cheese plate

Photo: Olha_Afanasieva/istockphoto

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The Cheese Plate

What's in it: Saturated fat. According to the most recent national data on Americans' diets, our top source of this type of fat is cheese.

The belly-fat connection: Forty-one healthy participants in a small study added an extra 750 calories per day to their diets by eating muffins–half were given ones high in saturated fats and the other half, unsaturated fats–for seven weeks. Everyone gained weight (not a surprise), but those eating the saturated-fat muffins gained more total fat and visceral fat (the kind that builds up in your abdomen and around your organs) and less lean tissue than the unsaturated group.

The flatter-belly fix: You don't have to eliminate all cheese in your diet–it is a good source of calcium, after all. Try to cut back on those that are highest in saturated fat, like ricotta and cheddar. (Slightly lower-saturated-fat cheeses include mozzarella, Swiss, feta, Camembert, and goat cheese.) While cheese is the top source of this unhealthy fat in our diet, it's far from the only one. Other foods best enjoyed in moderation: grain-based desserts like cookies and cakes, pizza, ice cream, and processed meats like sausage and bacon.