The average American eats 40 pounds of it a year. Even more in Wisconsin. But in case you needed an extra reason to indulge, research now shows cheese is also good for your health!

According to a new report by researchers at University College Dublin’s Institute of Food and Health, cheese– which is packed with protein, calcium, and phosphorus– can serve a healthy purpose in your diet.

Here are the biggest takeaways:

Contrary to public opinion, cheese doesn’t raise your risk of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. Full-fat cheese can even help you control your weight by reducing your appetite and helping you feel fuller, longer.

The saturated fat in cheese doesn’t raise LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind) as much as butter. Several studies show the mineral content in cheese, particularly calcium, often binds with fatty acids in the intestine and flushes them out of the body.

When cheese is made, it gains beneficial compounds, like Vitamin K. The vitamin, which forms during the fermentation process, is important for blood clotting and bone health.

Both raw and pasteurized cheeses contain good bacteria that are good for your gut. Most common in aged cheeses like cheddar and Gouda, the bacteria helps break down food and boosts immunity.

The Takeaway: Don’t feel bad consuming cheese in moderation! 1.5 ounces a day (which is still above the national average) is the sweet spot for seeing health benefits. (An ounce of cheese is about the size of your thumb.) And the health boost is the biggest when cheese replaces a less healthy food like red or processed meats.

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