When you think of healthy foods, what comes to mind? Vegetables, fruit, and lean meats, perhaps? Chances are, cheese probably didn't make the list; considering the popularity of dairy-rich comfort foods like macaroni and pizza, it's no shock that cheese is often seen as an indulgence. But a new review of research finds that cheese by itself may actually be a lot better for you than you might think.
In a new paper published by the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers from China and the Netherlands analyzed data from 15 observational studies, which included more than 200,000 people total. They found that people who ate more cheese had a 14 percent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and were 10 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who rarely or never ate cheese.
As Allan S. Stewart, MD, who was not involved in the study, puts it, the results were "certainly different from what people might expect."
Is cheese healthy?
It's tempting to view this study as a free ticket to eat as much cheese as you please. But it's worth keeping in mind that eating more cheese doesn't necessarily mean downing huge quantities. (In other words, sorry, but you probably shouldn't finish that entire fondue pot in one sitting.) Instead, the people who were at the lowest risk for heart disease and stroke were those who ate approximately 40 grams per day.
You may know, for instance, that cheese is high in protein, which helps keep you full and maintains strong bones, muscles, and skin. However, it's also high in saturated fat, which can raise the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. That's definitely not something you want to overdo here, folks!
That said, it's encouraging to hear that cheese may pack a surprising health benefit. It just goes to show that a little bit may really go a long way.