Cheese is probably the dairy product we encounter most on a daily basis. Cream cheese on our bagels in the morning, cheese on our sub sandwiches, macaroni for dinner and fondue for the in-laws (no double dipping). As you probably remember from the Kraft commercials, cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. Calcium and protein are good, cheese is good, it’s all good, right? Not necessarily. Although cheese is prevalent in many of our diets, too much of anything is a bad thing and can be harmful to your health. In this article, we’re going to break down cheese by its nutritional value, and look at why too much of this glorious dairy product can spell disaster for your health.
Protein In Cheese
Protein is one of the most important nutrients for use to consume, especially with fitness in mind. Protein is the nutrient responsible for rebuilding your muscles after a workout. Most people are under the impression that a workout stimulates your muscle so it grows – which is true, but not the whole truth. A resistance workout creates several tiny tears in your muscle so that the amino acids in protein you get from food and supplements can rebuild the muscle bigger and stronger. Without that protein, the muscle could not fully recover and wouldn’t get bigger or stronger.
With that in mind, you want as much protein as you can get, right? Not quite. If you’re training hard, it is recommended to get around 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight in your diet. This ensures your muscles have the fuel they need to rebuild themselves after training. However, if you take in a significant amount more than this, your body will simply discard it as waste. There is a protein ceiling, and your body can’t process extremely large quantities of protein ingested closely together – instead it leaves your body in the form of bowel movements and gas. Too much protein in your diet can cause a lot of discomfort to your stomach and gastrointestinal tract.
Cholesterol In Cheese
There are two types of cholesterol: HDLs (good) and LDLs (bad). Basically, HDLs are good because they help clear your bloodstream of LDLs. LDLs are bad because they clog up your bloodstream making it harder for your heart to pump blood through your blood vessels and arteries, which drastically increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Contrary to popular belief, cheese, in small quantities, does not raise LDL levels. In fact, if someone has a particularly unhealthy diet, a small helping of cheese per day can lower their cholesterol.
While this is good news for cheese lovers, it doesn’t mean you can scarf down a wheel with no regrets. In high quantities, cheese will raise LDL levels and raise your cholesterol, which has all of those nasty side effects we talked about earlier. Monitoring cholesterol is no joke, especially as we age. Keeping the cheese intake under control is a good place to start.
Sodium In Cheese
Sodium is something our body needs in a small dose; however, it is very hard to avoid. Sodium is in nearly every processed food, and naturally present in other foods, including cheese. Think of all of the on-the-go snacks you grab from the corner store, the chips you ate while watching the Rose Bowl, the pretzels you snacked on at the office; all of these foods contain extremely high levels of sodium. The effect mass amounts of sodium have on your body is that it raises your blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure increases risk of heart disease and stroke, which is why many people drastically cut back on sodium as they age. Rightly so, as heart disease is one of the deadliest diseases and top causes of death in the United States. Since cheese contains a large amount of sodium, eating too much of it can put you at risk for these nasty side effects.
Saturated Fat In Cheese
When you hear of fat in terms of a macronutrient, you generally hear of good fat and bad fat. Saturated fat happens to be the bad kind. Unsaturated fats help monitor blood pressure, transport cells and ensure your cell membranes are strong and healthy. Saturated fat can clog your arteries with low-density lipoproteins (cholesterol) and increase your chance of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Saturated fat mostly comes in red meat and dairy products like – you guessed it – cheese.
Not only is saturated fat bad for your arteries, it’s bad for your physique. Fat, as a macronutrient, has 9 calories per gram as opposed to protein and carbohydrates’ 4 calories per gram. This heavy-handedness on the calories means that if you’re ingesting too much fat instead of balancing with carbohydrates and proteins, your calories will be through the roof and you’ll be steadily putting on body fat – the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish here.
While cheese can be good for you in small portions, eating too much can definitely be harmful to your health. Despite the calcium, protein and good cholesterol it contains, too much of these and the other nutrients inside of cheese can have some seriously detrimental effects on your body. From putting slabs of fat on your body due to the saturated fat content to increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke from the cholesterol, mass cheese consumption is best avoided to maintain a healthy body.