Cheese sometimes gets a bad rap for its high fat content. But is it healthy? Here's what research says.
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Cheese is nutritious and widely enjoyed—so many dishes include it, from the classic comfort food mac & cheese to sandwiches, casseroles, salads, pizzas and more. Cheese elevates culinary dishes with flavor, aroma, texture and color. With an impressive nutritional profile, cheese offers protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin B12—making it one of the important foods for a balanced diet.

Still, cheese gets a bad rap at times for its high fat content. Does its reputation make you wonder what actually happens to your body when you eat cheese daily? Keep reading to find out what the research has to say.

grated cheese
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You May Reach Your Daily Calcium Intake

Most cheeses are rich in calcium, but hard cheeses tend to have more calcium than soft cheeses. For example, according to the USDA, one serving (1.5 ounces or 42 grams) of Cheddar cheese contains about 300 milligrams of calcium, making up almost one-third of your daily calcium needs. However, a 1-ounce serving of Brie only has 52 mg. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults between the ages of 19 and 50 get 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily.

Calcium is well-known for bone development and maintaining healthy bones, but it also plays an essential role in blood circulation and muscle and nerve functions, per the National Institutes of Health. And a 2020 review published in Food Science & Nutrition suggests that eating cheese with higher calcium may protect against obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

You May Have a Healthy Gut

While there is a lot of focus on yogurt offering probiotics—the good bacteria that keep the gut healthy and contribute to overall health, some cheeses such as Swiss, Cheddar, cottage cheese, Gouda, Edam and Gruyère also have probiotics. These probiotics may keep the gut healthy by producing short-chain fatty acids, per a 2021 publication in the International Journal of Dairy Technology. The short-chain fatty acids may support maintaining the acid-base balance, absorbing calcium, iron and magnesium and maintaining the overall structure and function of the gut, per a 2020 article published in Nutrients.

Eating the cheese fresh and uncooked is best, as heat can destroy the probiotics. So add cheese slices to your favorite sandwiches or serve cottage cheese in a salad with crunchy bell peppers and tomatoes for a light afternoon snack.

You Might Improve Your Oral Health

Surprisingly or not, eating cheese may also benefit your oral health. The presence of probiotics in cheese may positively influence the types of bacteria and immunological compounds in the saliva. Eating cheese may also stimulate the flow of saliva, decreasing the risk of dry mouth and its complications, including the increased tendency of tooth decay, gum disease, mouth sores and difficulty chewing and swallowing.

You Might Have a Low Risk of Heart Disease

A 2022 article in Frontiers in Nutrition states that saturated fats make up about 60% of the fat in most cheeses. While saturated fats have been linked to elevating the risk of heart disease, this finding cannot be generalized, as there are different types of saturated fats. And not all kinds, including those found in cheese, necessarily lead to a heightened risk for heart disease.

In fact, a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that followed almost 3,000 Americans for 22 years discovered no relationship between eating dairy foods and the incidence of heart disease and stroke or death from any cause. To objectively measure the intake of dairy products and their relationship with the risks, the study measured the participants' blood levels of specific fatty acids, such as heptadecanoic acid, a type of fatty acid that reflected dairy intake. The study revealed that the higher the heptadecanoic acid level, the lower the incidence of death linked to heart disease or stroke.

Another 2018 study published in The Lancet found similar results. In this study, researchers followed participants for nine years. They found that those who consumed more than two daily servings of whole-fat dairy, including whole-fat cheese, had a 32% lower risk of heart disease than those who ate a combination of low-fat and whole-fat dairy.

But Watch Out for Your Sodium Intake

From a food safety perspective, sodium is added to cheese to minimize bacterial and fungal growth that can cause spoilage. Sodium also enhances the cheese's flavor, making it more savory and satisfying to the palate. However, high intakes of sodium can negatively impact your health, especially your heart health.

According to the American Heart Association, limiting your salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day—and ideally less than 1,500 mg—can help keep your blood pressure and heart healthy.

Some cheeses, including Cheddar, mozzarella and Swiss, are often lower in sodium than others. As an example, one slice of Cheddar cheese (1 ounce) has about 183 mg of sodium, making up 8% of your daily sodium limit, per the USDA. However, even within one variety, sodium content can vary from brand to brand, so it's best to check the Nutrition Facts label for each product.

You Might Find Lactose Intolerance Isn't an Issue

If you have lactose intolerance, you may have avoided eating lactose-containing dairy products to prevent cramps and unnecessary bathroom trips. While you may have turned to lactose-free dairy products and nondairy alternatives to get your dairy fix, you can still enjoy eating many regular cheeses, since aged and hard cheeses are naturally low in lactose, per a 2020 article published in the Journal of Translational Medicine.

Which Types of Cheese Are Best to Eat Every Day?

A 2022 review of evidence, published in Cardiovascular Research, also showed that eating moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt as part of a balanced meal pattern may be protective against heart disease. Generally speaking, mozzarella, Cheddar, Swiss and cottage cheese are some of the most popular types of cheese, but all kinds of cheeses can be a part of your diet as long as you enjoy them in moderation.

Depending on your age and energy expenditure, the number of recommended servings of dairy may differ. To gauge a moderate amount, check the quantity and the portion sizes listed on the USDA MyPlate. For instance, if you eat 2,000 calories daily, MyPlate recommends including three servings from the dairy group, which includes yogurt, milk and cheese. One serving of cheese is equivalent to 1.5 ounces of hard cheese (Cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, Parmesan), 1/3 cup shredded cheese, 1 ounce of processed (American) cheese, ½ cup ricotta cheese, 2 cups cottage cheese or 2 ounces of queso fresco.

The Bottom Line

If you are not allergic to milk protein, enjoying cheese every day is fine. As with many foods, eating cheese in moderation may offer potential health benefits. Cheese complements a wide array of delicious culinary dishes—find out how you can enjoy cheese every day with our repertoire of cheese recipes!