A new study suggests reaching for a chunk of cheese instead of adding another layer of butter on your bread for a more heart-healthy alternative.
Published in the December issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study found that despite its high levels of saturated fatty acids, cheese did not increase LDL-cholesterol concentrations -- the "bad cholesterol" -- when compared with an equivalent intake of fat from butter. The study was completed in partnership with the Danish Dairy Research Foundation and the Denmark National Dairy Council.In their experiment, scientists put 49 men and women on a diet that replaced part of their regular dietary fat intake with 13 percent of energy from either cheese or butter.
For six weeks, participants on the cheese diet showed lower LDL and HDL -- the good cholesterol -- than the six-week butter diet.
Nor did the cheese diet increase bad cholesterol levels when compared to their habitual diets, in which total fat and saturated fat intakes were lower.
Scientists in the study posit that the high calcium content of cheese results in a higher excretion of fecal fat.
Despite the findings of the study, hard cheeses are known for being high in saturated fats and should be consumed in moderation.
Nor are all cheeses created equal. According to the American Heart Association, fat-free or low-fat cheeses can help reduce dietary cholesterol and saturated fats and meet dietary calcium requirements. Good choices include part-skim milk mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan and low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese.
In general, hard cheeses also contain more cholesterol than soft cheeses.