HEALTHY LIVING

Your Cheese Habit Probably Won't Make You Obese

04/16/2015 08:28 am ET | Updated Apr 16, 2015
BS In The Kitchen

Bring on the full-fat yogurt and coffee with cream!

In an effort to study how diet affects long-term weight gain, researchers have spent the past 16 years analyzing the diets of 120,000 men and women in three separate long-term studies. The researchers' efforts were recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, where they revealed a number of noteworthy discoveries: Diets rich in red and processed meats were heavily linked with weight gain. Eating more yogurt, seafood, nuts and skinless chicken, on the other hand, is most closely associated with maintaining a healthy body weight.

But for cheese addicts, the most exciting finding may be what the group discovered about dairy: Full fat cheese and whole and low-fat milk didn't appear to tip the scale in either direction. In other words, contrary to popular belief, milk fat doesn't lead to long-term weight gain.

What's more, the finding suggests that eating cheesein its full fat form could be better for your waistline than low-fat versions. Researchers at Tufts University found that when people stuck to low-fat dairy products, they actually ingested more carbohydrates -- a habit that, long term, could lead to weight gain. "This suggests that people compensate, over years, for the lower calories in low-fat dairy by increasing their carb intake," said Jessica Smith, Ph.D., one of the study's leads.

While this news does give dairy enthusiasts a reason to celebrate, it should not be taken as permission to subsist on an all-cheese diet. Cheese tends to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which can increase a person's risk for heart disease and stroke. Many kinds of cheese are high in sodium, too. Salt-laden diets are associated with kidney trouble, hypertension and digestive diseases.

Moral of the story? Eat your cheese in moderation -- but don't worry too much about your waistline.

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