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It’s no wonder people are confused about whether it’s good to eat cheese, when even food experts are divided. Some argue that we’re not eating enough of this important source of protein and calcium, while others say the high levels of salt and saturated fat mean we should be eating less.
Whatever your position, it’s becoming increasingly hard to avoid cheese. Whether its grilled halloumi with poached eggs for breakfast, pumpkin and feta salad for lunch, or pepperoni pizza for dinner, cheese is a key ingredient in many regular meals. It’s a popular snack food, with many health professionals promoting crackers and cheese as a high-protein snack. A cheese platter is also the favourite way to kick off afternoon drinks or a barbeque.
So just how much cheese are Australians eating, and is it good for us?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults eat about 2.5 serves of dairy (including milk, yoghurt and cheese) a day. They also say this should preferably be low-fat to ensure that nutrient needs are met without exceeding energy requirements.
Available sales data for cheese suggest that Australians are eating 13.6kg of cheese per person per year, which works out at 37g per person per day, or just less than one Australian portion (Australian portion sizes are 25% bigger than European Union ones, at 40g compared with 30g).
It seems that the advice to limit full-fat cheeses to two or three serves per week is being ignored. Low-fat products only made up 29% of dairy products consumed in the last dietary survey while cheese accounted for 99% of the high-fat dairy products consumed.
This is 11% and 40%, respectively, of the amount used as the reference guide for daily intake labelling. So even though actual recommendations depend on individual energy requirements, it is still clear that we need to limit our consumption of full-fat cheese to avoid excessive amounts of saturated fat.