Learning Goal: You will understand the pros and cons to eat cheese and will be able to find alternative foods that meet the same nutritional needs. You will also be able to join my cheese challenge – eating only 1 serving of cheese per day!
I recently hired a nutrition coach, and he told me that if I wanted to get to my goal body weight I need to reduce my cheese intake
He told me that most people think they are more addicted to cheese than they actually are. I hope I am one of those people, because I eat on average at least 3 servings of cheese per day.
I think he heard the fear in my voice and he developed a plan where I limit my cheese intake to only one serving per day. I know that does not sound crazy, but for me, it will be hard. I immediately had to change my cooking plans for the day which included sweet potato crust pizza and cheese stuffed chicken.
Don’t We Need Dairy?
According to the USDA, we should be eating between 2-3 servings of dairy a day. A serving of cheese is 1 ounce for hard cheeses, which is often a slice or 3-4 cubes. A good way to eyeball this measurement is to look at your thumb or to use a ping pong ball.
A serving of soft cheeses, like ricotta or cottage cheese, is often 1/2 – 1 cup.
Isn’t that contradicting my coach?
Let’s look at why the US government is recommending that we eat 3 servings of dairy
Nutritional Reasons for Cheese
Calcium is essential for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone mass. It also helps regulate many other functions in your body. It is recommended that you get at least 1000 mg of Calcium per day.
Cheese, depending on the type of cheese, can contain between 70 – 340 mg of Calcium in one serving, which is between 7-34% of your daily intake.
In order for you to properly absorb and use calcium, your body needs other nutrients.Dairy also provides some of those other nutrients, because it is often fortified, but cheese is not the best source.
You can get many of these nutrients, including calcium from other foods. You can even get calcium from fruit! Check out these resources to find more calcium-rich foods
Our bodies are made out of amino acids. Proteins that we eat are broken down into amino acids and are used to replace the amino acids are body needs. Protein especially helps you build muscle. According to the CDC, women are recommended to eat 46 g and men 56 g of protein per day.
Cheese can contain between 5-12% of your daily protein in one serving (28 or 1 ounce). Cheese is also considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs.
What if you are vegan and want to get all your protein?
It is totally possible. There are a few complete vegan proteins like soybeans, hemp seeds, quinoa, coconut, beetroot, and buckwheat.
Or you can mix and match foods until you get all the essential amino acids you need.
For example, chickpeas are missing the amino acids Tryptophan and Methionine. To get those amino acids you just need to also add some nuts or seeds to your meal. So hummus, which is made from chickpeas and sesame seeds, would serve as a complete protein.
Ok we know we can get calcium and protein from other sources, but cheese tastes really really good, so…
What is so Bad about Dairy?
Dairy and cheese may not be intrinsically bad for you, but if you are trying to lose weight, not eat processed foods, protect the environment, and ingesting unnecessary toxins, you may want to avoid dairy.
Dairy Intolerance is when your body cannot digest milk properly, which can lead to you feeling sick, not absorbing nutrients, or having an immunity reaction.
According to the NIH, approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. In fact, more than 90% of people of East Asian descent are lactose intolerance, and it is also very common in people of West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, and Italian descent…shit not good for me (half Italian – Half Jewish).
If you are not sure that your digestive issues are related to milk, you can get genetically tested to see if you are lactose deficient, the enzyme that digests lactose, which is the sugar in milk.
Some people are allergic to other parts of milk, like casein or whey, which can make consuming milk products uncomfortable and dangerous.
Fat is something we need, but not all fats are created equal, some are better for you than others, but they all will increase your calorie intake and are not good when you are actively trying to loose weight. Check out my article on positive and negative aspects of dietary fat.
There are nonfat dairy and cheese options, but that means that these products have gone through more processing and have had more exposures to chemicals.
Hormones and Antibiotics are given to cows, and other animals, that produce milk to help them grow, produce more milk and prevent diseases when kept in small inhumane spaces. Hormones in milk can disrupt your own endocrine system, which can lead to cancer and other complications.
When animals, including humans, are kept in small spaces (like in cities or small pens) diseases spread more quickly because there is more chance for body, fluid, and waste contact. Antibiotics are used to prevent diseases and to help the animals grow larger.
The problem with using antibiotics in large quantities is that bacteria can evolve to have an immunity to the antibiotic, which means we no longer have a way to kill the bacteria. A deadly example of this in humans is MRSA, which is commonly found in hospitals.
Animal cruelty is an argument for avoiding animal products altogether. Unfortunately, the image of a young child gently getting milk into a pail is not a reality for most cows. Milk cows are often treated poorly.
They have to be given hormones, antibiotics and be artificially inseminated (so they are constantly pregnant) so they can keep on producing milk. They are often kept in small pens, with little room to move. Cows are often injured and are killed because of these injuries.
Check out this link to PETA that has a video that will surely make you think twice about consuming any cow products.
The Dairy Lobby is relentlessly using every tactic they can to make sure that dairy stays on the food pyramid, or now the plate.
You may have seen the milk mustache campaigns which uses celebrities and sex to convince you that you need milk.
The dairy lobbies want us to believe that milk is the best way to get calcium when we already discussed that there are tons of different foods to meet your nutritional needs.
How can we trust the government when there is money being exchanged and studies on the health impacts of milk are not biased?
In this NYTimes report, one scientist who was paid by the milk lobbies found that milk products did not promote weight loss and she claimed that the lobby threatened to audit her work and still went on a campaign that falsely stated that milk promoted weight loss.
There is evidence from the past that the US government has changed its recommendations for meat and dairy-based upon pressure from lobby groups. For example, since 1977, under pressure from meat producers, federal dietary advice has evolved from “decrease consumption of meat” to “have two or three (daily) servings.”
The milk industry is even trying to get the government to ban makers of soy, coconut, and nut milk from using the word “milk” on the label.
Milk lobbies only care about money, not health, not people, not cows.
All this information is really really confusing. I spent a lot of time researching and even the blogs of people I trust to do the scientific research are not definitive.
Do I find animal cruelty, a healthier relationship with the bathroom, and sticking it to lobbies compelling? YES!
But, am I addicted to cheese? YES!
Not going to lie, a tear starts to form when I think about removing it from my diet.
I do not want anything to have that much power over me. So, like my reasoning for doing a juice cleanse, removing the cheese from my diet will help me gain some feeling of control over my food and will help me feel like less of a slave to my cravings.
Bottom line: Cheese Challenge Accepted!
The Cheese Challenge
Only eat 1 serving of cheese per day
Are you in?
Sign Up for the YouCanEatHealthyToo Newsletter and get a free eating journal. It will help you keep track of daily cheese intake and will help you make sure you are getting all your daily fruits and veggies!.