the sleep of 72% of participants.
The researchers believe that tryptophan – an amino acid found in many types of cheese – is the driving force behind a better night’s sleep as it is known to reduce stress and induce sleep. Cheeses which contain the greatest amount of tryptophan are:
Up to 85% of the population have nightmares from time to time. In most cases, these won’t affect your health, but when you have persistent nightmares it can lead to stress, insomnia, and mental health disorders.
As previously mentioned, eating cheese can help with insomnia, but if you want to dream of nice things at night then there are certain cheeses you should choose over others.
One study found that cheddar cheese increased the likelihood of dreaming about famous people, while 60% of people who ate Red Leicester experienced nostalgic dreams. The study also found that brie gave women pleasant dreams but it had the opposite effect on men.
If you want to close your eyes and not worry about your dreams, then Cheshire cheese is your best option as the researchers found that the majority of participants had no dreams when they ate it before bed.
While there are several varieties of cheese you should avoid during pregnancy, including soft cheeses and unpasteurized cheese, both mother and unborn baby can gain from consuming cheese.
Women who are pregnant or nursing typically need between 1,200 mg and 1,400 mg per day of calcium per day. Calcium is required to develop your baby’s bones and teeth. It also plays a role in the prevention of hypertension and preeclampsia from occurring in the mother – both of which can be dangerous during pregnancy.
If you don’t eat enough calcium to meet your baby’s needs, your body will rely on the calcium stores in your bones. This will then thin and weaken your bones, putting you at risk of osteoporosis.
Cheese is a great way for pregnant women to increase their daily calcium intake as it is high in calcium, with a 1oz portion of cheddar cheese containing 204.4 mg of calcium. Parmesan is the best option though as it contains 331 mg per ounce.
Up to 15% of the population has a vitamin B12 deficiency, according to the National Institutes of Health. A B12 deficiency can wreak havoc with your skin as it can make your skin pale, tinge it yellow, cause vitiligo, and lead to hyperpigmentation.
Healthy, glowing skin is easily achieved when you follow a skin care routine and consume an ample amount of B12 and cheese can help you do this. Adults typically need 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily and as just 22g of Swiss cheese contains 28% of your recommended daily amount, it’s a great way to eat your way to better skin.
You can further boost your skin health by opting for foods high in antioxidants, such as blueberries and leafy greens. Cheese has higher levels of antioxidants than other dairy products, so you should definitely include it in your diet if you want healthier skin.
You can even pair it with a bar of good quality chocolate as the two make a surprisingly tasty combination and they both contain a decent amount of antioxidants that will protect your skin.
But make sure you avoid fast food and limit your caffeine intake as these food items could undo all the benefits that your cheese consumption has had on your skin.
Lower blood pressure
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that hypertension – or high blood pressure as it is also known – affects 1.13 billion people worldwide. Consequently, 7.5 million people lose their lives every year from the disease and millions of others are at risk of multiple health complications caused by it including:
- Heart attack
- Vision problems
- Artery damage
- Kidney damage
- Cognitive impairment
With such serious health issues connected to high blood pressure, you’ll be pleased to know that indulging in some tasty cheese can significantly lower your blood pressure and improve your health.
In 2016, Italian scientists revealed that study participants who ate one ounce of Gran Padano cheese daily for two months saw their blood pressure reduce by as much as 8/7mmHg.
Gran Padano contains isoleucine-proline-proline (IPP) and valine-proline-proline (VPP), both of which are known to relax blood vessels in the body and lower blood pressure.
Happier, healthier kids
Every parent wants their child to be as healthy as possible and cheese can play an essential role in this. Research has found that school children are typically deficient in the following nutrients:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
While cheese doesn’t contain all of these nutrients, it does contain the majority of them, so adding more cheese into your child’s diet and juicing fresh vegetables and fruit is a great way to avoid many of these deficiencies.
Another common problem parents face is picky eating. Picky eating has been linked to childhood obesity which is predicted to affect 250 million worldwide by 2030.
As there are so many different cheeses and it’s such a universal product it can be used to increase the number of foods that your child eats. For example, many children will turn their noses up at cauliflower and broccoli but smother them in a creamy cheese sauce and they’re sure to devour them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that cheese can also stave off childhood obesity in another way. Their research found that children who snack on cheese and vegetables typically consume 72% fewer calories than kids that snack on potato chips.
This is because the combination of the protein in the cheese along with the fiber in the vegetables keeps them feeling fuller for longer.
Children who eat cheese don’t just benefit nutritionally as cheese can also improve their oral health. 42% of children between the ages of 2 and 11 develop a cavity in their baby teeth, states the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Cavities cause pain and sensitivity so they’re best avoided, especially in little ones. Cheese is effective at preventing cavities as the calcium in it keeps teeth strong. Cheese also contains casein which encourages remineralization of tooth enamel which dentists say leads to whiter, brighter teeth.
A study of children aged between 12 and 15 years backs this up. Participants were split into three groups, with one group eating cheddar cheese, another drinking milk, and the third instructed to eat sugar-free yogurt.
The researchers measured the PH levels at regular intervals after consuming the dairy products they were given. They found that milk and yogurt had no impact on PH levels, but cheddar cheese increased the PH levels every time they were measured.
It was concluded that cheese plays two key roles in preventing cavities; that it increases saliva production to naturally clean the teeth and that it sticks to tooth enamel to prevent acid damage.
Concluding Cheese and a Healthier Life
There’s no denying that cheese can and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. After all, it’s packed full of goodness which can benefit the health of so many people.
So, the next time you’re shopping at the grocery store, make sure you pack your trolley full of good quality cheese so that you can incorporate it into your daily meals.