Few foods are beloved in America quite like cheddar cheese, which regularly ranks at the top of favorite cheese surveys. Although recently overtaken by mozzarella in terms of consumption, cheddar remains a popular option for snacking and cooking.
Cheddar cheese is named after the English village of Cheddar, where it was first created in the 11th century. The process of making cheddar is similar to that of other cheeses. It begins with a mixture of cultured milk and rennet. Leftover liquid, called whey, is then drained to leave behind curds. Heating the curds removes moisture and melts them into large slabs. These are then pressed through a mill and into a mold. The formed blocks of cheddar are then aged until ready to be eaten.
Like many dairy products, cheddar cheese is rich in calcium. In addition to helping build strong bones, calcium also plays a role in blood clotting and several other important functions.
Cheddar can also be a great source of:
One cubic inch of cheddar cheese contains:
- 69 calories
- 4 grams of protein
- 6 grams of fat
- Less than 1 gram of carbohydrates
Potential Health Benefits of Cheddar Cheese
Many of the ingredients in cheddar cheese offer a variety of health benefits. Some of those benefits include:
Participants in one study had more success getting their cholesterol levels down after eating full-fat cheese than people who ate reduced-fat cheese or butter. This was true for both overall levels and LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Researchers credit this effect to the "cheese matrix"— a concept describing how the arrangement of proteins and calcium in cheese offers a variety of health benefits.
Bone strength. Cheddar cheese is a good source of calcium—one of the most important nutrients for promoting bone health. People who maintain a diet rich in calcium are less likely to develop osteoporosis. The vitamin K in cheddar cheese also plays a valuable role in promoting bone health.
Healthy teeth. While daily brushing and flossing are key to maintaining dental health, diet is also important. Snacking on cheese—instead of sugary snacks—may help reduce cavities.
In one study on dairy products and oral health, participants who ate cheddar cheese saw a significant increase in pH levels in their mouths compared to people who drank milk or ate sugar-free yogurt. Low pH raises the chances of cavities.
Potential Risks of Cheddar Cheese
Some people are allergic to a protein in cheese called casein. An allergic reaction to this substance can cause inflammation throughout the body, rashes, acne, headaches, and sinus congestion.
If you’re intolerant to lactose, the sugar that naturally occurs in cheese, this can also trigger a reaction. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.
If you’ve never been tested for these sensitivities, talk with your doctor or a dietician about them.
Cheddar cheese has fairly high levels of saturated fat compared to other dairy products. Eating foods high in saturated fats can raise your cholesterol levels and put you at risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, research indicates that people over age 65 may be able to eat full-fat dairy products, such as cheddar cheese, without increasing their chance of death from heart attacks.
Like all high-fat foods, cheddar cheese should be enjoyed in moderation.
There are more and more alternatives to cheese popping up. If you're lactose intolerant, cheese made from almonds or cashews make a nice alternative, though you may need to be wary of things like added salt if you eat those.
Fat-free cheese is a possible alternative if you're worried about how much fat you're taking in. In fact, some research suggests that low-fat cheeses can aid in weight loss because your body burns more fat when it gets enough calcium.