Is Cheese Healthy?
A List of Cheese Benefits and Disadvantages
Reading Time: 4 minutes
If you have dairy goats and you want to make cheese with your excess milk, you may be asking yourself, “Is cheese healthy?” Or more specifically, “Is goat cheese healthy?” It seems that health trends and nutritional advice fluctuate depending on whom you ask, so you may get different answers to this question. But overall I tend to think of cheese as a superfood! There are definitely cheese health benefits and indeed there are some health concerns with some cheeses for some people. But most popular cheeses are loaded with nutrition so let’s unpack our cheesy picnic basket and figure out the answer to this question: is cheese good for you?
First, the cheese benefits. The table below lists the key nutrients found in cheese and shows how they are beneficial to your health:
|Calcium||Good for bones, teeth, blood clotting, wound healing, and maintaining normal blood pressure. May even help maintain a healthy weight.|
|Protein||Provides energy, supports growth and maintenance of tissues, bolsters immune health, stores nutrients.|
|Vitamin A (goat milk is higher in vitamin A than cow milk)||Prevents night blindness, supports a healthy immune system, may reduce your risk of acne, supports bone health, promotes healthy growth and reproduction.|
|Riboflavin||Maintains a healthy liver, keeps eyes, nerves, muscles, and skin healthy; may help prevent migraines.|
|Vitamin B12||Supports brain function, nerve tissue health, and the production of red blood cells.|
|Glutathione (an anti-oxidant)||Crucial for brain health.|
|Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)||High-fat cheeses contain more CLA which can prevent obesity, heart disease, and reduce inflammation.|
|Fermentation||Fermented cheeses including aged goat cheese are good for cardiovascular health, boost healthy gut bacteria, and can help with blood cholesterol levels|
Now for the potential downside to the question of is cheese healthy?:
- High sodium and saturated fat can increase the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
- High phosphorus in some cheeses can be harmful to those with kidney disorders.
- Higher-fat cheeses contain more calories than lower-fat cheeses.
- Cheese is low in fiber so it can cause constipation.
- Hormones in dairy products could disrupt the endocrine system and increase certain types of cancer.
- Some people are sensitive to lactose or A1 proteins in certain cheeses which can cause digestive upset.
So, is cheese healthy or is cheese bad for you? I’d say the benefits far outweigh the potential health concerns. And the good news is that by choosing which cheeses you eat and by sourcing high-quality milk and cheese cultures, you can reduce most, if not all, of these potential negative consequences of eating cheese. For instance:
- Sodium: When you make your own fresh cheeses (chèvre, cottage cheese, mozzarella, etc.) you can control the amount of salt you add to your cheese. Typically mozzarella is one of cheeses lowest in sodium.
- Fiber: Eat your cheese with some high fiber crackers and fresh fruit and you’ll fend off constipation!
- Hormones: If you raise dairy animals yourself, you can eliminate the use of hormones and thereby keep these out of your cheese. If you don’t have your own dairy animals, try to source your milk from producers who abstain from the use of hormones in their animals.
- Lactose: The harder and drier the cheese, the lower in lactose it will be.
- A1 sensitivity: Most of the U.S. supply of cow milk contains the A1 protein which many people are sensitive to and can cause inflammation and digestive upset. The good news for us goat owners is that goat milk contains only A2 protein.
Here is a list of some of the most healthy cheeses and why they are on the list:
- Mozzarella (lower in sodium and high in probiotics).
- Blue cheese (more calcium).
- Feta (higher in sodium but lower in calories and high in CLA).
- Cottage cheese (higher in protein, lower in calories).
- Ricotta (when made with whey, full of essential amino acids to promote muscle growth and help lower blood pressure).
- Goat cheese (more medium-chain fatty acids than cow milk) — less likely to be stored as fat. Plus A2 protein is less inflammatory.
- Swiss cheeses (contains Propionibacterium which is a super probiotic).
Make your own goat milk cottage cheese for one of the healthiest sources of protein that is lower in calcium and full of medium-chain fatty acids which can decrease serum cholesterol.
Goat Milk Cottage Cheese (you can use cow milk, too!)
- 1 gallon goat milk (hold out about 1/2 cup till the end)*
- 1/8 tsp Mesophilic culture
- 1/16 tsp Rennet (diluted in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water)
- 1/2 tsp non-iodized salt (modify as desired)
* if you have a cream separator, you can use half whole goat milk and half fat-free goat milk to reduce the overall fat and calories in your cottage cheese
- HEAT: Pour milk in pot and heat to 70 degrees F.
- CULTURE: Sprinkle ¼ tsp mesophilic culture on milk; let re-hydrate a minute or two and then stir into milk. Continue heating to 78 degrees.
- COAGULATE: Dilute ¼ tsp liquid rennet or ¼ tablet of rennet (pulverized) in ¼ cup of non-chlorinated water and add to milk.
- LET SIT: Cover pot and let sit for 3 hours at room temperature (if the room is cool, you might set the pot in a warm water bath or put in an empty cooler to help hold the temperature).
- CUT CURDS: Using a big whisk, carefully break the curds up into pea-sized pieces. Let the curds rest for 5 minutes.
- HEAT: Slowly warm the curds to 105 degrees F while stirring gently.
- DRAIN: When the curds are firm, pour them into a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
- RINSE: Rinse the curds gently under cold water until the curds are cool, gently using your clean hands to keep the curds separated.
- ADD SALT AND MILK: Place the curds in a bowl, add salt to taste (approx. 1/2 tsp), and milk until you get the creaminess you desire (approx. 1/3-1/2 cup).
- EAT/STORE: Store in refrigerator for up to 10 days or freeze.
Originally published in the July/August 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.