If you’re celebrating the arrival of the weekend by tucking into a few slices of brie with a glass of Merlot tonight, there are plenty of reasons to end the working week with a cheesy digestif – aside from its moreish taste.
Although we all know that cheese is delicious, there are some great health benefits to (moderately) enjoying a creamy Camembert or a stinky Stilton.
Before you clock off for the weekend, here are six excellent reasons to eat more of the yellow stuff.
1. It could lower your dental bill
According to several studies, cheese could work to protect your teeth from cavities. We all know that cheese is a great source of calcium, but a study from showed that bacteria from the Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain, a bacteria found in cheese, can lower the count of cavity-causing yeast in the mouth. An study also found that cheese with no sugar added can increase the calcium and phosphate concentration in dental plaque, which reduces the likelihood of cavities.
2. It’s a great source of protein
Thinking of going vegetarian? Cheese is a valuable source of protein for those looking to change to a meat-free diet, helping you to build muscle – including those in your heart and your stomach.
3. It makes you happy
Researchers from the recently revealed that cheese triggers the same part of the brain as addictive drugs. The study found that cheese is particularly moreish because it contains casein. The chemical, which is found in all dairy products, can trigger the brain’s opioid receptors, producing a feeling of euphoria linked to those of hard drug addiction.
4. It can lower risk of heart disease
A small study published in the suggests that cheese could be linked to low cholesterol.
Danish scientists analyzed data from fifteen healthy young men who ate three diets for two weeks. They found that when people gorged on dairy products – but especially cheese – their microflora seemed to change. In their feces, researchers saw some metabolites that they know are related to the metabolism of the microflora: short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and propionate both appeared at increased concentrations of dairy.
They also had lower levels than the control group of TMAO, a metabolite produced when the body metabolizes choline, which is found in many animal-derived foods, especially red meat
5. It could be the key to a longer life
The same goes some way to explain the ‘French Paradox’ – the fact that French tend to have long healthy lives despite consuming diets which are very high in saturated fats. For decades, France’s combination of a high-fat diet and low rates of heart disease have baffled and infuriated us. Although the French in fact consume almost 24kg of cheese per year, they, on average, expereince less heart disease and a life expectancy of 82 years, while the British consume just over 11kg per year, suffer from more heart conditions and have a life expectancy of 81 years.
6. Cheese is full of good bacteria
Researchers from the have found new evidence to vouch for cheese’s health benefits. It turns out that cottage cheeses and soft fermented cheeses like Gouda, some cheddars, and parmesan are all often packed with probiotics, similar to Greek yogurt. These cheeses can balance out your gut flora – which research has shown is essential to maintaining good digestive health, weight, our immune system and possibly even mental health.