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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 29 2009

Is All Cheese Created Equal?

By Mark Sisson
109 Comments

The answer to that question is (hopefully) pretty obvious, but I’ll still explain why.

Short answer: No.

Slightly longer answer: C’mon – you really think that stuff you can spray out of an aerosol can is qualitatively identical to a 2-year old Gouda?

Long answer: The paleo purists shun all forms of dairy, but the Primal Blueprint takes a more nuanced stance. We note that while dairy certainly shouldn’t form the basis for an eating regimen, certain forms of it can easily be integrated seamlessly into a healthy, Primal eating strategy as a sensible vice, especially the highest-fat choices (a bit of heavy cream in the morning coffee, some real whipped cream with strawberries for dessert) or even a staple (pastured butter for sautéing and drizzling over vegetables). Of course, for those who can more easily digest (lactose-wise) certain forms and who insist on including it in their diet, sticking to dairy that’s as close to the state it was in upon exodus from the animal in question is important (raw dairy, kids), as is avoiding the stuff treated with all sorts of preservatives and processing (homogenized semi-skim milk product with antibiotics, anyone?).

But we’ve tackled the dairy issue before. To recap, though – if you must have it, raw, full fat dairy, especially fermented, is best, followed by organic, non-homogenized dairy (for reference, milk homogenization involves exerting extreme pressure onto milk and forcing it through small holes so that the fat breaks up…. Yum!). I do think the paleo set is a bit too gung-ho about dairy, but they’ve got it mostly right. The long-purported link between osteoporosis and lower milk/calcium intake is grossly exaggerated (how else would you explain the US, one of the biggest dairy consumers in the world, having some of the highest osteoporosis rates?), but some people have obviously developed digestive systems that can handle dairy reasonably well. The most sensible position is this: if you can handle dairy and insist on including it, then have at it in reasonable amounts.

Cheese, though, is a different beast altogether. It’s technically dairy, but much of what makes dairy so problematic for people is mostly absent from the best cheeses. Take lactose, for example. Lactose, or milk sugar, is what keeps the roughly 2/3 of the world’s population that are lactose intolerant from consuming dairy (other than availability or cultural issues, of course). When most cheese is made, however, the lactose in milk is converted into lactic acid by bacteria. The resultant acid begins the curdling process that eventually results in cheese, and little – if any – lactose remains at the end. Sometimes even trace amounts of lactose can trigger sensitive individuals, but cheese is usually fairly safe. A good general rule is the longer a cheese is aged, the less lactose it’ll have. Another thing to remember: the less lactose a cheese has, the less carbohydrates.

Another problematic dairy component is casein, a type of protein that makes up the bulk of the dairy proteins (along with whey). Casein is a “slow burning” protein, making it popular among body builders who place a premium on maximum absorption, but casein is also an allergen for a small segment of the population. Casein allergy is more insidious than lactose intolerance, because it can result in tearing of the gut lining (akin to celiac disease), skin rashes, breathing problems, and hives. Though it’s fairly rare, people who are allergic to casein might want to avoid cheese: when cheese is made, most of the whey protein is removed (hence, curds and whey) while most of the casein protein is retained.

So depending on your sensitivities, cheese could either be incredibly agreeable or horribly antagonistic. It exists in Primal limbo along with raw dairy, a sort of gray area. On the one hand, cheese has admirable levels of fat, protein, and flavor, but on the other, it has the lactose and casein issues (as well as another, which I’ll get to later). As such, I can’t give you a definitive answer as to whether or not you should eat cheese. Personally, I enjoy a bit of aged cheese on occasion paired with fruit or wine, or in an omelet. It’s not a staple of my diet (don’t pull a George Costanza and eat a block of cheese like an apple), but it can definitely add texture, flavor, and aroma to a dish as a sensible vice. If you’re so inclined, there’s no reason cheese couldn’t be a harmless part of a healthy Primal eating plan.

But what kind should you be eating?

It goes without saying that the ultra-processed cheese that comes in plastic sleeves or pre-shredded in bags should be avoided. That stuff isn’t real cheese; it’s cheese product engineered in a lab and loaded with preservatives and emulsifiers that render it supremely meltable, spreadable, or (shudder) spray-cannable. I liken it to fast food – it’s somewhat reminiscent of the food it purports to represent, but the amount of processing and adulterating it undergoes makes it closer to plastic than actual food we should be eating. This includes American cheese singles, Velveeta, Cheez Whiz, and most shredded cheeses.

Try to stick to grass-fed cheese, raw if possible.

Raw, Grass-Fed Cheese

The best kind of cheese, in my opinion, is raw cheese from grass-fed milk. Depending on your state or country’s stance on raw dairy products, it can be difficult to obtain, but the benefits – both in terms of nutrition and flavor – are worth the effort. Betacellulin, a potentially dangerous epidermal growth factor that has been linked to cancer, is present in most cheeses. Paleo critics often point to the betacellulin present in dairy as a major deterrent to its inclusion in a healthy diet (rightfully so), but they tend to focus on pasteurized, homogenized non-organic dairy from grain-fed cows – the most common type of dairy consumed in the country. Raw, grass-fed dairy, on the other hand, contains high levels of conjugated lineolic acid (CLA), which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Raw dairy supporters suggest that the higher levels of CLA present in raw, grass-fed cheese may act as a counterbalance to the negative effects of betacellulin also present.

Specialty grocery stores and cheese shops might carry a few types of raw cheese, but a surefire bet is to visit local farmer’s markets or family farms. Most states in the U.S. have strict regulations on raw dairy, and, since cheese requires a bit more time to develop, raw cheese can be hard to come by. As I understand it, quality cheeses in European countries are more likely to be raw and grass-fed (I hear the best Brie and Camembert in particular tend to be raw and grass-fed), so Blueprinters across the pond probably won’t have too much trouble. For those Stateside readers unable to find anything, check out Eat Wild for listings of local farms and cheesemakers.

Grass-Fed Cheese

Pasteurized grass-fed cheese isn’t chock full of the delicious bacteria common to raw dairy, but it does retain the higher levels of CLA. Grass-fed cheese, pasteurized or not, also contains the heat-resistant vitamin K2, which Weston Price asserted was the key (along with vitamin D3) to the excellent bone and dental health in the primitive (but supremely healthy) groups he studied. One recent Rotterdam study noted that consumption of Dutch foods rich in vitamin K2 – which include grass-fed cheeses like Gouda, Edam, and Leyden – had a protective effect against cardiovascular events.

Raw might be hard for many of you to find, but grass-fed shouldn’t be too difficult to come across. Stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carry various kinds, such as the Kerrygold Irish cheeses (they also make good, affordable pastured butter). Whole Foods usually has a fairly knowledgeable cheese monger who can tell you a lot about each cheese they carry (and you can sample most everything, too). If I’m ever curious about a cheese’s origins (and the workers can’t answer), I do a quick Google search of the farm’s name, and I’m usually able to get the info I want.

Goat and Sheep

For people who absolutely cannot tolerate cheese from cows (grass-fed or otherwise), give goat or sheep’s cheese a chance. Goat tends to be more tart and crumbly, while sheep’s cheese varies in flavor as much as cow’s cheese. Again, ask for samples and experiment with different kinds (while trying to stick with cheese from pasture-raised animals).

Other Types

Of course, we can’t always find grass-fed cheese. Other, more conventional cheeses are fine in moderation. The occasional cheese plate isn’t going to kill you, but if you are going to eat a cheese that isn’t organic or range-produced or raw or Primal, make sure that you enjoy it. Make sure that your sensible vice is a worthy one. After all, the best cheeses – regardless of their animal’s dietary habits – are full-flavored, with a little bit going a long way (especially with a nice glass of cab).

I don’t eat cheese very often, but when I do, these are my favorite choices:

Bucheron – A tangy semi-aged, rinded goat cheese with a semi-firm center. As you get closer to the rind, the cheese gets softer, almost gooey. It’s like having two cheeses in one, and letting it mature heightens the difference between the two layers.

Gouda – A Dutch cow’s milk cheese, Gouda (especially aged Gouda) is full flavored. The longer it ages, the sharper and firmer it gets. I like my Goudas aged and find the young ones a bit too mild.

Cheddar – The classic. Aged cheddar, in my opinion, is the only way to have it: sharper, denser, and with less lactose.

Blue Castello – An intense blue-veined cheese, Blue Castello is creamy and overpowering. A decent-sized wedge will last me for a month; it’s that flavorful a cheese.

Feta – Feta can be made with goat, sheep, or cow’s milk, and I love it all. It crumbles well and goes great with salads.

Grok probably didn’t eat cheese. But like chocolate, wine and other sensible vices, it doesn’t mean we can’t fit this more civilized food into a Primal lifestyle if we just know the loopholes. I hope this was a helpful, general guide to cheese. I’d be interested to hear your views on this particular incarnation of the much-maligned dairy. Anyone else have favorites?

Further Reading:

The Original Sensible Vices

Sensible Vices: Round 2

Is All Chocolate Created Equal?

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109 thoughts on “Is All Cheese Created Equal?”

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  1. A question about lactose intolerance: Doesn’t the lactase present in raw milk and burned off in pasteurization curb the effects of lactose intolerance?

    1. Lactose intolerant means your body can’t produce lactase, the enzyme naturally attached to milk sugar for its own digestion.
      Therefor nobody is lactose intolerant to RAW milk because the enzyme is present and alive and takes on a different path in the body.

      Pasteurization destroys lactase and turns lactose into beta-lactose, a mutilated, denatured piece of lactose that our bodies don’t recognize.

    2. Another bacteria/enzyme that helps digest lactose is e. coli. I know it has a modern stigma, but e. coli should account for 0.1% of a healthy gut flora. As the gut heals, becomes stronger, and the bacteria constitution evens out, people should be able to digest wholesome dairy portions in moderation. 🙂

    3. Actually the Mayo Clinic calls it milk protein intolerance.

  2. Thank you for all the cheese info! I have been trying to live by the PB for almost a month now, and I am doing pretty well (lots of weight loss that I need thank you!) but I was missing cheese hard core.

    Last night I was craving cheese and had made some of those carb-free buns from a link from your site so I really wanted to make burgers. I used cheddar, but the best quality I could find at my local chain grocery store was Kraft (shudder) but made without hormones and antibiotics. I have to remember to get a little of the good stuff when I visit the health food store and keep it around for times like last night.

    1. I lost a lot of weight when i chose a vegan diet. A very interesting and informative video is

      Gary Yourofsky’s Best Ever Speech -on youtube

      which totally opened up my eyes to the health benefits and also ways to respect and help animals which are being hurt for us. Its quite a long video but something that will really stretch how you think and help you- you will be glad you’ve watched it. My health improvements are enormous since going vegan. There are many online websites and support vegan groups online with the most amazing and unusual recipes. I’ve loved being a vegan…its led me to so many discoveries… why not give it a go? 🙂

  3. I LOVE cheese. Pretty much any kind. I’m lactose intolerant (like most people) and I always wondered why cheese didn’t bother me so that’s definitely good to know!

    As for cheese/milk being primal or not, I’d say it is for sure in my opinion. Horses were domesticated long before the agricultural revolution and there is ample evidence of people using horse milk for all kinds of things.

    In any case, I think it’s a delicious source of fat and definitely splurge on the good stuff. My personal favorites are goat’s cheese and brie. The older the better.

    1. Actually lactose intolerant has nothing to do with lactose that’s why the Mayo Clinic calls it milk protein intolerance. It’s really all about pasteurization and homogenization.

      1. Thank you for writing that. Most people are not lactose intolerant (some truly are) but the majority of individuals are intolerant of the terribly low quality milk that floods the market. The reason milk was pasteurized was to kill off bacteria that should not be in the milk to begin with. True healthy dairy cows and goats do not produce rotten milk.

        Something a lot of people do not realize is that raw milk, cheese and butter are essential for good teeth health. Also properly fermented (not cooked) cod liver oil is too. These contain fat soluble vitamins, A, D (the hormone), and K2. These are essentials to have strong teeth. I cannot stress this enough.

        I love the primal diet. I just want to make sure that it is understood that quality raw dairy should not be discarded because it is so good for your health.

  4. Once again, very nice article. I’m definetly still consuming waayy too much dairy. But at least I do make yogurt and kefir on my own now, even though I still don’t use raw milk yet.

    I guess I have to take it one step on a time, but unfortunately the last days I started to eat some more dairy again. Emptied a 300ml can of self-made kefir today, but then again, my gut is causing a little trouble right now and so I think, it wasn’t the worst thing to do.
    I could also make coconut milk kefir, that would solve the problem. Guess I’ll have to look into that a little more and slowly cut down the dairy.

    What about mozzarella btw?

  5. JE Gonzalez

    Some people find that raw milk works where “regular” doesn’t. However most people can’t take either. You have to figure it out for yourself.

    Nina: I’m surprised you can’t find better cheese in your local chain. Most have a display case full of it. This is a loss leader: people pass the display, think cheese, and buy the kraft nearby. One of the tricks the stores use to get you to buy something that wasn’t on your list. However they generally stock some nice cheeses in that display once you think to look inside instead of passing it for where the kraft cheese is. (This trick can help you find a lot of other higher quality stuff in your local chain – though eventually you may want to go elsewhere)

    Of course maybe your area is different. I can only comment on the stores I’ve been in.

    1. That is very true. It is easy to overlook the good cheeses. But most lactose intolerant have no problem with raw milk. Some may have to ease into it with kefir and yogurt. Some people just don’t like milk.

  6. question. I heard that dairy contains a lot of estrogen compounds from the cows, which isn’t exactly a hormone I feel like boosting. Is this true, or do you think the Saturated fat in the dairy will offset the estrogen by raising T-levels…also I heard about this in terms of milk, bu is it the same for cheese, or does the aging process effect the estrogen levels?

  7. Good cheese is very tasty especially when added to things like eggs….Yummy. I’ve seen too many overweight people addicted to cheese…so like I tell them, add as compliment to a meal (like some cheese on eggs) have at it….as the meal itself (like eating a whole bar with crackers) not a good idea.

  8. Mike- excellent question, wish I had the answer.I’m sure someone out there will. I’d like to know myself as I’m estrogen dominant (working on fixing that!)
    As for raw milk cheeses – if you live in NYC you can get them at the Farmer’s Markets. But you cannot get raw milk here unless you have a cowshare (but we can still buy it in CT). I think a little raw milk cheese is a fine thing and I love all of it – sheep’s milk yogurt, goat cheese, raw milk gruyere…I probably eat too much! But a day without cheese is like a hug without the squeeze, as my grandpa used to say.

  9. You’ve hit me in my weak spot. I LOVE cheese (the good stuff). My favorite right now is an organic cheddar aged for 5 years. It’s sooo good.

    We’re lucky to have a strong cheese culture here in Quebec and it is pretty easy to find artisanal cheeses. Unfortunately, a small outbreak of food poisoning from cheese sent everyone into panic mode and sent a lot of cheese makers into financial trouble.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Cheers,
    Adam

    1. It’s called diarrhea and there is little evidence that it has anything to do with food other than it’s possible lack of nutrition. Don’t stipulate to their propaganda.

  10. Fortunately, I only can “stand” cheese in limited quantities… EXCEPT for parmesan. That is a huge weakness, but only the super good stuff directly from Italy (and then the price tag keeps the quantity limited). Like the post on yoga yesterday, its about a balance. Cheese (and some dairy), IMO, can be added into that Primal balance.

  11. Good post Mark. I know you covered something similar in “Did Grok grow the cheese plate?” but this is really good. Personally, I really enjoy the taste of cheese, but am very lactose intolerant! Bummer!

    1. Lactose intolerance has nothing to do with lactose. That’s why the Mayo Clinic calls it milk protein intolerance. It’s really all about pasteurization and homogenization.

  12. Grok probably didn’t eat cheese, but, assuming for a moment that our paleolithic friend lived in the Mediterranean, he probably didn’t eat olives or their oil, either. I’ve met a few dairy-tolerant paleolithic eaters who nevertheless insist on avoiding dairy while happily consuming large quantities of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, most assuredly a neolithic food – but I digress.

    Personally, grass-fed butter is a staple of my diet, and I ate Kerrygold (absolutely delicious stuff) before I knew that it was grass-fed – or healthy. There are a lot of things I’d give up before I’d ever think about giving up omelets cooked in butter. With the large caveat that the majority of humans on the planet can’t tolerate it, I don’t think raw, grass-fed dairy is at all bad for those who do and, therefore, I wouldn’t classify it as a vice myself.

    1. Grok probably ate curds and whey. Lactose intolerance has nothing to do with lactose. That’s why the Mayo Clinic calls it milk protein intolerance. It’s really all about pasteurization and homogenization. Most lactose intolerant have no problem with raw milk. Some may have to ease into it with kefir and yogurt. Food allergies can take a few months on a good diet to cure. Some people just don’t like milk. Lactose malabsorbers are generally not lactose intolerant.

      1. Back when I could get good raw dairy, I had absolutely no problems and plenty of energy. But the guy sold the cow and I can’t find anyone who works cleanly when milking. I am a big proponent of RAW dairy.

  13. Thanks for talking about this topic more! I’ve been trying to decide what to do about dairy as I move more to a primal diet so this i very helpful.

    I’ve only been reading MDA for about 4 months and I’ve seen you make references to past dairy related posts, but so far, I’ve had a hard time tracking them down through your search function.

    Could you provide some links to previous dairy posts?

    Thank you!

  14. Thank you for this post. I have been wondering about cheese for some time now. My hopes are that grass feed beef and raw cheese and milk will become more conveniently available and less expensive!!

  15. Excellent post. I’m a huge fan of raw goat cheddar. Our Whole Foods has a number of raw and grass-fed cheeses.

  16. My favorite, from Spain, Drunken goat cheese. AMAZING.
    Mark, you would like the aged variety.
    It’s called drunken because they dip the wheel of cheese in wine. It gives the rind a reddish color.
    I buy it every now and then as a special treat.

    Marc

  17. Last night’s dinner: 2 egg omlette (locally grown eggs) with spinach, chopped brussel sprouts & topped with feta… ’nuff said

  18. Mark – thanks for all this info as it was really great to hear the facts on cheeses. I love cheese but since going primal several months ago I have got use to the idea that cheese needs to be eaten sensibly.

    Previously before PB I use to be on low fat everything. I use to think simply that if the cheese was low in fat that it was good for you…HA! So with dramatic changes I now hardly have hard cheeses but if I do I aim to eat the very mature sharp cheeses. The main cheese I now eat is feta both cow’s and goat’s and am yet to try sheep. I find also cheese like Brie and Camembert great for the times you ‘need’ to have some cheese and wine followed by the dark chocolate which is a fantastic combination that I have no problem having on the weekend.

    I do have a question though, is Parmesan cheese ok as an aged cheese?

  19. Your point about the American love affair with dairy is well-taken. A few years back I had occasion to spend a week with a German national. He was surprised by the amount of milk we drink.

  20. gilty of munching on them with no discipline…

    so I only buy them when I REALLY want them, when I do, I just finish them all at once…I’m not so sensible on my vices…=(

    =P
    mouth watering …

  21. I am fortunate to have access to raw milk which I use to make kefir. The same dairy farmer provides me with raw milk butter and homemade cheeses. I rarely buy the cheese even though it is tasty. I think it goes back to my days of wrapped single slice “cheese food.” My friend and I usually made it into little balls and shot it at each other through straws and rarely ended up eating it. Maybe we were smarter than we realized.

    I think dairy in moderation is fine if you can tolerate it, but if you have to ask, you are probably overdoing it a bit. If you don’t have access to the better quality stuff I would definitely cut back or eliminate it altogether.

    I highly recommend making kefir. It is so easy and is a good source of probiotic bacteria. Yum!

  22. Great post! Once again Mark, it’s like you were reading my mind. Cheese is one thing I’ve been having a hard time abstaining from or leaving out of my daily diet. I have actually been thinking to myself that I wish I knew which cheeses to buy so I can instead get the “right” ones. This definitely helps a ton.

  23. Thank you! I’ve been searching and searching and just found a local source of grass-fed beef at the Eat Wild link contained in this article!!

    Now if I could just find someone local who makes raw, grass-fed cheese…

  24. “How else would you explain the US, one of the biggest dairy consumers in the world, having some of the highest osteoporosis rates?”

    Maybe because as a nation we are obsessed with cutting out the fat… which results in a vitamin K2 deficity? Doesn’t matter how much calcium you get if your body can’t use it.

    I really liked this post.

    I wrote this for an earlier post, but all humans are born with the ability to utilize milk. Human, cow, goat, sheep and any other mammal are similar in structure and composition. Milk is THE ultimate primitive food. The first food you ever get. However, like other mammals, as the human body matures it loses the ability to produce the enzymes required to use milk. Certain groups of humans evolved to continue producing enzymes allowing them to remain lactose and casein tolerant. Look at Maasai tribe in Africa. They STILL live a primitive style of life off of milk almost exclusively. And they are in excellent physical fitness, live long lives, and are extremely healthy.

    I have been eating the PB diet with the exception of cheese (as much as I want) and four cups of whole milk (no access to raw milk, I wish I did though!) drank after every time I workout. (I work out Five/Six days a week, one or two times a day. I alternate weightlifting, calisthenics, swimming, and walking. I also play Rugby, and haven’t felt this good on the pitch sense I was in college.) I have lost 17 lbs, 4.5 inches around my waist, and increased cardiovascular (anaerobic and aerobic) capabilities while maintaining all my strength… in the last two months. If I don’t drink the milk, I don’t have the energy to workout as much. With the milk, I am bouncing off the walls all day.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Cheese is the one thing I refuse to give up right now. I have no problem with lactose and have kept my PB diet fairly strict except for the cheese, and wine on the weekends. I am only 3 weeks in and have only lost 5 lbs so I have been wondering about the cheese. I plan to cut down on nuts instead. I love this way of eating and have not missed a thing.

    2. “Human, cow, goat, sheep and any other mammal are similar in structure and composition.”

      Not at all. The composition of milk varies massively between species. eg seal and whale milk contains up to 55% fat (more than double cream).

      Human milk has 70% less protein, 50% more lactose and 10% more fat than cow’s milk.

      The proteins in non-human milk have different structures to those found in human milk. That is why non-human milk is potentially highly allergenic.

      1. Pasteurized, homogenized milk is highly allergenic. Raw milk is not.

    3. Lactose intolerance has nothing to do with lactose. That’s why the Mayo Clinic calls it milk protein intolerance. It’s really all about pasteurization and homogenization. Most lactose intolerant have no problem with raw milk. Some may have to ease into it with kefir and yogurt. Food allergies can take a few months on a good diet to cure. Some people just don’t like milk. Lactose malabsorbers are generally not lactose intolerant.

  25. Question. What do you think Mark, (or please-anybody else), about raw whole milk for a post workout drink? Should the fat be a consideration in slowing down the protein absorption?

  26. We are lucky enough to have raw sheep’s milk cheese (Manchego) at the local grocer. Great stuff, if you can find it.

  27. Ellen,

    As insulin sensitive as you will become on the PB diet, your muscles will be plenty able to take in the nutrients. Plus, the whey protein in the milk is even more bio-available then egg protein (which is the standard). You will get plenty of protein and sugar as a post workout drink. The fat will damper the insulin/blood sugar response a little bit, but you probably don’t want that large of a swing ever, even post workout. Then the casein protein, in combination with the fat, absorbs slowly, giving you a positive nitrogen balance for a good amount of time; time enough to eat again. I am a big fan. Also, it is relatively cheap, ubiquitous, and tasty when it comes to sport supplements.

    Tate

  28. Inspired by this post, yesterday I went out and got a little bit of sheep’s cheese. Fantastic.

  29. When I was eating a vegetarian/vegan diet, I craved cheese — probably craving fat I suppose! Now that I’ve reintroduced meat in the form of fatty fish or good beef, I really don’t feel those same cravings and cheese, good cheese, has taken it’s “rightful” place as a secondary component of my diet. The primal approach seems to be working much better for me overall.

    1. Oh, thats funny, the longer I am vegan ( over 5 years now, maybe 6- losing track!! ) the LESS I crave cheese. I just don’t find I want that kind of food anymore. I’ve also found my health has improved so enormously I just wouldn’t want to go back. I get a lot of fats from olive oil ( with spices) mashed into chick peas and baked or fried when i have veggies. Or olive oil baked veggies in the oven- or occasionally coconut fat ( which is delicious) put as whole block into sprout and butter bean stew – which has soya milk base- its down with few spices also and comes out VERY thick and creamy- its BEYOND delicious- and is an example of vegan cooking which is great because when we lay aside the meat and dairy we have to really ” go back to what the plant world offers”- and we discover things we NEVER would as long as we rely so heavily on animals. We also have mashed bananas with cocoa mashed in a frozen for icecream– and we make cakes with olive healthy oils which are just as ”stodgy” and frequently more delicious- but ALWAYS healthier than the non-vegan cakes……. I just LOVE being vegan- ( around 6 yrs now) as the health benefits are beyond what i could have hoped for. I get probiotc non dairy yogurt and there is vegan kefir and natto of course…..we eat almond and rasberry ccake puddings with non-dairy milk custards on top. Stews with vegan-fat gorgeous dumplings, enchilladas, refried beans, the best tomato sauces, fries and lasagne and spaghetti with garlic breads and imaginative salads……chocolate fudge brownies with demerara sugar – you name it and we get it. Vegan cheeses are getting better constantly with the mold/culture chives and hot pepper varieties. All of this yumminess- but NONE of the cholesterol or high fats- or cruelty. Its much more challenging – but also more rewarding than the paleo. The only problem of vitaminb12 and vit D are easily dealt with by using yeast spread and kefir and sunlight and eating dandelion leaves with cherry tomatos on dropped on top of a stew…… for a very informative video please watch Gary Yourofsky’s Best Ever speech on youtube and it will really open up your eyes…. thankyou for reading this… being vegan is really a very good thing!!! 🙂 🙂

  30. I went off of cheese for a detox for 3 weeks…. never really craved it again! I used to eat it everyday on my salads or heaven forbid… GASP – CHEESE WHIZ with nachos!

    I do ocassionally have some goat cheese, but I will now ready the label more clearly to see what exactly I’m ingesting! (I’m scared!)

  31. P.S. Calcium from milk and cheese? Pssshhhh… get it from broccoli!

  32. Been working with a Paleo/Warrior diet for a few weeks now saddled on the back of a few months of Atkins/SB- Low Carb style diet. Id rather eat dairy than soy products like tofu or any of the oils. Real butter is part of my daily diet (joy of fats) and I adore Greek Style yogurt (Fage or Trader Joe’s). Cheeses but not everyday.

    Nice work Mark

  33. We have a mass of different cheeses in the UK, and more from over the water in Europe. OK not totally primal but we graze cows on land not usable for other forms of cropping, and the manure is spread onto arable land so it fits into current agriculture quite nicely and reduces dependency on high tech fertilisers.

    Not good with milk (too many carbs) but butter and especially cheese are good stuff for sat fats and seem to have a built in can’t eat too much factor.

    I like real farmhouse type cheddar (used to live near Cheddar, it’s a place you know) also Brie which we produce in the UK at least as well as in France. And goat cheese. Well, and almost every other kind. The ultimate taste experience is Orkney Smoked Cheese. Never used to travel far south from Scotland but thanks to the internet now available by mail order, I don’t know how well it would travel to your side of the Atlantic and through Customs though.

  34. If two thirds of the world’s population is lactose intolerant that must mean there are a of people walking around who are and don’t know it. What exactly are the symptoms? How would you know if you were? Doesn’t mother’s milk have lactose? Or is this a case of entire populations of people (India, China come to mind) being deemed lactose intolerant because their cuisines and diets don’t feature dairy foods. A statement that “two-thirds of the world’s population is lactose intolerant” is one of those factoids that is meaningless without some context.

    1. Use of dairy in Indian cuisine varies by region; the more affluent areas use dairy (ghee, yogurt, paneer [acid-set fresh cheese similar to ricotta but pressed into blocks] etc–more in the northern part of the country. The drier, less food-secure areas use more legumes; dairy in these areas is too expensive for mass consumption. So, I doubt if Indians (who are Caucasian, BTW) are as a whole lactose-intolerant.

      1. The Mayo Clinic calls it milk protein intolerance. It’s really all about pasteurization and homogenization. Most lactose intolerant have no problem with raw milk.

    2. Factoid for sure. Lactose intolerance has nothing to do with lactose. That’s why the Mayo Clinic calls it milk protein intolerance. It’s really all about pasteurization and homogenization. Most lactose intolerant have no problem with raw milk.

  35. There are different severities of lactose intolerance. I for one, can drink milk, but things like ice cream and yogurt bother me. My husband can only eat cheese. We both end up with stomach cramps and sometimes mild nausea.

    Yes, mother’s milk has lactose as well, but that’s the thing, since we evolved to eventually transition to solid foods, our bodies evolved to stop producing the digestive compounds to break down the milk in our digestive tracts. If you’re not going to need it, why both producing it?

    About 1/3 of the population (mostly from East Indian decent) continue to produce the enzyme through adulthood. One theory is that they domesticated cows early enough that their bodies adapted but I can’t be sure.

    People aren’t considered lactose intolerant just because they don’t eat it, it’s because in one way or another their body rejects milk products. Since cheese has a lot less lactose in it, that’s why even people who are intolerant can generally eat it without problem.

    1. Theory is right. Lactose intolerance has nothing to do with lactose. That’s why the Mayo Clinic calls it milk protein intolerance. It’s really all about pasteurization and homogenization. Most lactose intolerant have no problem with raw milk.

  36. Good article, but it’s a bit confused on vitamin K2.

    K2 in cheese comes from the bacteria during the fermentation process and has nothing to do with the origin of the milk. Cheese from factory-farmed, grain-fed cows will have as much K2 as 100% pastured cows.

    And the various strains of cheese bacteria produce varying amounts of K2, from none to a lot. Cheddar cheese has little K2, whereas Emmenthaler and Jarlsberg have a lot. The Swiss-type cheeses with the bacteria-gas holes have by far the most K2

  37. Hi Mark,

    I’ve been a regular visitor to your site for last 2 months or so! Awesome stuff and it all really makes sense. I’m glad you’re realistic about our modern lifestyle too and inlcude some loopholes! I’m almost totally Primal, bread and pasta and potatoes have long gone, as has almost all dairy (occassionally a dash of milk in coffee) the only thing I’m really stugglng with is my morning oats (wihtout milk) I’ve gone over to buckwheat and will try to wean off that too.

    anyway thanks for all your work and inspiration.

    grok on!
    m

  38. What’s your opinion on Swiss? I love Alpine Lace and Baby Swiss, and I doomed if I eat 1-2 slices every other day?

  39. I used to think I was lactose intolerant, but when I switched off of pasturized and homogenized milk, and started drinking raw mik I haven’t had any digestive problems whatsoever. It’s amazing because I was downing those lactase pills everyday with a glass of milk, but now I don’t need them at all. Likewise with raw cheese (mostly sharp white cheddar) too.

  40. Great post, Mark!

    One of my favourite snacks – or even desserts, really, is thinly-sliced Asiago cheese topped onto slices of Roma or Gala apples, with some olive oil drenched on top.

    Absolutely delicious!

  41. Definitely one of my favorite snacks. Keeping it within reason after going primal. But lucky me, I am one of the few who have no problems with dairy.

  42. As a Dutch Blueprinter I’m very relieved to hear I don’t have to give up my cheese necessarily! Among my favorites are: anything blue (Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Rochebaron), Feta, Mozzarella and the best of all: Huttenkase!

  43. I had no idea that feta cheese was actually healthy. It’s in ridiculous abundance here in Greece. I can find it anywhere and in different forms. Soft, hard, salty or less savoury. I do love it in my eggs. Guess I’ll use it as my cheese of choice. We usually avoid it due to its high salt content. Opinions?

  44. So, if you are fermenting pastured raw dairy and cream long enough to get rid of the lactose, why not make it a large part of the diet? Is there something I’m missing here? It certainly has a lot more to offer than vegetables and butter is less fattening than olive oil.

  45. Just a quick question about casein… I was under the impression that it is a cow’s milk protein only? Is it also present in goat and sheep’s milk (cheese)? I’ve been eating more of the goat cheese lately which takes less for more flavour!

  46. Hi!
    I’m wondering what you think about halloumi? I use to eat pretty much of this, makes an excellent lunch (halloumi, bacon, mushrooms, onion, fry it..) and it’s so full of protein and practically no carbs. What’s your opinion to it?
    /H

  47. the cheese thats wrapped in plastic is cheese and its not a plastic product. when cheese is processed is gets inflected with all sorts of bacteria, ecoli for example. whats happens to this cheese? it gets reprocessed at extremely high temperatures so that all the bacteria is killed. thats it.

    regard

  48. I get my cheese from Neal’s Yard dairy in Covent Garden. You can smell the place a mile away, its a fantastic place for primal cheese aficionados. They make unpasteurised, raw, organic aged cheeses! Nom nom nom.

  49. As a food safety specialist I would greatly weigh the risks of unpasteurized cheese especially for pregnant women and people with certain immune diseases. Unfortunately even grass fed healthy animals carry bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes is found in the soil and therefore, is present in high numbers on the animal (as we farmers know, animals love mud!). E. coli O157:H7 is a normal bacteria found in the GI tract of cattle and other red meat animals. As widely publicized this summer, Listeria infections can cause death in immune-compromised individuals and causes miscarriage and stillbirth. These bacterias are found in most farm environments naturally as part of the flora normally found in the soil and around animals. While research has shown E. coli O157:H7 is less prevalent in grass fed, it is still present especially where calves are present (think dairy). Individuals should always consult a number of scientific and health care sources if they are considering adding raw dairy to their diet so they can weigh all the risks. Of course, unpasteurized is a great risk to pregnant women as bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, that normally do not harm a healthy individual, can cause severe infections and death of the fetus.

    1. You sound very educated in this, however, you do know that a farmer who sells ‘raw’ dairy has to not only adhere to strict (extremely strict) methods to ensure sterility, but they also test every single batch before it is sold?

      There was also a study that was conducted back in the 60’s, comparing raw milk and pasteurized milk, sold side by side and the pasteurized milk had more incidences of some kind of ‘contagion’.

      The facts are, there is ALWAYS a risk, but just make sure that you take proper measures.

    2. Missy, As a food safety specialist you profit from human suffering. Fresh food is vital especially for pregnant women and people with certain immune diseases. Cities have soil to. Humans have normal flora to.

  50. What about cream cheese? I know that it is processed and yeah, it comes in a shiny silver sleeve 🙂

  51. is it ok to grate cheese on your omlette everyday? what if you are on a weight loss program?

  52. one of the best articles i’ve read in regards to diet, couldn’t’ve articulated my feelings on cheese much more accurately. ditto for the dairy/milk article.

    kudos!

    chris

  53. I love cheese. I do prefer the more natural options though. I was excited when I found some from grass-fed cows. Will I ever give up cheese? Never.

    The only dairy I get is heavy cream for my coffee. Along with all the other changes I’ve made with my diet, I’m still doing wayyyy better than my previous diet.

  54. Personally I consider “Gouda” cheese, something for tourists. Nasty stuff you buy in the supermarkets or at an airport shop. I prefer organic cheese from Netherlands, especially ‘farm made’ (boerenkaas). That should be raw milk enough and tastes great.

    Finding (proven) grass fed beef and -eggs, that is hard over here in the Netherlands. Plenty of meadows over here, but that doesn’t mean the livestock is eating it…

    1. Side note–saw in an article awhile back about poperly sizing bicycles to the rider’s body that mentioned that now the Dutch are on average the tallest people in the world; the AVERAGE Dutch man is 6 feet tall. Genetics? All that yummy dairy?? Hard to say.

  55. I just did a little happy dance. I love dairy and it just made me sad that paleo, which works SO well for me, doesn’t include dairy. I’m going straight out and buying some full fat cream and raw cheese. Yay!

  56. Well I live in Greece and any cheese we get from the supermarket is either goat’s or sheep’s milk cheese, and usually from a farm that I could actually visit.. I’ve been paleo for more that a year and this kind of cheese has been my staple..Just wanted to say that if you do everything right, some cheese wont hurt you!!

  57. goat’s milk can be made into just about any cheese that is traditionally made from cow’s milk. We use the milk from our goat to make camembert that is wonderfully creamy, smooth with a hint of tart. I also blend our goat cheese with a varieyt of herbs and vinegars before serving and I also use plain goat cheese in place of ricotta and cream cheese in recipes (cheese cake – yum)

  58. My local Wegmans has a good selection of grass fed cheese and grass fed beef only problem is the high prices 🙁

  59. quick question, is grass fed cheese the same a grass fed cheddar cheese?

    1. Cheddar is just one type of cheese– so not all grass fed cheese is grass fed cheddar, but grass fed cheddar is a grass fed cheese.

  60. The Short Answer: NO! I disagree with your short answer being YES. I studied Nutrition in college and cheese has very little real nutritional value also there is research that indicates the fat content in cheese can actually inhibit the absorption of the calcium. Even though some FAT is NECESSARY for nutrient absorption. Besides this is not the natural healthy fats found in unprocessed foods that the human body really needs.

    1. How is fat from a natural food like cheese not a “natural healthy” fat? Studying nutrition in college is no shortcut for actual knowledge of nutrition (they’re still teaching the lipid hypothesis).

  61. Why every time there is a question about dairy, we must bring the lactose intolerance subject.
    -If you have a lactose intolerance you should NOT consume dairy. Period. It’s not a question whether dairy is good or not, you just have lactose intolerance.

    Now the question is:
    As far as the people who are NOT lactose intolerant, should they consume dairy or not ?

  62. Milk was the culprit for my migraines, lower back pain and painful spasms/cramps around groin area. And I would wake up next morning with a soar throat if I drank a cold glass of milk the night before.

    I drank a glass of milk daily before bed everyday, but woke up next morning with above issues throughout the day. Never thought milk was the culprit.

    Haven’t drank milk (or any dairy products) in a year so no more pains. I put creamer in my coffee and had a headache, which lead me to believe my allergies to Sodium Caseinate as well.

    1. Raw milk is a super-food. Pasteurized dairy is a toxic energy supplement.

  63. What a great site! What I am hoping to learn is to ask everyone here why I get REALLY sick when eating uncooked dairy (milk) products. I have had this issue since I was very young, maybe since around 7-8 years old.

    What happens to me is if I eat a milk/dairy product (and only now by mistake since I am aware of the problem) is that in about 18 to 36 hours or so I will become what feels like a deathly illness. Symptoms I experience are a mid-level fever, body chills/sweats, a bad sore throat, a bad earache and a nose that requires constant alternation between needing and then not needing the constant use of a Kleenex product. At the time I experience these problems, there are zero abdominal issues whatsoever. Along with this, I feel like I constantly need water though drinkly a lot postpones this desire for a “long” time. I’ve had my blood work checked twice in the past 6 months and I am not diabetic. Diabetes has not occurred in my family backgound to great great grandparents.

    1. I have searched for an explanation as to why it happens to me if I accidentally eat milk for more than two decades now. Every doctor I have asked has only speculations. The most plausible answer I ever heard was from a NP. She said, in essence, that my body is of a type that can digest dairy type foods but is only just barely able to do so. In order to do so, my body needs and uses an enormous amount of energy. That energy spent on digestion of the dairy product takes so much energy away from everything else (including the immune response ) so the latent germs which are always present on the body have free reign in the body to roam free unchecked and cause problems.
    I discovered this web site on 10-07-14. The Paleo diet plan looks like a great way to go for a permanent change. I went to the grocery store that evening and bought up about 6 days of food that match the Paleo diets suggestions. I threw out everything that didn’t fit the bill and I began eating that way on 10-08-14. I look forward to what I will look like and feel like in 30 days. I previously followed the “fat is Evil” model. The model was that your goal was to eat less calories of any type followed by vigorous exercise.

    Sure is nice to eat eggs, bacon and beef instead of rice cakes, wheat brea unIess I am allergic to it?

    I wonder!

  64. Does anyone know where can one get grass fed cheese in Melbourne Australia?

  65. I don’t have access to grass-fed AND raw cheese. What would be the next best option? Raw, or grass-fed? I think I heard Chris Kresser say that raw is a good choice because the laws for raw milk/cheese producers are so astringent. Would you agree?

  66. It’s rather perplexing to read how difficult it is for a lot of you guys to find non processed milk and cheese. Not to champion Ireland too much (:)) but we really are spoilt here when it comes to quality food produce.

    Big governments have a lot to answer to namely high health bills due to hormone and corn syrup injected foods. You should all come to Ireland. 🙂

  67. I accidentally left a bar of extra sharp cheddar cheese in my car , when I took it out this evening the package was full of oil ,why is this? Do the manufacturers put oil in the cheese? If so why? If I wanted oil I would have bought a bottle of my choice

  68. I eat anywhere between 4 -6 Oz of cheese a day including brie de meaux various other United cheeses and even pasturized cheese. I don’t think the problem lies in the pasteurization process necessarily, but rather the homogenization of most commercial milk. Heating milk to 200 some odd degrees isn’t really all that high and I’m skeptical as to whether raw dairy contains the enzymes to digest itself…it’s akin to the very erroneous raw, “living food” arguments. If you can’t find any unhomgenized, non anti biotic, non hormone milk then go for aNY quality cheese of which homogenization would be counter intuitive. Dairy is incredible with so many nutrients and pasteurization isn’t that bad as far as the digestibility is concerned (even ayurveda recommends boiling milk before drinking in order to that much easier to digest, so heating of dairy is nothing new). I think it’s high time that dairy moved from “sensible indulgence” to a “foundation fat”. Oh and this is coming from a guy with a significant ancestry of black and native American of which both ethnic groups are typically “lactose intolerant”

  69. It really does not take that much research to conclude that avoiding all dairy is a good move for people interested in their long term health.