Cheese gets a bad rap. It’s high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Just one slice of cheddar, about an ounce, has 9 grams of fat and a whopping 180 milligram of sodium — and most cheeses are chock full of calories.
On the top 10 most-popular cheeses chart, Parmesan is the pits at 122 calories an ounce. Cheddar takes second-worst place in calorie count, at 113 calories per ounce. Swiss cheese and American cheese aren’t far behind at 106 and 105 calories, and though cream cheese is higher in calories than others, light cream cheese has around 100 calories an ounce.
As for the healthiest cheeses, many people think pungent, soft-textured cheeses are higher in calories (maybe because they taste so darn good). But blue cheese sneaks into the top five best cheeses for you with 99 calories an ounce, and Brie with a delightful 94 calories. Mozzarella makes it into the top three healthiest cheeses at 84 calories per ounce (which we damn when we deep-fry it).
And the top two healthiest cheeses if you’re counting calories? Give thanks to goats and sheep. Feta cheese ranks as the healthiest cheese, in the No. 1 spot by just one calorie, at 74 to goat cheese’s 75 per ounce.
But who’s counting calories when you have a cheese craving?
That study says that cheese’s impact on our health is neutral: It doesn’t really hurt us and it isn’t really helpful, either. As cheese lovers, we’ll take that as good news.
According to another new study that looked at nearly 30 other studies, cheese may be beneficial to our health. The review, conducted by researchers at the University of Reading in the UK, concluded that though in the past dairy foods, including cheese and milk, have been named as contributors to cardiovascular disease, but there is no real evidence of that. That study says that cheese’s impact on our health is neutral: It doesn’t really hurt us and it isn’t really helpful, either. As cheese lovers, we’ll take that as good news.
The most recent research out of the Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark goes so far as to say that cheese is beneficial to our health. (A disclaimer: The research was partly funded by some in the dairy industry, but the researchers claim this did not influence the outcome of the research. So we’ll take the findings with a pinch of sodium, preferably from our next slice of cheese.) That research points to cheese being high in calcium and protein, and a good natural source of vitamin D. It’s also high in B12, which is elusive in our diets and necessary for neurological function and production of red blood cells.
After looking at previous studies, the research found that contrary to general belief, cheese may actually be good for the heart, with just an ounce a day leading to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 3 percent reduction in stroke risk. It found that, yes, cheese contains fatty acid (considered really bad for us), but that in the scheme of the thousands of fatty acids in existence, the fatty acid in cheese, called palmitoleate, is one that doesn’t really harm health and may help fight the damage caused by saturated fat — including defending against heart disease and helping reduce inflammation.
Lastly, cheese is full of good bacteria, which most of us know by now is necessary for good gut health.
And so, with all that said, we’re choosing to believe the overall conclusion: that a moderate amount of cheese in our diet is not necessarily a bad thing. Please pass the crackers.