The last thing cheese-lovers need is a health expert to justify their obsession. In their eyes, a stiff, smelly block of fromage needs no defense. Yet for the waistline conscious, more cajoling may be needed to convince them they can be eating cheese for good health.

That cheese can be a dieter’s friend will come as a surprise to many. It has a reputation as a fatty, sodium-filled indulgence, and there’s no denying that it’s rich in both; just an ounce (about a slice) of cheddar cheese will run you 9 grams of fat and 180 mg of sodium. It’s also high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

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