While many people can be quick to think that any dairy product will be high in fat and calories, and thus should not be an essential aspect of a healthy diet, the truth is that it all really depends on which kinds of dairy you are consuming, as well as what kind of nutritional qualities are specifically right for you and your health needs. In this context, cheese can and should be a part of everyone’s diet, from crucial calcium, to a whole host of other nutritious vitamins, cheese has nutritional qualities that make it a perfect addition for any healthy diet.
First and foremost, cheese is an excellent source of calcium. A mineral that is considered necessary for a long and healthy life, calcium helps our bodies in a multitude of ways. The benefits associated with a diet rich in calcium include building strength in bones, helping blood clot normally, and even improving overall heart health. Since our bodies can not naturally replenish calcium in our bones, a diet including calcium-rich foods is imperative.
With this in mind, one of the best sources for calcium is dairy, especially cheese. Not only is cheese a great source of calcium, but compared to many other dairy products, there is a much greater variety of cheeses to choose from, so you should be able to find a type of cheese you truly enjoy. Typically, harder cheeses, such as cheddar and jack, tend to have a higher content of calcium, averaging around 200 mg per ounce, while cheeses that are considered to be softer, such as brie, will usually have a slightly lower content of calcium, averaging around 50-100 mg per ounce.
Since health and nutritional guidelines typically recommended a daily consumption of around 1000 mg of calcium, cheese is a perfect candidate to ensure you receive that recommended daily value of calcium, all the while enjoying the diversity of flavors and textures that you will find with cheese.
Other Important Minerals
Even though calcium is arguably the most important mineral found in cheese, other minerals in cheese also serve as essential nutrients for a healthy diet. Two of the main helpful minerals you will find in notable amounts in cheese are zinc and phosphorus.
Zinc is important for a healthy immune system, as well as helping the body heal wounds. Most cheeses have an average of 1 mg of zinc per ounce, making a small but helpful contribution to the recommended daily value of approximately 8 mg.
On the other hand, phosphorus works directly with calcium, building and strengthening your bones and teeth. Along with this, phosphorus plays an important role in maintaining healthy energy levels. With this in mind, cheese averages around 200-300 mg of phosphorus per ounce, which makes it a great source for the recommended daily intake of 700 mg.
Cheese is also a great source for a wide range of vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin D. While these vitamins will be found in varied levels depending on the specific cheese, they each serve an essential purpose in the healthy function of our bodies.
- Vitamin A: important for vision, as well as maintaining healthy skin and bones
- Vitamin B2: also known as riboflavin, important for body growth and energy levels
- Vitamin B12: maintains a healthy metabolism and helps in the formation of red blood cells
- Vitamin C: helps the immune system function properly and aids in the repair of tissue and wounds
- Vitamin D: vital for the proper absorption of calcium and phosphorus
Potential Nutritional Risks
While it is clear that cheese can be an essential aspect of a healthy diet, offering a variety of nutrients that are required for healthy living, it also has nutritional qualities that can pose potential negative effects to one’s health.
If you are someone trying to lower your intake of calories, fat, or sodium, you might want to be a little more careful when deciding which cheese to add to your diet. However, despite the fact that some cheeses can be higher than desired in calories, fat, and sodium, there are also a lot of cheeses that can be found in “low” versions for each of these nutrients.
Along with this, since cheese is a dairy product, it can also contain varying levels of lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk that is typically broken down in our stomachs by the enzyme lactase; however, since some people do not naturally produce enough lactase to break down all of the lactose present in certain dairy products, digestive discomfort can end up resulting from consumption of dairy. Despite this, due to the process of making and aging cheese, much of the lactose is actually taken out. While this might be the case, different cheeses and cheese products will still have varying degrees of lactose, so make sure to check before you buy if you are someone who is sensitive to lactose.
Living a Healthy Life with Cheese
Regardless of potential downsides of eating too much cheese, it remains one of the best sources of calcium, which is an essential nutrient that most people do not get enough of. Along with this, the other vitamins and minerals found in cheese will help you live a healthier lifestyle and improve your overall well-being. At the same time, when it comes to dairy and the nutritional benefits it offers, cheese is without a doubt the most enjoyable way to gain these benefits, mostly due to the diversity of cheese types and products, as well as the versatility of using cheese as an ingredient in recipes.