Cheese really is the perfect food. It can go savory or sweet, and it can be paired with pretty much any food. Plus, not only does cheese taste amazing, but it’s also packed with many health-supporting nutrients.
“Cheese is a good source of protein—one ounce could have between 6-10 grams of protein, depending on the type of cheese you choose,” says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Cheese is the perfect food to include at snack times when searching for a source of protein to keep you feeling fuller and satisfied in between meals, and pairs perfectly with crackers, grapes, apple slices, or tomatoes.”
It’s also great for good health.
“Some cheeses may contain healthy bacteria that may act as probiotics, which could help support gut health, immune system, and overall health too,” says Ehsani.
But one of the biggest health benefits of cheese is that it is an excellent source of calcium, an essential mineral for bone health.
“Most of our body’s calcium is stored in our bones,” explains Ehsani. “Low levels of calcium can lead to weaker bones as well as an increased risk for developing fractures and bone disease. Adequate levels of calcium are also important for our teeth, heart, nerves, and muscles to function properly as well.”
There is one cheese that may be better than the rest to support your bones.
“Parmesan not only contains one of the highest amounts of calcium per serving amongst all other cheeses, but it also contains phosphorus, another important bone supporting mineral,” says Ehsani. “Per one ounce (or 2 tablespoons), parmesan contains 34% of the recommended daily intake for calcium and 30% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for phosphorus. Most adults need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.”
One large study published in NutritionJournal found that adults who consumed high amounts of both calcium and phosphorus supported a stronger bone mass.
Another bonus: parmesan is also very low in lactose thanks to its long aging time, notes Ehsani. So people who are lactose intolerant may be able to eat parmesan.
To get more parmesan in your diet, you don’t need that much to get the benefits.
“Just 2 tablespoons of parmesan per day is plenty to get over 30% of your daily value of both calcium and phosphorus,” says Ehsani. “You can easily sprinkle parmesan into a healthy eating pattern, you can add it into pasta sauce, sprinkle it on top of your pasta dish or pizza.”
Looking for more ideas? Ehsani suggests you can also enjoy a chunk of it along with veggies and fruit on a cheese board or at snack times. Plus, you can sprinkle some on top of avocado toast or on top of a salad or grain bowl to get some bone-boosting benefits.