We could blame the anticipation of fall weather turning our thoughts to the savory delights of cheese, but, truly, is it that hard to find an excuse to talk about the delicious stuff?
Cheese has long been praised as an excellent source of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. It also helps balance your oral pH. Research has shown that, more than other dairy products, cheese may actually help protect against cavities – possibly because of increased saliva flow from chewing or compounds in the cheese itself.
Another plus for cheese? Some varieties contain probiotics, which support whole body health.
“The near explosion in the knowledge about gut microbiome and their role in metabolism,” notes a recent paper in Frontiers in Microbiology, “has advanced our understanding about how intimately human health is related to microbes.”
Reviewing the effects of probiotics in fermented indigenous foods from around the world – foods like yogurt and kefir, in addition to cheese – the authors noted a number of important health benefits.
The beneficial effect of these indigenous foods and associated microbiota includes up-regulation of immune system, strengthening gut-brain barrier, regulation of immune modulators, mitigation of carcinogens, induction of apoptotic pathways, and production of numerous metabolites. Diseases like IBD, colitis, IBS, lactose intolerance, peptic ulcers, vaginosis, and hypercholesterolemia can be treated successfully with probiotics. New evidences suggest that these microorganisms also help in improving brain functions, alleviate age-related diseases, and reduce hazardous metabolites from the body.
Quite a list, isn’t it? But wait! There’s more!
Research in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry suggests that at least some probiotics may inhibit absorption of BPA in the gut, facilitating its excretion. That’s pretty tasty news, no matter how you slice it (or shred it or melt it)!
There’s even some evidence that probiotics may “improve lactose digestion” and reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance. Crazy, but true.
These beneficial effects are due to microbial beta-galactosidase in the (fermented) milk product, delayed gastrointestinal transit, positive effects on intestinal functions and colonic microflora, and reduced sensitivity to symptoms.
So if you choose to include cheese in your diet, perhaps the only question remaining is which cheese to choose.
Just like yogurt, not all cheese contains probiotics. There are plenty of great cheese choices that may contain probiotics, like cheddar and Gouda, which are particularly good, as the probiotics survive even with aging.
The real problem is pasteurization. Adding heat after the aging process can kill pathogens, but it can kill probiotics, as well.
The Weston A. Price Foundation offers a helpful guide to sourcing real dairy – pastured, unprocessed, full-fat milk and milk products – which you’ll find here. (Their list of Missouri providers is here.)
If unpasteurized or raw milk cheese isn’t a choice for you, or isn’t available at your local market, you can look for cheeses where probiotics have been added after pasteurization.
Then just eat and enjoy! Your teeth and your tastebuds will thank you.
Top image by Clive G’