Why Are You Still Eating Low-Fat Cheese?

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Science has now shown us that skim milk’s health benefits are all but non-existent, nonfat dressing can make a salad less nutritious, and a handful of naturally fatty almonds is way better for you than a 100-calorie snack pack of pretzels. Can we finally just accept that a moderate amount of fat in our diets is in fact healthy? 

Another new study — about cheese — should dampen any doubt. It turns out that savoring regular-fat varieties daily does not hinder health in any way. On the flipside, it may even do your body some good.

To reach these results, researchers from Denmark divvied up 139 people into three groups. For 12 weeks, the first group swapped out part of their regular daily menu to make room for three ounces of regular cheese, with the fat contents ranging from 25 percent to 32 percent. The second group did the same swap, but they ate reduced-fat cheeses that were between 13 percent and 16 percent fat. The last group got denied cheese altogether, eating daily bread and jam instead.

At the end of the nearly three-month study, the researchers measured many markers of the volunteers’ cardiometabolic health, including cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, lipid profiles, and waist circumference. And? No significant difference among any of the groups — full-fat cheese, low-fat cheese, or no cheese at all.

The only notable health perk came from the full-fat cheese group. Those folks had slightly better HDL cholesterol — the “good” kind — than the other volunteers. This falls right in line with past research showing that consuming saturated fat can elevate HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL (the more worrisome type). Thus, this makes a stronger case that the once-maligned saturated fat has a neutral effect on total cholesterol levels and, in the long run, likely doesn’t increase heart disease risk.

Do these findings mean you should slap extra Swiss on your sub sandwiches or order stuffed-crust pizza while watching the game? Of course not. You still have to watch your cheese intake just as you would with any high-fat, high-calorie food. But if you’re choosing between a fresh-made morel-and-leek Monterey jack from a Wisconsin artisan or a cellophane-wrapped reduced-fat Kraft Single, you know what to do.