When we think about cheese, images of delicious cheese boards might come to mind. However, beyond its delectable taste, cheese has gained attention for its potential positive impact on gut health. Contrary to popular belief that cheese is merely a guilty pleasure, emerging research suggests that it could be an unexpected ally in supporting a healthy gut microbiome. In this blog, we will explore the exciting discoveries that link cheese consumption to gut health and how it may contribute to overall well-being.
The Gut Microbiome: A Key to Good Health
The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, residing in our digestive tract. These tiny organisms play a crucial role in various bodily functions, from digesting food and synthesising vitamins to supporting our immune system. An imbalance in the gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, has been linked to various health issues, including digestive disorders, obesity, and even mental health conditions.
Cheese and Its Nutritional Composition
Cheese is a dairy product made from milk, containing a wealth of nutrients like calcium, protein, vitamins A and B12, and minerals such as phosphorus and zinc. It is also a source of probiotics, the beneficial live bacteria that can exert positive effects on the gut.
Probiotics in Cheese
Certain types of cheese, particularly those that undergo fermentation like Tunworth and Winslade, are known to be rich in probiotics. During the fermentation process, live bacterial cultures transform the lactose in milk into lactic acid, giving cheese its distinct flavour and texture. These live cultures can include strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, among others, which are known to have probiotic properties.
Probiotics are beneficial for gut health as they help to maintain a healthy balance of gut flora. They can overpower harmful bacteria, support digestion, and strengthen the gut’s protective barrier, reducing the risk of leaky gut syndrome and inflammation.
Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs)
Another fascinating link between cheese and gut health lies in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). When probiotics in cheese ferment lactose, they produce SCFAs, such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate. These SCFAs are essential for intestinal health, as they act as an energy source for the cells lining the colon and contribute to a well-functioning gut.
Other Health Benefits of Cheese
Apart from supporting gut health, cheese also offers other potential health benefits. Calcium and phosphorus in cheese are vital for bone health, while the high-quality protein can aid in muscle repair and maintenance. Additionally, the healthy fats found in cheese can contribute to a feeling of satiety, helping to control appetite and support weight management.
Cheese has come a long way from being seen solely as a source of indulgence. As with any dietary choice, moderation is key, but there’s no denying that having cheese in your diet, along with a variety of other nutrient-rich foods, can be a flavourful and enjoyable way to support your gut and overall well-being. So, the next time you enjoy a cheese board, know that you’re also nourishing your gut in the process.
Listen to Zoe co-founder Jonathan Wolf talking to Prof. Tim Spector and Dr. Sarah Berry about dairy and the positive effects fermented dairy has on a healthy gut microbiome. They recommend eating good quality cheeses every few days, choosing artisan cheeses and products like kefir. Little and often is the answer to keeping a good variety of positive bacteria in your gut.