Is Cheese on its way to the “Superfood” Category?

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When you think of a superfood, you think of food and drink items such as green tea, turmeric, acai, matcha, blueberries for example. A new study is leaning towards adding cheese to that list.

Two researchers at the University of Korea Ji Youn Yoo and Sung Soo Kim have conducted a study that has found that cheese has a whole lot of health benefits that may allow it to be categorized as a superfood.

Before you whip our your cheeseboard and schedule a cheese soiree though, do note that this finding relates to only one kind of cheese. Swiss cheese.

According to their findings, Swiss cheese contains a probiotic called Propionibacterium freudenreichii. In the production of Emmental cheese, this probiotic is responsible for its nutty and sweet flavor. It also is responsible for producing carbon dioxide that results in the formation of holes in the cheese known as eyes.

In the study, worms were used as test subjects, and the probiotic was found to boost the worm’s longevity. Scientific Reports indicate that humans would have a similar reaction to the inclusion of this probiotic in their diets as did the worms.

The health benefits of Propionibacterium freudenreichii that have contributed to swiss cheese being slated as a superfood include.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to be effective in the treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
  • Helps relieve constipation.
  • Binds toxins such as cadmium and lead.
  • Kills human gastric cancer cells and enhances the cytotoxicity of camptothecin, a drug used in gastric cancer chemotherapy.
  • Lowering blood cholesterol levels and improves blood sugar control.
  • Preventing the overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans, and enhancing calcium absorption.
  • Produces a growth factor that dramatically stimulates the growth of Lactobacillus and Bifid bacterium species, two important health-promoting bacteria.

The debate on what food is healthy and what food is not has raged on since almost the beginning of time. Cheese has not escaped that debate. When it comes to cheese, you’ll either hear it’s very good for you, or that it can make you fat and unhealthy.

Those who argue that it is good for you are banking on the fact that cheese is a great source of calcium and protein, contains high amounts of vitamins A and B12, zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin.

Those on the side that states that cheese can only make you fat and unhealthy, use the fact that cheese is a high-fat and high-calorie food that contains way too much sodium.

Further complicating the discussion on whether swiss cheese merits a place in the superfood category is the definition of what a superfood is.

In the Macmillan Dictionary, a superfood is defined as “a food that is considered to be very good for your health and that may even help some medical conditions.” In the Oxford Dictionary definition, a superfood is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.”

The reason why a dictionary definition is being used for what should ideally be a scientific classification is that there is no scientific basis behind the classification of foods that are placed in the superfood category.

The term is considered to be a marketing tool. It is for this reason that seasoned dietitians and nutritional experts rarely use the term. Catherine Collins the Chief Dietitian at London’s St George’s Hospital says the usage of the term can be harmful when applied to foods which have drawbacks.

Cheese certainly has its drawbacks. For now, it is best to enjoy it in moderation while the researchers continue to determine its “superfood” eligibility.