Cheese can take almost any meal to the next level. Boring salad? Crumble in some blue, throw on some flakes of parmesan, or just toss in a few cubes of cheddar for an instant upgrade! Sandwich? Pasta? Pizza? Come on, there’s nothing like a little cheese. But what if you’re trying to improve your digestion? Here’s everything you need to know about cheese and gut health to keep on enjoying it.
Is All Cheese High in Lactose?
The short answer is no, all cheese is not high in lactose despite it being a dairy product! But before you breathe a sigh of relief and reach for the crackers, it’s important to understand why exactly.
To begin with, not all cheese is created equal (as far as lactose content goes – to us at Fody, all cheese is good!). According to the French classification, there are 8 general types of cheese, ranging from fresh cheese all the way to pressed cooked cheese and blue cheese. The main differences between the different types are whether or not they are cooked, how they are prepared, and their texture and aroma.
Fresh cheeses generally contain the most lactose, while aged and matured cheeses contain far less of it, as it gets reduced by the aging process. If you’re lactose intolerant, or following a low-FODMAP or other type of elimination diet, skip the boursin, paneer and ricotta, and go straight for a piece of hard cheese – think pecorino, manchego, or swiss. For a complete list of low-lactose cheeses that earned their place in low-FODMAP diets, check out Fody’s definitive Low-FODMAP Cheese Index!
Does Cheese Contain Good Gut Bacteria?
So which cheese is better for your gut? Just like lactose, the question of good gut bacteria in cheese is tricky! While cheese is sometimes referred to as a fermented product, the relationship between cheese and gut health is not quite so clear cut. Very fresh cheeses are usually not fermented at all, meaning that they don’t contain the friendly bacteria that make some cheese good for your gut. This is because they are usually made from pasteurized milk, which is heated to a temperature that kills off dangerous pathogens–in some places, including the U.S., all dairy products must be pasteurized or aged in order to be sold.
Raw cheese made from unpasteurized milk can be sold in Canada, and in the U.S – in the former, however, the condition for its sale is that it must be aged at least 60 days. Luckily, the aging process that kills off the potentially dangerous pathogens from raw milk and makes cheese safe to eat also allows the development of beneficial bacteria! Gorgonzola, parmesan, cheddar, and gouda are just some of the aged cheeses that can be beneficial to your gut health.
Enjoying Cheese (and Gut Health!) Every Day
Cheese is one of those go-to foods that’s easy to reach for when you’re peckish, bored, or just plain out of ideas for what to eat when you’re feeling snacky. While it’s a fantastic food for your taste buds and your gut, it’s important not to over-do it, as most cheese is high in both saturated fat and sodium. While for lactose-intolerant people, some cheese can provoke gas and even diarrhea, in others, an excess of cheese has the reputation for causing constipation due to its high fat content. The best way to mix cheese and gut health is in a balanced meal; this helps you avoid accidentally over-indulging. Even better, it immediately upgrades the taste and nutrition of whatever dish you’re preparing!
If you’re short on ideas, pizza is a classic no-brainer that’s easy to make, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser every time. Give this Greek-inspired pizza a try for a salty Mediterranean treat, or go rustic with a Farmer’s Market Veggie pizza. If you’re feeling more creative, these cheddar-filled chicken quesadillas might just hit the spot, and it’s hard to go wrong with a cheeseburger dip!
Remember, cheese is an invaluable sidekick to many of your favorite dishes! If you’re looking for more ways to pair cheese and gut health, check out our recipes, and if you’re eager to spice up the pairing, why not check out Fody’s products to find ways to make your dishes even more delicious?
We’d say Bon appétit – but that might be a little cheesy.