Cheese provides many of the same nutritional and health benefits attributed to milk. Cheese contains a high concentration of essential nutrients, in particular high-quality protein and calcium, as well as other nutrients such as phosphorus, zinc, vitamin A, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.
An additional benefit of cheese is that it usually contains beneficial bacteria. For example, Emmental Swiss cheese contains Propionibacterium freudenreichii, a member of the propionic acid-producing bacteria family. Propionic acid nourishes the cells of the colon and has shown metabolic activity, including lowering blood cholesterol levels, improving blood sugar control, preventing the overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans, and enhancing calcium absorption. Furthermore, it produces a growth factor that dramatically stimulates the growth of Lactobacillus and Bifid bacterium species, two important health-promoting bacteria.
Cheese has been shown to help protect against dental caries (cavities). Dental caries result from the breakdown of tooth enamel (i.e., demineralization) by acids produced during the fermentation of sugars and starches by plaque bacteria. The critical pH for demineralization is in the range of 5.2 to 5.7. Human dental plaque acidity studies, which measure a food's cavity causing potential, demonstrate that aged cheeses such as Cheddar, Swiss, blue, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, Brie, and Gouda prevent plaque pH from falling to a level conducive to the development of caries. Population-based studies also support a beneficial effect of cheese on dental health, as cavities are fewer in areas where cheese consumption is higher.
Because cheese is not usually fortified with vitamin A, it may be a better choice than milk to help delay or minimize age-related bone loss and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.