But some research suggests that dairy fat may not be as harmful as once thought. A 2018 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involving almost 3,000 men and women ages 65 and older, found no connection between levels of fatty acids in the blood from dairy and a higher risk of heart disease or death from any cause.
Still, you don’t want to consume too much of any kind of saturated fat. “The dose makes the poison,” says Alexandra Salcedo, RDN, a clinical dietitian at UC San Diego Health. In a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, replacing just 5 percent of saturated fat with the unsaturated kind—found in foods like nuts, olive oil, and avocados—reduced heart disease risk up to 25 percent.
For a healthy portion, stick with 1 or 2 ounces. “Savor cheese, but stretch it,” Salge Blake says. Use a cheese knife (it yields thinner slices), and pick a flavorful variety like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Stilton, or feta so that you’ll be satisfied with a smaller helping.