Say Cheese — and Eat It Without Guilt
People who eat more of this may be thinner than those who don't — but keep reading for even bigger benefits
If you’ve spent the last few decades of your life thinking that a major obstacle standing between you and your skinny jeans is your pesky cheese addiction (and you’re definitely not alone), we have good news.
It turns out that you may not have to develop monk-like discipline to avoid indulging in pizza, pasta, and other cheese-laden meals — because according to a new study, cheese may not be nearly as bad for you as you thought!
New research published in Nutrition and Diabetes discovered — to everyone’s shock — that people who eat more cheese may actually be thinner than those who eat less. Yes, our minds were blown, too.
Scientists at University College Dublin researched the impact of various dairy products on 1,500 Irish adults between the ages of 18 and 90 and found that those who ate the most dairy actually had lower BMIs, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, while those who tended to go for low-fat dairy had higher cholesterol.
Yes, you read that right.
So basically, if you're going to eat dairy, go for the full-fat stuff like cheese? This seems counterintuitive, so we consulted a nutritionist for more insight.
"Cheese does contain cholesterol and many cheeses also contain saturated fat," says Alix Turoff, registered dietitian of Top Balance Nutrition in New York City. "
Cholesterol is essential for the body. It not only comes from our food, but it's also made in our liver, which makes enough cholesterol to satisfy the body's needs. People used to think that the more dietary cholesterol they ate, the higher their blood cholesterol would rise, which we now know isn't true. In fact, the liver will down-regulate its creation of cholesterol when it senses that we are getting enough through our food, which is why we have to take our whole diet into account.
You can eat dairy in a smart way — by putting feta cheese on a salad or have Greek yogurt as a snack, for instance, says Turoff. Fair enough.
Of course, some medical experts are still very, very wary. "While many people consider dairy to be a protein, the body will utilize it first as lactose, or milk sugar. Therefore, people who believe that they can get sufficient protein in their daily diet from eating dairy products like cheese and milk are misinformed," says Dr. Philip Goglia, founder of G-Plans, the first online nutrition platform based on a user's metabolic body type.
"Instead, dairy as food is phlegm and mucus-producing. This is disruptive to digestion, causing bloating and gas. It's also inflammatory and will elevate triglyceride levels and the risk of sugar sensitivities," says Goglia.
That's a far cry from what this study found, which is that higher dairy intake was associated with a lower BMI, less body fat, smaller waist size, and lower blood pressure. Either way, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that diet as a whole is the most important predictor of health.
"We have to consider not just the nutrients themselves but also the matrix in which we are eating them... and what the overall dietary pattern is, so not just about the food then, but the pattern of other foods we eat with them as well," said lead study author Dr. Emma Feeney of University College Dublin.
Dairy is certainly one of the more controversial foods when it comes to health and nutrition, but this study is super-encouraging for cheese lovers who want to incorporate it into their diets wisely.
This article originally appeared in SheKnows and is used by permission. Aly Walansky is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City.