If you love cheese you are not alone. According to statistics, on average every American consumes up to 40 pounds of cheese per year. However, this shouldn’t really be surprising. Stuffed into sandwiches, melted on pizza, piled on charcuterie boards—no matter what, cheese seems to be everywhere. And while cheese is undoubtedly delicious, it has drawbacks and unintended health side effects.
For starters, there are many varieties that are full of calories, fat, and sodium, which can take a toll on your physical health. Others are high in tyramine, a known cause of migraines and headaches. And while the research linking cheese intake to chronic disease has been inconsistent, it’s still important to pay attention to the exact amount of dairy you eat regularly if you have troublesome issues of unknown origin.
Because of its sodium and fat content, Dr. Aqua Walbright, director of the National Nutrition Program for Whole Foods’ nonprofit Whole Cities, recommends limiting cheese by sticking to 1-ounce servings of hard cheese or 1/2 cup of soft cheese at a time. “One way to do this is to buy varieties with stronger flavors so you can add more flavor to your food in smaller quantities,” she says. Some great hard cheese options include Parmesan, feta, and Swiss. “You can go a step further by substituting full-fat cheese with lower-fat and lower-fat options. If you’re interested in lowering your sodium intake, avoid feta and hard cheeses.”
If you’re someone looking to cut back on cheese consumption – or want to quit altogether – read below for some of the benefits you may experience when doing so. From improved skin tone to fewer headaches, giving up cheese can have some amazing effects on the body and mind.
Reducing your intake of cheese and dairy products can have a positive effect on the color and texture of your skin. This is because dairy products are linked to excessive oil production. “Reducing cheese intake may help improve skin tone because cheese may contribute to excess sebum production that can cause breakouts or clog pores,” says Dr. Mia Bellinger, MD, who specializes in internal medicine.
If you get migraines frequently, a diet rich in cheese and dairy products may be the reason for this. “Reducing cheese intake may reduce headaches and migraines caused by the effects of tyramine in cheese,” Bellinger explains. Tyramine is a natural compound in plants and animal products. According to research, large amounts of tyramine in the body may trigger headaches and migraines in people.
Eating excess cheese may also negatively affect the weight loss goals you may have. “Reducing your cheese intake may help you lose weight,” says Bellinger. This is due to the sugar, fat, and calories often found in cheese. For example, one serving of cheddar cheese that weighs 100 grams can contain 33 grams of fat. It may help to reduce your cheese intake or choose low-fat or fat-free options.
Reducing your consumption of cheese and dairy products in general may help reduce your risk of cancer. This is because by eating less cheese you are taking in less casein, a protein found in milk that may be linked to disease.
“Casein has been shown to increase tumor growth rates for certain types of tumors, such as prostate cancer and possibly breast cancer,” shares Dana Ellis Hoeness, PhD, MPH, RD, senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and assistant professor at UCLA. . Fielding School of Public Health, and author with Cambridge University Press for the new book Survival recipe (2022). “When we eat a lot of cheese, which is primarily made with a high proportion of casein, we are likely to increase this risk.”
Eating less cheese may not only be good for your health but may also help Mother Earth. “Milk production in general requires a lot of water,” Hunnes points out. It takes three times as much water to produce dairy milk than regular plant milk, she said.
“From an environmental perspective, cheese is very resource-intensive,” Hunnes says. “It takes a lot of land to produce enough milk to make a pound of cheese, it takes thousands of gallons of water to make a pound of cheese, and it emits a lot of methane from the cows themselves.”
Bess Berger, RDN, CDN, and owner of Nutrition by Bess points out that cheese and dairy contain a lot of additives, preservatives, and hormones that may cause inflammation in the body. “As a PCOS nutritionist, I see women eating dairy products and report headaches and other inflammatory responses,” Berger says. “Unfortunately, the quality of dairy products today is much lower and more modified than it was twenty years ago – and that affects a lot of us and I see this with women all the time,”
If you still want to eat cheese, Hunnes recommends choosing varieties with fewer toppings. Hunnes suggests that “less processed cheeses are considered somewhat healthier than others.” “If you’re going to eat cheese, I recommend eating one with as few ingredients as possible, and as much as possible, from a humane farm.”
If you suffer from digestive issues and suffer from frequent bloating, cutting out or limiting cheese and dairy products may help reverse this. “For many, dairy products can cause stomach upset and bloating due to a lack of enough enzymes to break down milk sugar or an actual allergy,” says Trista Best, registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements, environmental health specialist, and assistant professor of nutrition.
“Those who lack adequate amounts of lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugar, are known to be lactose intolerant and suffer from excessive gastrointestinal upset and bloating when eating dairy products,” Best adds. Try opting for dairy-free cheese if you feel this might be you.
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