Cheese has long been seen as one of the most popular dairy products in the world. Some of the rarer, exotic varieties can fetch as much as $600 a pound. When price is no object, about the only thing that can hold a full-fledged cheese lover back from consuming the stuff in quantity are the health consequences of over-indulging in such a fatty, sodium-filled treat. A mere ounce (about the size of a slice) of cheddar cheese can pack 9 grams of fat and 180 milligrams of sodium. Let’s also not forget that it’s also high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
So imagine my surprise when a recent study emerged from Denmark declaring that eating cheese is, in fact, good for health, and that it can be a dieter’s friend.
“We used to assess whether a food is good or bad for your health simply by looking at a label and reading some of the basic information,” Arne Astrup, head of the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen tells Time magazine; but no more.
This recent research shows the thousands of molecules that make up cheese work in ways that make the food beneficial to health. Cheese, they say, contains almost as much protein as it does fat, and this is used to build cell structures. It also contains plenty of bone-building calcium and is one of the few foods to naturally contain vitamin D and vitamin B12, which helps red blood cells form properly and improve neurological function. Cheese is not bad for the heart, they add; it may even be beneficial. The University of Copenhagen study does admit to receiving grants from dairy foundations and companies, but stands behind its research as not biased toward the industry.
Cheese is also considered to be a fermented food, and the bacteria found in it may also be beneficial. Scientists seem to be a bit mystified by this whole cheese/health connection.
“There’s a lot of magic in the food matrix of cheese,” Astrup tells Time magazine.
It’s also fair to point out that the way Europeans and Americans view cheese can be quite different. I’m sure neither highly processed American cheese nor Velveeta made their check list. While it’s pointed out that more research is needed, eating cheese in moderation – from Gouda to Swiss to Feta to Blue – seems to be just fine for most people, according to all the various reports.
As I sit here drinking my third cup of coffee, soaking up the antioxidants, taking an occasional bite out of my healthy dark chocolate, a thought occurs to me: how yet another scientific finding has emerged directly counter to the low-fat, low-cholesterol advice that physicians and major health organizations like the American Heart Association have fed us for the past 30 years. These contradictions seem to crop up constantly. In November, there was the report of the oldest person in the world at 117, Emma Morano, swearing by her diet which included consuming two raw eggs a day. Then there’s the story of Susannah Mushatt Jones, who held the title of the world’s oldest person until her death in May 2016 and who never failed to have a serving of bacon each day.
Apparently there remains a lot about the magic of food that has yet to be learned.
What a growing number of food advocates, researchers, journalists and doctors are having trouble ignoring is that, decades following the low-fat guidelines, we are seeing an explosion in obesity rates. Two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. Heart disease remains our leading killer.
What seems clear to me as a constant in this is a need to steer clear of junk food and the so-called Western diet, while embracing fresh foods: fruits and vegetables, fresh salads dressed with olive oil, beans and pasta. It is a message that does seem to somehow be coming through all this conflicting information.
A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that Americans overwhelmingly believe (72 percent) that healthy eating habits are very important in improving one’s chances of a long and healthy life. More than half (58 percent) admitted to falling short of their goals most days.
And while there appears to be no real defined group of people who think alike on various food issues, people who describe healthy eating as their “main focus” were almost three times as likely to eat organically grown food regularly, compared with people who say that healthy eating is not at all important to them. There are signs that support for local and organic food today seems to be much more mainstream. Almost three-quarters of Americans said they bought local food recently. Over two-thirds said they had purchased organic food. Given the constant marketing onslaught to get us to make the wrong food choices, this has to be viewed as some pretty good news.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.