Diabetes and Cheese: Benefits, Risks, and Daily Limits

Introduction

Diabetes can be managed with the help of a healthy diet and exercise program. One typical food that people with diabetes should avoid is cheese – because cheese is high in sugar. Cheese, on the other hand, has some benefits – it may help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Here’s a look at the dangers and limits of cheese and some tips for incorporating it into your daily diet.

According to recent modifications in the Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes by ADA (American Diabetes Association), it is suggested especially for the patients who are overweight to obese to go for a lifestyle-behavior change therapy and healthy meal planning. Keeping in mind these updates, we’ll specifically highlight if there’s a friendly or non-friendly relationship between cheese and diabetes below.

What does ADA say about the consumption of fats in diabetes?

Saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat are the four significant forms of fat. In addition to saturated and trans fats, the American Diabetes Association recommends eating more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

It’s vital to understand what we’re referring to when we mention cholesterol when we discuss fat. Blood cholesterol is the form found in our blood, whereas dietary cholesterol is the type we consume.

Cholesterol is required for hormone production, cell organization, vitamin D synthesis, and other vital functions in the body. Cholesterol synthesis in your body is more than enough for these purposes. However, it may take in trace amounts from the foods you consume.

If your total cholesterol levels in your blood are too high, you’re more likely to get heart disease. On the other hand, dietary cholesterol has a more minor influence on this parameter than previously thought, contrary to common belief.

Saturated fat and trans fat are far more important in raising blood cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease in most people. Therefore, the easiest way to reduce saturated fat is to focus on foods typically high in dietary cholesterol and saturated fat.

Full-fat cheese is a type of saturated fat that the American Diabetes Association strictly recommends avoiding. This form of fat is linked to heart disease and has been shown to raise cholesterol levels. One of the fats that should be avoided is this one. Animal products and tropical oils that are solid at room temperature typically contain this fat. 

ADA recommends avoiding high-fat cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and sour milk among the high-fat dairy products.

Dairy products such as cheese, kefir, and yogurt were widely consumed before today’s modern world. However, these dairy products are full of probiotics which can help treat infection-related problems in digestive systems. Some dairy products studied include skimmed milk (skimmed or reduced fat), sour cream, high-fat plain yogurt, and cottage cheese. 

So, the better solution is to put some limits while also understanding the benefits and risks associated with cheese consumption in the sections given below.

Are there any benefits of cheese consumption in diabetes?

Because of its high fat and calories relative to many other foods, cheese does not seem like a good option for people with diabetes. Diabetics, on the other hand, may eat a variety of cheeses without raising their blood sugar, blood pressure, or gaining weight.

Individuals who adore this well-known food item can enjoy it without jeopardizing their health by adopting a moderate approach to eating cheese. Individuals should select diabetes-friendly cheeses and serve them with meals high in fiber while having few calories.

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According to some studies, people with diabetes may derive health benefits from cheese.

According to one study, low- and regular-fat cheeses boosted insulin sensitivity in rats, according to a 2019 research. This finding lowered the incidence of diabetes by improving insulin production and body weight.

It has a pretty high protein content. Cheddar cheese provides around 7 grams of protein in a single slice or 1 ounce. Protein may discourage people from overindulging in unhealthy foods or swallowing too many sugary carbohydrates since it may help them feel fuller for longer. For individuals with a vegetarian diet and diabetes, cheese is a superb source of protein.

Given below are more such benefits of consuming good cheese for diabetes. So, let’s read on!

1 – It helps up keep healthy glucose levels

Persons with diabetes must consider the glycemic content of different foods. The rate at which the carbohydrates in those foods are digested is used to calculate this. For example, the GI scale ranks most cheeses as having little to no carbohydrates. However, certain cheeses have more than others.

2 – It lowers the risk of Type-2 diabetes

Eating two slices (55 grams) per day reduces the risk of diabetes by 12%, according to a 2012 study. Nonetheless, since the risk difference depends on the nation, this should be approached cautiously. And the benefit of cheese that it is rich in proteins is already stated. 

3 – It reduces or helps in weight management

Cheese may be a tasty snack with fat-free crackers, fruits, or vegetables. Cheese gives you fullness for a more extended period and subdues appetite pangs, making it possible to make your meals delicious and filling—this aids diabetics in shedding weight, which is critical.

4 – It enhances insulin sensitivity

Calcium is added to all dairy products, which improves skeletal mineral density and boosts bone strength. Cheese is an excellent source of calcium, which provides the body with plenty of nutrients to stay healthy and control diabetes.

Consume these healthiest cheese types for diabetes

It’s important to note that we’re discussing real cheese. Genuine high-grade dairy products, made in tiny batches from top-quality milk sources such as cows, goats, and sheep, are the real deal. Heart-healthy fats are higher in goat and sheep cheeses than in cow milk.

On the other hand, processed cheeses include emulsifiers, extenders, weird chemicals, phosphates, and hydrogenated oils. So it’s a no-go for those cheese-like canned goods.

Raw cheese is one of the most fabulous cheeses to eat if you have diabetes. Because they are made from untreated raw milk that has not been pasteurized, these cheeses are a healthier option. In addition, natural cheese is more digestible than pasteurized milk cheeses because it contains a broader range of beneficial enzymes and nutrients.

Given below is a list of some best cheeses to consume for diabetes. However, it is also stated that full-fat cheese should be considered for consumption, but we always recommend its consumption strictly, which we’ll discuss in the later sections. It’s because full-fat cheese is what ADA recommends to avoid or limit.

1 – Romano Cheese

Pecorino Romano is an Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk that is hard, sharp, and salty when consumed in moderation. However, it’s both delicious and nutritious. It is regarded as one of the world’s oldest cheeses, and it is regarded as one of Italy’s first cheeses.

This cheese is exceptionally high in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), an Omega-6 fatty acid that is good for the health when it comes from grass-fed milk. According to the results of five-year research, Pecorino Romano CLAs may be connected to lower BMIs and a decreased risk of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and inflammation.

2 – Goat Cheese

Goat’s milk cheese may be a suitable substitute for those allergic to cow’s milk cheeses. Casein is a protein content that is usually found in milk. A1 and A2 are the two forms of this protein, each with its amino acid composition in the structural makeup.

In specific research, goat milk has been discovered to be less allergy-causing to infants than ordinary cow’s milk when it is presented as the first type of protein given after breastfeeding. This is because goat milk increases the absorption of specific minerals like magnesium in the body compared to cow’s milk.

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3 – Cheddar Cheese

It is said that this sharp (or extra-sharp) cheese originated in the United Kingdom, in a location with the same name. Because they are not made from real cheddar cheese, processed cheddar cheese products with artificial preservatives and weird yellow coloring should be avoided.

4 – Mozzarella Cheese

Mozzarella has probiotics that are good for the intestines, protein, fat, and minerals for the whole body in moderation. In addition, mozzarella has high levels of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12, which are essential for the health of red blood cells.

Mozzarella cheese, like Parmesan, is an Italian classic that may be used in various dishes, including salads and whole-grain meals. It may also be used to make a hearty vegetarian supper, which is undoubtedly one of the most excellent cheeses to eat when you have diabetes because it can even be stuffed with big squashes.

5 – Feta cheese (from Greece)

When you have diabetes, feta cheese is one of the most beneficial cheeses to eat. In addition, feta is a versatile ingredient used in various recipes.

On a nutritional level, feta cheese may have cancer-preventive properties due to its high levels of calcium and vitamin D. It is thought that combining these two nutrients may help the body fight certain forms of cancer.

Feta cheese also contains beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, that help to keep the gut healthy, as well as significant levels of calcium for bone health.

6 – Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese has long been recognized as a complete food because of its solid basis. In addition, this cheese is claimed to increase calcium, protein, and nutrient consumption while aiding in weight loss and bone health.

The cottage cheese is formed into a massive chunk after the curds have been pressed and shaped. Therefore, you can make your cottage cheese home using the abovementioned products. 

Casein (milk protein), fat, bacteria, water, and salt are used to manufacture most types of cheese. The manufacturing process and the ingredients used to determine their nutritional value. Some companies include herbs, spices, dried fruit, and unique mold cultures for extra flavor. Cottage cheese, gouda, feta, Danish blue, Camembert, and smoked cheese are just hundreds of cheese varieties available.

In one serving, grated parmesan cheese (1 oz) has 119 calories, 3.9 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of protein, and 7.8 grams of fat. One serving (1 oz) of processed American cheese contains 114 calories and 6.4 grams of protein. With 75 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1.1 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of protein, a serving of feta cheese equals the same amount.

What are some associated risks of cheese consumption in diabetes?

Some dietary yellow flags are likely associated with cheese, which should not be consumed without caution. When eating cheese, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1 – You may be allergic or intolerant to cheese

Dairy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it can cause allergies in specific individuals. Fortunately, numerous alternatives, such as nuts, offer similar and even more significant nutritional advantages than cheese. On the other hand, dairy-free cheeses typically contain less protein and fewer calories.

2 – It contains a high amount of fats and calories

Studies regarding lowering one’s risk of the cardiovascular disease show that dairy fat isn’t the most excellent option. In moderation, unsaturated fats from plant oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, and certain fish are preferable to dairy fats. When it comes to cheese, portion control is equally critical. A cup of cheddar cheese, for example, has 113 calories. So reduced-fat and nonfat cheeses may be a better choice.

A United States citizen represents the country. It’s a flag for those of you who aren’t sure. According to the USDA, saturated fats should make up less than 10% of your daily calorie intake.

3 – It May contain high amounts of sodium

People with diabetes should limit salt because it can raise blood pressure and cause cardiovascular problems. Sodium quantity varies from cheese to cheese. For example, mozzarella contains just 4 milligrams of sodium per ounce, whereas feta contains 316 milligrams. When Shopping for low-sodium products, choose them whenever feasible.

How should I put limits on my cheese consumption with diabetes?

Natural cheeses with a minimum of fat, sodium, and protein are the most acceptable options. It is preferable to avoid processed cheeses, which are typically high in sodium and fat. Feta and Edam are two other higher-sodium cheese varieties, whereas mozzarella and Emmental are lower in sodium.

Cheese is a fantastic food to combine with higher GI foods to compensate for them since it has little effect on your glucose. Apples and cheese and a mini pizza made with whole-grain bread, fresh veggies, and mozzarella cheese are both fantastic snacks.

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It’s best to limit the amount of cheese you consume, even if it’s easy to eat a lot at once. For example, a typical serving portion is 1.5 ounces of natural or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

Final Words

If you have diabetes, cheese can be included in a healthy diet. Nonetheless, eating it in moderation with other nourishing foods is crucial. Certain cheeses, significantly those fresh, may help prevent diabetes in individuals who do not already have it.

Diabetics need to maintain a healthy balance and moderation because they help to prevent high blood glucose and associated illnesses, such as stroke or heart disease.

Related FAQs

1 – Is cheese bad for a person with diabetes? 

Answer: While cheese is not necessarily bad for diabetics, certain types of cheese may be more harmful. For example, Iago and blue cheese contain high levels of saturated fat, increasing LDL (dangerous) cholesterol levels in those with diabetes. Additionally, dairy products can spike blood sugar levels in people with diabetes because they contain carbs. So while eating full-fat cheeses is not necessarily bad, it’s essential to monitor your blood sugar level regularly if you have diabetes or prediabetes.

2 – Where can I find healthy and straightforward diabetic recipes? 

Answer: A blog is one of the most outstanding venues to discover diabetic recipes that are both healthy and simple. Blogs are an excellent resource for information on all topics, including dieting and diabetes. In addition, they tend to have more unbiased reporting than traditional sources, making them reliable regarding diabetic cooking advice.
Additionally, many blogs offer recipe compilation albums that contain dozens or even hundreds of delicious recipes that can be adapted for those with diabetes. Search for “healthy diabetic cookbook” or “diabetic chef” on Google to get started.

3 – What exercises help people with diabetes burn their excess sugar? 

Answer: Burning excess sugar is an essential part of a diabetic lifestyle. However, many people don’t know how to roast their sugar through exercise. Some popular activities that help with this include cardio, running and cycling, strength training workouts such as squats or deadlifting, and yoga poses that work on the abs and hips.
 
All types of exercise benefit diabetics because they help in weight loss, improve cardiovascular health, stronger bones, better moods, and more energy levels. Additionally, by burning your excess sugar through regular exercise, you can prevent type 2 diabetes from developing in the first place.

4 – How can I ensure my cheese is free from diabetes-causing bacteria?

Answer: When buying cheese, it is essential to be aware of the Marion County Health Department’s guidelines for safe cheese consumption. These recommendations include avoiding unpasteurized or raw milk cheeses, soft-ripened cheeses (such as Brie and Camembert), blue Cheese dressing made with Roquefort OR Gorgonzola, feta made from sheep or goat milk, sour cream, and cream cheese (unless they are 40% fat or less), cottage cheese that has been cooked at a low temperature (at least 165 degrees F) for 90 minutes.
Keeping your food storage area clean and free of mold and bacteria is also essential. Always buy pasteurized dairy products when possible to avoid potential health risks. And if you’re still not sure about the safety of a particular type of cheese, be sure to consult with your doctor before consuming it.
 

5 – Is it true that raw vs. pasteurized milk is used to make cheese?

Answer: There is a small but significant difference between raw and pasteurized milk used to make cheese. The milk is heated to a specific temperature for a defined period during the pasteurization process, killing most bacteria and enzymes that may cause spoilage. This process makes it safe to eat dairy products such as cheese stored at room temperature or in the fridge without risk of food poisoning.
Raw milk, on the other hand, contains live active bacterial cultures responsible for cheesemaking. These microorganisms transform lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid bacteria and Casein proteins. The high concentration of these beneficial microbes results in higher quality cheeses with characteristic flavors and aromas.
 

6 – Is there a way to make cheese home without buying expensive cheesemaking equipment or storing it in the fridge overnight?

Answer: There are many ways to make cheese at home without buying expensive cheesemaking equipment or storing it in the fridge overnight, including using a colander and strainer to drain the whey, making soft cheese with rennet (a kind of enzyme), or using sour cream as a base.
Some recipes call for ingredients that you may not already have on hand, like yogurt or buttermilk. You can also purchase pre-made casks or starter cultures online to make hard cheese (like cheddar) or blue cheese. And lastly, portable electric cheesemakers allow you to produce high-quality cheeses quickly and easily inside your kitchen!

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30502658

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071648

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30502658.

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/225

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/32

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/shaking-the-salt-habit-to-lower-high-blood-pressure

https://www.cdc.gov/salt/food.htm

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/98/4/1066/4577090

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26082106/

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

Dr Sharon Baisil MD

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