Though it's often high in fat, cheese can offer significant benefits to your health when you eat it in moderation. You can use cheese in many different foods, and the benefits vary accordingly, as some cheeses are more beneficial to your health than others, particularly when they're hand-made or traditionally made instead of highly processed.
Many cheeses are high in protein, which is a vital nutrient to maintain lean muscle. Some people do not eat enough protein, so cheese is a useful way of bumping up your daily intake, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The cheeses with the highest protein content per 1-ounce serving include Swiss cheese at 8 grams; brie, 6 grams; mozzarella, 7 grams; cheddar, 7 grams; blue, 6 grams; and Monterey Jack, 7 grams, according to the National Dairy Council. Ricotta has 14 grams of protein per 1/2 cup serving.
Full-fat cheeses are usually quite calorie-dense and can serve as a useful form of energy. Cheese contains saturated fat, which according to the Harvard School of Public Health, is fine to eat in small amounts. Alternatively, eating reduced-fat cheeses will give you the same "mouth satisfaction" as eating regular cheese and can be a useful snack to keep you from veering off a healthy eating plan into more indulgent territory.
Get a Calcium Kick
Most cheeses are very high in calcium. The daily recommended intake of calcium for adults is between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams per day. Eating 2 ounces of brie will deliver 308 milligrams, while 2 ounces of half-fat cheddar delivers 479 milligrams. Edam is a lower-fat option than both of these and is also very high in calcium -- 439 milligrams per 2-ounce serving. The same serving of Swiss cheese delivers a whopping 570 milligrams, while 2 ounces of Parmesan tips the scale at 684 milligrams of calcium.
Vitamins, Minerals and Friendly Bacteria
Most cheeses are also very high in vitamins and minerals. You'll pick up beneficial amounts of phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, zinc from eating cheese, as well as boosting your intake of vitamins B-2, B-12, A and D. Additionally, many cheeses will improve the profile of your gut bacteria, which aid in healthy digestion, metabolism and circulation. The best cheeses for this are soft cheeses, like brie and camembert, and molded cheeses, like Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Danish Blue.
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Current Protein Intake In America
- National Dairy Council: Cheese and Nutrition
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out With The Bad, In With The Good
- National Institutes of Health: Calcium
- Daily Mail: The Good Cheese Guide
- The Dairy Council: Minerals in Cheese