Just when we thought we couldn’t possibly love cheese any more than we already do, new research has been published that not only makes us feel less guilty about indulging in its savory goodness, it encourages it!
Cheese has endured a bad rap for decades based on its high fat and sodium content, making it a widely-accepted dieting no-no. But Arne Astrup, head of the department of nutrition, exercise and sports at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, recently told TIME that the delicious dairy product deserves another look. Astrup points to his own research, and the research of others, as proof that the thousands of molecules that come together to form cheese actually make it good for our health. Can we get an amen?!
So how exactly is dear old cheese good for you? TIME outlined the following impressive perks:
It’s high in protein, calcium and B12
Cheese contains tons of protein, which bodies need to build cell structures, and helps you stay full longer. It also offers plenty of calcium (as much as 20% of a person’s recommended daily amount) and is one of the few foods to naturally contain vitamin D. And it packs plenty of the valuable vitamin B12, which can be hard to come by.
It may be good for your heart
A 2016 paper published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that eating a little more than an ounce of cheese daily was linked to about a 3% lower risk of stroke. Better yet, the moderate consumption of cheese has even been associated with longer lifespans.
It doesn’t increase high blood pressure risk
Despite its saltiness, eating cheese has never been linked to high blood pressure. “There’s a lot of magic in the food matrix of cheese, and the other components and ingredients in cheese are far more important than the saturated fat and sodium,” Astrup explained to TIME. “Calcium seems to play a protective role by binding some of the fatty acids in cheese so that they can’t be digested, he says.
It’s full of good bacteria
Trust us, good bacteria is your friend. Some evidence suggests that eating cheese changes your gut bacterium, which may improve metabolism.
It contains a particularly great fatty acid
Gökhan Hotamisligil, professor of genetics and metabolism at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, discovered a “wonderful” fatty acid called palmitoleate, which is found in many full-fat dairy products (cheese especially). Hotamisligil explained to TIME that palmitoleate undoes damage caused by saturated fatty acids, acts like insulin by getting excess sugar out of the blood, and works as an antiinflammatory. Together, he says, these properties help protect against type-2 diabetes.
While all this doesn’t mean you should go out and go to town on the nearest wheel of cheese, at the very least we hope you feel less guilty the next time you enjoy a piece of good cheese.