Thanks to its high saturated fat content, the traditional thinking on cheese is that it can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. But as the consensus on saturated fat shifts (experts now believe it might not be so bad after all), researchers have begun to wonder whether the nutritional benefits of cheese—high in calcium, protein and digestion-aiding probiotics—might actually make it rather healthy.
Scientists from the Netherlands and China looked at data from 15 studies that tracked healthy participants for up to 10 years. They found that people who admitted eating cheese regularly were 14% less likely to have heart disease, and had a 10% lower risk of strokes, compared with those who abstained from cheese.
But before you start assembling the cheese plate, be warned—the health benefits were associated with small amounts only (around 40 grams per day). Further research is needed to establish whether certain types of cheese are better for you than others. Feta and goats cheese are low fat options (and aren’t made from cow’s milk, which is great if you’re sensitive to lactose), provolone is high in calcium, parmesan and cottage cheese in particular are packed with protein.