No. Cheese in itself is not inherently bad for you. In fact, it contains essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, and protein. However, cheese is also high in saturated fat and calories, so eating too much of it can cause health problems. There are also certain people who have dairy sensitivities or intolerances who should stay away from cheese altogether. But if you can eat dairy, how much cheese should you eat to reap its benefits and not its consequences? Let’s explore the dangers of eating too much cheese and how to work cheese into your diet in a healthy, moderate way.
The Dangers Of Eating Too Much Cheese
In today’s world, there’s always a new food group under fire as being the source of all health problems. From meat to gluten and yes, eventually dairy, people make claims that eating one specific food is what’s causing your weight gain, acne, mood disorder, or inflammation. Since we’re committed to bringing you only practical, science-backed advice, we like to bring you information that helps distinguish the hype from the truth. And here’s the truth: while eating cheese in moderation is fine, eating an excessive amount of cheese—just like consuming too much meat or white, refined flour—can be harmful. Here’s how:
1. Raises Your Cholesterol
Eating a diet that’s too cheese-heavy can increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, due to cheese’s high saturated fat content. LDL is labeled the “bad” cholesterol because it creates plaque, which clogs your arteries. If a major clog occurs, it can result in stroke or heart attack.
2. Makes Losing Weight Harder
Cheese is also pretty high in calories—deceptively so—which can make it harder to lose weight. A slice of American or cheddar cheese has, on average, anywhere from 100-115 calories per slice. The number of calories in each type of cheese may vary, but it’s good to keep in mind that if you’re trying to lose weight, most types of cheese are high in calories.
3. Contributes to Bloat
Cheese is high in sodium, which can leave you bloated. If you’ve been struggling to lose weight and feel like you constantly appear bloated or puffy, cutting down on cheese and other foods high in sodium may help. Many people also have dietary sensitivities to dairy, which can cause digestion discomfort, skin problems, and more.
How Can You Enjoy Cheese In Moderation?
If you don’t have any sensitivities to dairy, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy cheese in moderate amounts. Here are some tips to enjoy cheese in a healthy way:
1. Don’t Make It The Focus Of Your Meal
Instead of centering your meals around cheese (think: pizza, mac and cheese, etc) get used to adding them to healthy meals to add more flavor. Sprinkle some Parmesan over your squash soup, add a little feta to your salad, and more. You still get to enjoy cheese without making every meal a cheese-a-palooza.
2. Focus On Lower-Fat Cheeses
Most cheeses are pretty high in calories, but their fat content can vary more by type. Using lower-fat cheeses—typically soft cheeses like mozzarella—instead of higher-fat cheese (harder cheese like cheddar) can help you enjoy cheese in moderation without it affecting your cholesterol as much.
List of Fat Content in Cheeses, From Lowest to Highest
3. Be Mindful of Portions
Overdoing it with cheese is all-too easy. Some people even claim cheese is addictive because of a specific protein found in all dairy products called casein. While studies that overplay cheese’s “addictive nature” might be over-exaggerating, you don’t have to be a scientist to know that it tastes good and it’s hard to stop eating. So be mindful of your portions. Nutritionists recommend limiting your cheese intake to about 3-6 ounces per week. This is also consistent with guidelines for a Mediterranean Diet, a way of eating that includes tons of delicious, plant-based foods, healthy fats, and dairy.
4. Get Your Numbers Checked
If you really want to know if you need to make dietary changes related to your cheese consumption, the best thing to do is to get some key numbers checked with your doctor: your HDL and LDL cholesterol, your triglycerides, and your blood pressure. And of course, if you feel sick after eating cheese or other dairy products, listen to your body. When you have a healthy diet of variety and moderation, your body will thank you.
Above all, we believe in “everything in moderation” and that eating natural, unprocessed foods is better than processed foods with artificial chemicals and ingredients. Real cheese—just like meat or whole grains—can certainly be a part of a balanced diet.
Health Benefits of Cheese
While cheese is often thought of in a negative way in terms of health factors, cheese actually does have a number of health benefits including many necessary nutrients! See below.
Cheese is a very good source of protein. Of course, the amount of protein varies depending on the cheese:
- 1 cup Ricotta Cheese = 28g protein
- 1 cup Cottage Cheese =25g protein
- 1 oz. Parmesan Cheese= 11g protein
- 1 oz. Mozzarella/Swiss Cheese = 8g protein
- 1 oz. Cheddar Cheese = 7g protein
Cheese is also one of the best sources of calcium. Because the human body does produce calcium on it’s own, daily calcium intake is critical. Cheese is an effective way to reach the recommended amount of calcium daily (1,000-1,500 milligrams).
- 1 cup Ricotta Cheese = 509mg calcium
- 1 oz. Parmesan Cheese= 314mg calcium
- 1 cup Cottage Cheese =187mg calcium
- 1 oz. Swiss Cheese = 221mg calcium
- 1 oz. Mozzarella cheese =205mg calcium
- 1 oz. Cheddar Cheese = 202mg calcium
B-vitamins are known for increasing energy levels (and who doesn’t want that?!). B-12 in particular is responsible for carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism and DNA function and the recommended daily intake for vitamin B12 ranges from 2.4 µg for adults to 2.8 µg for breastfeeding women. Lacking this necessary nutrient can lead to anemia, depression and/or degeneration of the spinal cord. The best sources? Animal products, such as cheese!
- 1 cup Cottage Cheese = 1 µg vitamin B-12
- 1 oz. Swiss Cheese = 0.9µg vitamin B-12
- 1 cup Ricotta Cheese = 0.8µg vitamin B-12
- 1 oz. Parmesan Cheese= 0.6µg vitamin B-12
- 1 oz. Mozzarella cheese =0.3µg vitamin B-12
- 1 oz. Cheddar Cheese = 0.2µg vitamin B-12
We’ve all moved on from the 1990s low-fat message, yes? By now we know that healthy fats are actually good for us! CLA, or Conjugated Linoleic Acid, is a type of polyunsaturated, omega-6 fatty acid. CLA has also been tied to weight loss and is greatly beneficial for your overall health. While there’s no standard dose of CLA, including it in your diet is a great choice, and cheese, particularly cheese from grass-fed cows can be a great avenue to do so!
Cheese has also been shown to support the immune system, help build muscle (due to its fat and protein combination), prevent a thyroid disorder, possibly prevent certain cancers such as bladder and colorectal, and lower blood pressure.
So next time you feel guilty for that slice of cheese, don’t! Eaten in moderation, cheese can be a great food source with necessary nutrients for health!