If you can’t get enough cheese, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s safe to say that the United States is a nation of cheese lovers. According to statistics, Americans consumed 5.3 billion pounds of cheese in 2021, which is 1.8 billion pounds more than we collectively ate in 2010. That makes sense when you think about it: melted on burgers, sprinkled on pizzas, piled on charcuterie boards—cheese is an integral part of so many of our favorite foods. His allure is undeniable. And while cheese can be a healthy part of a balanced diet, like anything, moderation is key, and eating too much of it can also have adverse effects.
For one, many varieties of cheese are high in calories and can be high in fat and sodium, which research shows can potentially lead to type 2 diabetes, heart failure, coronary heart disease. , hypertension and strokes, among other conditions. Due to its sodium and fat content, Dr. Akua Woolbright Ph.D.the director of the National Nutrition Program at the nonprofit Whole Foods Whole Cities Foundation, recommends limiting your cheese intake to 1-ounce servings of hard cheese or half-cup servings of cheeses soft dough at a time.
“One way to do this is to buy varieties with stronger flavors (like Parmesan, feta, and Swiss), so you can add more flavor to your food with lesser amounts,” says Woolbright.
But, while research linking cheese consumption to chronic disease may be somewhat inconsistent, if you’re predisposed to high blood pressure or have been officially diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might want to avoid those hard, sharp cheeses. “If you want to reduce your sodium intake, avoid feta and hard cheeses,” advises Woolbright, adding, “you can go a step further by replacing whole milk cheeses with lower-fat, low-fat options. reduced fat content.
Read on to find out some of the health benefits and side effects of quitting cheese.
Your skin tone and texture may improve
Reducing your overall intake of dairy products, including cheese, can have a positive effect on your skin tone and texture. Research shows that dairy products are linked to excess oil production, which can increase the appearance of unsightly spots on your skin.
“Studies show that dairy products can increase insulin levels, which increases the production of the hormones that produce sebum (an oily secretion), which can influence acne,” says Isabelle Smith, MS, RD, CDNfounder of Isabel Smith Nutrition, in a previous interview with Eat this. “I don’t see this in all of my clients, but many find that eating more dairy products increases breakouts.”
You may experience less bloating
If you are someone who struggles with digestive issues and suffer from frequent bloating, cutting out or limiting cheese and dairy products can help reverse this tendency. “For many, dairy products can cause stomach upset and bloating due to either a lack of adequate enzymes to break down milk sugar or a true allergy,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LDat Balance One Supplements.
“Those (cheeses) lacking adequate amounts of lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugar, are known to be lactose intolerant and experience excessive gastrointestinal upset and bloating when consuming dairy,” adds Best.
If high-lactose cheeses tend to upset your stomach, consider switching to dairy-free cheese. If you don’t like dairy-free products, consider trying these five kinds of cheese you can still eat if you’re lactose intolerant.
You may have fewer headaches and migraines
If you are a person who frequently suffers from migraines, a diet high in cheese and dairy products may be the cause. Some cheeses are high in tyramine, an amino acid naturally found in plants and animal products that has historically been linked to triggering migraines and headaches.
Tyramine-rich cheeses include aged cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, blue cheeses (like gorgonzola) and camembert, according to the Mayo Clinic.
You can lower your cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease
Another positive side effect of giving up cheese is that eating less of this dairy product can help you manage your cholesterol while lowering your risk of other cardiovascular complications.
“Cheese is a food high in saturated fat, which contributes to heart disease primarily by raising cholesterol levels,” says Best. “Saturated fats have been shown to increase bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol because they cause the liver to produce more cholesterol.”
“High levels of LDL cholesterol cause fatty deposits to build up in the arteries, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” she adds. “A positive side effect of removing cheese from your diet is the potential to lower your cholesterol and, therefore, your risk of heart disease.”
You can lose weight
If you are trying to lose weight, eating excess cheese may also hamper your ability to achieve your weight loss goals on your desired schedule due to sugar, fat, and calorie content. found in many types of cheese. That’s why reducing them can help with weight loss.
For example, a lean ounce of cheddar cheese contains 120 calories and 30 milligrams of cholesterol. Plus, it contains 190 milligrams of sodium, or 8% of your Daily Value (DV), and 10 grams of fat, or 15% of your DV.
Watching your weight might motivate you to ditch the cheese for a while. However, there’s no shame in not wanting to let go of your love for this dairy delicacy for good. When changing your diet to support the effectiveness of your weight loss journey, just pay attention to your portions. It can also help to opt for low-fat or fat-free cheeses.
You can reduce your risk of cancer
Reducing your intake of cheese, and dairy products in general, can help reduce your risk of cancer. In fact, by eating less cheese, you ingest less casein, a protein found in milk that may be linked to the disease.
“Casein has been shown to increase tumor growth rates for certain types of tumors, such as prostate cancer and potentially breast cancer,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RDsenior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, assistant professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and book author Recipe for survival: what you can do to live a healthier and more eco-friendly life. “When we eat a lot of cheese, which is mostly made with the casein fraction, we potentially increase that risk.”
You can reduce inflammation in your body
Bess Berger, RDN, CDN, and owner of Nutrition by Bess, notes that cheese and dairy products are high in additives, preservatives and hormones, which can cause inflammation in the body.
“As a PCOS dietitian, I see women coming off dairy and they report headaches and other inflammatory reactions subside,” Berger says. “Unfortunately, the quality of dairy products today is considerably less and more altered than it was even twenty years ago. This affects many of us and I see it all the time with women.”
If you don’t want to cut out the cheese altogether, Hunnes recommends choosing those with fewer additives. “Less processed cheeses are a bit healthier than others,” suggests Hunnes. “If you’re going to eat cheese, I recommend one with as few ingredients as possible, and as much as possible, from a farm raised without cruelty.”
You can live a more eco-friendly lifestyle
Giving up cheese isn’t just good for your health, it can also be good for the planet.
“It takes a lot of water to produce milk in general,” Hunnes points out. She shares that it takes three times as much water to produce cow’s milk as the average plant-based milk.
“From an environmental point of view, cheese is very resource-intensive,” says Hunnes. “It takes a lot of land to produce enough milk to make a pound of cheese, it takes thousands of gallons of water to produce a pound of cheese, and it emits a lot of methane from the cows themselves.”
A previous version of this story was originally published in May 2022. It has since been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, additional research, and updated contextual links.