Eating processed foods is bad for you – there’s no doubt about it. They’re often loaded with chemicals and preservatives, which aren’t good for you.
But how can you know which foods are processed and which aren’t these days?
For example, cheese seems like a natural product, but it has been processed in some way before you bought it in the store.
So, is cheese processed food? Is it healthy to eat when avoiding processed food?
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Is cheese processed food?
Cheese is a processed food since there have been ingredients added to it during the production process. The basic ingredients in cheese are milk, salt, ‘good bacteria,’ and enzymes. So, as you can see, it’s already processed as it contains more than one ingredient.
On the bright side, cheese isn’t an ultra-processed food, which makes it a healthy addition to any diet, even if you’re trying to cut down on your consumption of processed foods.
Why is cheese a processed food?
For a food to be considered processed, it has to have other ingredients like oil, sugar, or salt added to it.
Cheese is produced from milk, salt, and enzymes. So, by definition, it is processed. What’s more, some cheeses have even more ingredients added, such as cranberries, herbs, or spices.
Luckily, these are all-natural ingredients, so they don’t make cheese unhealthy or ultra-processed, thus safe for any diet.
Also, keep in mind that fresh cheese is processed, but products resembling cheese, such as cheese dip or cheese spread, are highly processed.
These contain much more sodium and preservatives, so they’re not very good for your health. Because of that, try avoiding these as much as possible and choose healthier alternatives whenever you can.
Is cheese good for you?
Cheese contains a lot of calories from fat and protein and very few from carbohydrates. For example, one ounce of cheddar cheese provides you with 14% of your daily recommended need for fat and 14% for protein.
These are great amounts considering the portion size and calories. These two macronutrients help you stay full after eating and can even contribute to stable weight loss.
What’s more, protein prevents lean muscle loss during weight loss and can improve your exercise performance. But keep in mind that cheese is rather high in calories, so consume it in moderation.
All types of cheese provide you with a great dose of calcium. Your body needs this mineral to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth.
It’s also responsible for the proper function of your muscles, nerves, and even your heart. In fact, getting enough calcium from your diet has been linked to better heart health and a lower risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks.
What’s more, together with vitamin D, calcium may even reduce your risk of several types of cancer.
If you’re choosing high-fat cheese types like blue cheese, cheddar, or brie, you can get some conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) from them.
According to research, this type of linoleic acid can help prevent obesity and heart disease and even reduce inflammation.
Reduced inflammation also helps prevent cancer and diabetes, particularly in people who are genetically predisposed to these conditions.
To get the most CLA from your cheese, choose those products made with milk from 100% grass-fed animals.
White cheese types like mozzarella and cottage cheese are also pretty high in vitamin B12. This essential micronutrient helps your body create DNA, assist in the creation of red blood cells, and even protect your brain and nervous system.
Vitamin B12 is most commonly found in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. So, instead of taking supplements, it might be a good idea to add some cheese or whole milk to your diet to avoid any deficiency of this important vitamin.
Are some types of cheese not processed?
All types of cheese are processed, as the initial process of making cheese is the same regardless of the cheese type.
So, no matter which type of cheese you prefer, they are all processed in almost the same ways. If you want to choose the least processed option, opting for blue cheese or brie is a great idea.
These cheese types contain healthy gut bacteria as they’ve undergone the process of fermentation. Because of that, they aren’t highly processed but still nutritious.
To keep the cheese you consume as healthy as possible, try sticking to the traditional types of cheese, such as cheddar, Emmentaler, gouda, or brie.
These are the least processed, as they only contain the traditional ingredients used to make cheese.
Also, try avoiding flavored and herbal cheeses since they contain more ingredients and might be high in preservatives, which makes them ultra-processed and bad for you.
Is cheese bad for your health since it’s processed?
Even though cheese is considered a processed food, it’s a healthy type of food that should have its place in your diet.
Firstly, it’s not ultra-processed, which means that it’s still relatively natural and healthy. It’s also loaded with protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, which contribute to your health.
This is important since ultra-processed foods don’t contain these, so they should be avoided as much as possible.
With that being said, it’s best to avoid consuming too much cheese – not because it’s processed but because it’s high in fat.
While the fat found in cheese has been shown not to increase the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in your body, it’s still calorie-dense.
This means that if you were to consume a lot of cheese very often, you could rapidly gain weight. For example, a one-ounce serving of cheddar contains 113 calories, which is a lot. So, you can safely eat cheese but do so in moderation.
Even though cheese is a processed food, it’s still very good for you. It contains a good amount of protein, vitamin A, calcium, and phosphorus, along with some other plant compounds coming from milk.
So, if you love cheese, you don’t have to remove it from your diet when trying to reduce your intake of processed foods.