Sit down, because you’re about to read the best news: Eating cheese can actually lower your risk of heart disease. Yes, of course this comes with caveats and consuming it in moderation, but let’s just bask in the cheesy golden glow of some new research for a minute.
While cheese does contain a high content of saturated fatty acids — something you definitely want to avoid eating in large quantities — the calcium in cheese means less of the fat is absorbed by the body.
Following an analysis of 15 existing studies on the health effects of eating cheese — which took into consideration the diet and health outcomes of more than 200,000 people — researchers found that, on average, people who ate one portion of cheese per day were 14 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 10 percent less likely to have a stroke.
Sound too good to be true? Well, a portion size is around 40 grams — roughly the size of a matchbox. And the authors of the study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, noted that the long-term outcomes of eating cheese daily are still unclear. Also important to note, the researchers didn’t track any overall changes in the diets of the people included in the survey, so that may also have had an impact on their heart health.
In addition, a study by the Academy of General Dentistry in 2013 found that cheese may also prevent cavities. Consuming hard cheese like cheddar generates saliva, which helps make your mouth less acidic and your teeth less prone to cavities.
That said, we can’t really consider cheese to be a “health food,” but given its bad rap in the nutrition world, this at least offers the delicious food a couple of redeeming health factors — and an excuse to grab a piece from the party tray at your next gathering.
A version of this article was originally published in December 2017.