For a seemingly inoffensive supermarket staple, cheese sure knows how to cause a stir.
When it’s not accompanying your weekend wine or saving the day with a quick and easy dinner (hello, mac and cheese), it’s at the middle of some mysterious myths.
So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to get to the bottom of them once and for all.
MYTH: Cheese is bad for your health
Full-fat dairy foods such as cheese, butter and milk cop a lot of blame for health problems such as due to their high level of saturated fats. However, a 2012 study of 5,000 Australians showed that people with a higher intake of dairy actually had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Another study at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne also revealed that eating cheese over a four-week period didn’t adversely affect people’s cholesterol levels as predicted. Conclusion: brie isn’t the bad guy.
MYTH: Cheese gives you nightmares
Ever since Ebenezer Scrooge blamed a “crumb of cheese” for his ghoulish encounters in A Christmas Carol, urban legend would have us believe that eating cheese before bed leads to bad dreams. But in actual fact cheese can be said to regulate sleep – it contains an amino acid called tryptophan which is linked to stable mood and sleep function. A 2005 study by the British Cheese Board also reported no nightmares after giving 200 participants a small piece of cheese 30 minutes before bed. They did note that those who ate cheddar predominantly dreamt about celebrities. Random.
MYTH: Low-fat cheese is healthier
If you’re on a diet or just being cautious with calories ahead of a holiday, switching to low-fat foods is a no-brainer, but you could be falling into a low-fat trap. It’s no secret that full-fat cheese contains more fat, but it also contains a whole lot more protein, too. That means it will keep hunger pangs at bay for longer and help you avoid any calorie-drenched munchies. A Curtin University of Technology study backs this up. It found that increasing your dairy intake can help with weight loss because the extra protein helps to speed up your metabolism. Pass the Gouda.
MYTH: You can’t eat cheese if you’re lactose intolerant
Turns out you don’t have to fully eliminate cheese from your diet if you’re lactose intolerant. In some cases, such as parmesan, cheese doesn’t actually contain any lactose content at all. In others, such as cheddar, Swiss cheese and brie, the lactose content is so minimal – about 0.04g in a 40g block – that it can still be tolerated. As a general rule of thumb, switch to hard cheeses as these contain less lactose and always check the label’s sugar content. Lactose is listed under sugar, so if the number is low or zero, it should still be safe for you to enjoy.
MYTH: Mice love cheese
If you’ve got little ones, chances are they think mice exist solely on a diet of cheese! Countless movies, cartoons and nursery rhymes play on the myth, but it’s actually far from true. A 2006 Manchester Metropolitan University study discovered that mice avoid cheese, instead satisfying their sweet tooth with grains, fruits and other sweet things. If hungry enough, they won’t turn their nose up at a bit of cheese or cardboard, but save the stilton for you. It’s too pungent for their sensitive noses and they’ll smell your trap a mile away.
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