Cheese. Mmmmm! I’m not sure when my affair of cheese began. But I love it. I love it more than I should. But it’s not all bad. Natural cheese is actually an excellent source of high quality nutrition. This is part 2 of my 5 Random Things About Me series. I love many different types of cheeses. My consumption of cheese has been reduced in recent years mostly because I stopped eating many of the foods that I put cheese on (nachos, grilled cheese, etc.) But I am still a sucker for a nice slice of sharp cheddar in the evening or some creamy goat cheese on my salad.
I have often said that I’m addicted to cheese and there’s a good reason for that. Even though it may not be the same as addiction to stronger substances, cheese actually contains some compounds that make us crave more. Cow’s milk actually contains small amounts of morphine. This helps the calves bond with their mothers. Now, it’s not enough to make you a “cheese junkie,” but it is in there in trace amounts. There are also protein fragments that are produced when you digest cheese called casomorphins. These protein fragments have an opioid effect. These compounds are what made Dr. Neal Barnard (founder and president of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine) call it dairy crack. Mostly I think I love it because of the flavor – creamy, salty, sharp, YES!
Health Benefits of Cheese
Natural cheeses provide a great source of high quality nutrition especially if you eat cheese made from grass-fed, pastured animals.
- good source of Vitamin K2 (benefits your heart, brain, and bones)
- many other vitamins and minerals
- Omega-3 fats
- high levels of CLA (fights cancer, boosts metabolism)
The Downside – Truth and Myth
- Processed cheese food and processed cheese product vs. natural cheese – Natural cheese is a fermented dairy product. According to the FDA anything labeled as pasteurized cheese must be 100% cheese. Anything labeled as pasteurized cheese food must be at least 51% cheese. For those “foods”that contain less than 51% cheese they must be labeled as pasteurized cheese product. Emulsifiers and preservatives and other chemicals make up the rest of these products. Stay away from them and eat natural cheese for the benefits listed above. Especially cheese made from grass-fed pastured animals.
- Saturated fat – there are many studies that show that saturated fat is not the bad guy we’ve been lead to believe it was. I will write a future post on this but in the meantime you can check out this article by Dr. Weil.
- Salt – some people worry about the salt content of cheese. Cheese does have a significant amount of salt but the salt content of fast foods and processed foods are so much higher. If your doctor has told you to limit your sodium (salt) intake you may need to consider how cheese fits into your diet, but you would be much better off eliminating the fast food and processed foods to reduce your sodium intake.
So eat your cheese and enjoy it. Just make sure you are getting the best nutrition by eating cheese from grass-fed animals. Try a new cheese this week!