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Don’t Get Cheesed about Cheese

January 20th, 2011 7 Comments

MR Note: This is the best news I’ve heard all week!! I’m obsessed with the Under $3 bin at Whole Foods and any soft white cheese that melts in my mouth at room temperature. Umm…did that come out wrong?

— By Nutritionista

Sorry for the cheesy title. And sorry again for the bad pun!

Recently, I got a reader question about this New York Times article. The gist of the article: Americans are eating more cheese. Cheese has saturated fat. Saturated fat = very bad, heart disease, etc. Thus, Americans should eat less cheese. Michelle Obama agrees.

The reader was concerned because she loves cheese and doesn’t want to have to stop eating it. And she shouldn’t — and neither should you! With some exceptions, cheese is a great source of (yes, saturated) fat and protein. Let me break it down for you:

  • Yes, cheese has saturated fat. But if you haven’t heard me say it enough times, saturated fat has not been sufficiently linked to heart disease, or any other disease. There is absolutely no reason to avoid a food just for its sat fat content. Saturated fat is filling, and if it doesn’t come from overly processed sources, absolutely fine to eat from both a health and weight loss standpoint. Here‘s a good (if overly cautious) article about it if you’re still skeptical.
  • No, processed cheese isn’t a great pick. This is not the post that will legitimize your love of Kraft American cheese. Sorry! Overly processed cheese isn’t good for you in the same way that any other overly processed food isn’t good for you: it’s full of fillers and other nasty chemicals.
  • Yes, your best cheese option is raw goat’s cheese. I know, I know. You’re like, “What crazy hippie food is that?!” Here’s why it’s best: raw cheese is less processed and goat’s cheese has less lactose and is easier on your digestive system than other types of cheese. Also, did you know that goat’s milk has a similar nutrient profile to human milk (more similar than cow’s milk)? The more you know!
  • No, you don’t need to avoid other cheeses. As long as it’s not Velveeta, I feel good about giving the okay to most cheeses. High quality cheeses are generally going to be better, and they’re also usually more expensive. That’s okay! Spend a little more to get a little more.
  • Yes, cheese is high calorie. So? It’s more filling, so you’ll probably eat less of it, and I don’t really subscribe to the calories-in/calories-out paradigm. More on that in another post! I’ve already told you not to fear calories, so don’t do it — as long as they don’t come from processed/fake food sources.

The bottom line on cheese? It’s totally fine. And I’m not even going to add “in moderation.” Cheese that’s not super processed is totally fine to enjoy on a daily basis, as long as it doesn’t upset your stomach — some people are pretty sensitive to lactose.

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  • C

    Question. How bad is feta cheese? As I love a good traditional greek salad.

  • It’s fine, just like other cheeses! The one thing you have to watch out for with feta is that it’s a little salty. But if your diet in general isn’t high-sodium, you should be fine.

  • Leah – I was just reading a post by the Wellness Warrior about dairy.

    http://thewellnesswarrior.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-dairy-does-not-do-body-good.html

    Take a look at this. There seems to be so much conflicting information about dairy.

    • Hey Helen,

      Just checked out your blog. Love it! You have a great voice and inspiring perspective on life. Thanks for reading and contributing to MTM.

  • Helen, I definitely agree with a lot of what’s in that article! And I also agree that there’s a ton of conflicting info. I think as long as it doesn’t bother your stomach, dairy (especially high-fat, unprocessed, hormone-free, organic) dairy is fine… as long as it doesn’t comprise the majority of your diet. :)

  • Mary, Leah…ladies of MTM! How do we feel about raw
    cheese? Also Mary, LONGTIME reader…love your voice and blog!
    Annalee

    • Annalee,

      So glad you enjoy the blog!! Thanks for hanging in through all the transitions.

      I’ve honestly never had raw cheese…to my knowledge. I’m just starting to eat cheese again and learning as I go. When I was in college I visited a gf’s previous host family and was so excited to learn about french cheese from them (I might have watched French Kiss a few too many times:)) Turns out I did not like “stinky” soft French cheese, still don’t. That’s when they introduced me to raclette and it’s fabulous melting properties. That will now be a lifelong fave!!

      When it comes to the nutritional value of cheese, I really don’t feel like there is much. So if I’m eating cheese I’m going to enjoy it. Raw cheese doesn’t sound appealing, but I’m always willing to try anything.

      I’m sure Leah will have a more informative answer for you on this one.

      Have a great weekend!