If you can’t get enough cheese, you are not alone. In fact, it’s safe to say that the U.S. is a nation of cheese lovers. According to statistics, Americans consumed a whopping 5.3 billion pounds of cheese in 2021—that’s 1.8 billion more pounds than we collectively ate in 2010. It makes sense when you think about it: Melted on burgers, sprinkled on pizzas, stacked high on charcuterie boards—cheese is an integral ingredient in so many of our favorite foods. Its allure is undeniable. And although cheese can be a healthy part of a balanced diet, like everything, moderation is key, and eating too much of it can have adverse effects too.
For one thing, many varieties of cheese are riddled with calories and can be high in fat and sodium content, which research indicates can potentially lead to type 2 diabetes, heart failure, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and stroke, among other conditions. Because of its sodium and fat content, Dr. Akua Woolbright Ph.D., the national nutrition program director of Whole Foods’ nonprofit Whole Cities Foundation, recommends limiting your cheese intake to 1-ounce servings of hard cheese or half-cup servings of soft cheeses at a time.
“One way to do this is to purchase varieties with stronger flavors [like Parmesan, feta, and Swiss], so you can add more taste to your food with lesser amounts,” says Woolbright.
Your skin tone and texture may improve
Read on to discover some of the health benefits and side effects of giving up cheese—and for more dietitian-approved healthy eating advice, be sure to check out the Surprising Side Effects of Giving Up Milk, Says Dietitian.
Lowering your overall dairy intake—cheese included—may have a positive effect on the tone and texture of your skin. Research shows that dairy products are linked to excess oil production, which may increase the appearance of unsightly blemishes on your skin.
“Studies show that dairy can raise insulin levels, which increases the production of the hormones that produce sebum (an oily secretion), which may influence acne,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition, in a previous interview with Eat This. “I don’t see this in all of my clients, but many find that more dairy consumption increases breakouts.”
You may experience less bloating
If you’re someone who struggles with digestive issues and experiences frequent bloating, then cutting out or limiting cheese and dairy may help reverse this. “For many, dairy can cause stomach upset and bloating due to either a lack of adequate enzymes to break down milk sugar or an actual allergy,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, at Balance One Supplements.
“Those [cheeses] lacking adequate amounts of lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugar, are known to be lactose intolerant and experience excessive GI upset and bloating when consuming dairy,” Best adds.
You may have fewer headaches & migraines
If lactose-heavy cheeses tend to upset your stomach, consider opting for dairy-free cheese—and if dairy-free isn’t to your liking, consider trying these five kinds of cheese you can still eat if you’re lactose intolerant.
If you are someone who frequently gets migraines, a diet high in cheese and dairy may be the culprit. Some cheeses are high in tyramine, an amino acid that naturally occurs in plants and animal products and has historically been linked to the triggering of migraines and headaches.
Cheeses that are high in tyramine include aged cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, blue cheeses (like Gorgonzola), and Camembert, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Another positive side effect of giving up cheese is that eating less of this dairy product can help you manage your cholesterol while decreasing your risk for other cardiovascular complications.
“Cheese is a food high in saturated fat, which is a contributor to heart disease primarily by increasing cholesterol levels,” explains Best. “Saturated fat has been shown to increase bad or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol because it triggers the liver to produce more cholesterol.”
“High levels of LDL cholesterol leads to a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke,” she adds. “A positive side effect of removing cheese from your diet is the potential of lowering your cholesterol and subsequently your risk of heart disease.”