“At the end of the day, cheese’s bad reputation for its damaging effects on cholesterol, and therefore heart disease, is largely undeserved,” says Ronald Krauss, professor at the School of Medicine at the UCSF and food specialist. and cholesterol. “Saturated fat is really made up of saturated fatty acids in a structure that forms fat. These saturated fatty acids come in many different forms and can have very different biochemical effects. And most of them can raise blood cholesterol levels, but not all of them. “
Krauss and Mozaffarian say that despite promising research, there is still not enough good data to conclusively say that cheese stop heart disease or obesity. What is clear, however, is that eating at least normal amounts of cheese does not appear to increase risk, on average. “I spend a lot of time with patients giving diet advice and I tell them, ‘Don’t worry about the cheese,’” says Krauss. “They love it.”
Of course, there are reasons for some people to avoid cheese. Krauss warns that everyone’s bodies are different, and people with stubbornly high cholesterol could still benefit from cutting cheese. Highly processed varieties, in particular, can be high in sodium and other ingredients that people might try to limit. If you’re a vegan, whether it’s because of animal cruelty or climate change, I’m not trying to change your mind. (According to a Analysis by Helen Harwatt, Harvard Law School Fellow, global milk production accounts for about 3.6% of greenhouse gas emissions.) The point is just that a lot of people like to eat their old Gouda, their sharp cheddar and even their awesome Gorgonzola, and when it comes to health, they don’t need to feel guilty.
Perhaps the real reason the good news hasn’t been spread widely is that the evidence so far shows that cheese is neither a superfood, like yogurt, nor a mass killer, like sweet soda. (That could change if further research confirms a 2020 study that found this cheese protected against age-related cognitive decline.) This makes it more difficult to know what exactly to do with the information.
Mozaffarian places cheese in the middle of his personal three-level food pyramid. At the top are the “protective” foods, which include fruits, beans, nuts, fish, yogurt, and minimally processed whole grains, which Mozaffarian advises to eat a lot of. Deep down are the foods it avoids, like refined carbohydrates and processed red meat. Neutral foods, like cheese, fall in between.
“We can’t always eat the healthiest thing possible,” he says. “We need neutral foods to be varied, fun and appetizing, so cheese is up there on my list. If I don’t want the absolute best – fruits, nuts, seeds, fish – cheese is excellent. And if you add it to these other foods, it’s fantastic.
Personally, I find this advice liberating. I avoided adding cheese when making pasta, assuming it made my dinner more fatty. Now I realize that I had better satiate myself with a little less pasta – a fine grain – and a little more cheese, maybe a good old Parmesan. It’s also an easy, almost a hack, way to enhance a healthy meal without the excitement, like the leftover veggie quinoa I ate for lunch this week. It was fine – until I stirred about a tablespoon of goat cheese in it, which made it amazing. Is guilty pleasure so pleasurable when you remove the guilt? In this case, I tend to say yes.
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