At first glance, cheesecake seems like an indulgent dessert choice that is probably high in calories, fat, and sugar. It’s easy to assume this creamy, ultra-rich cake is more of a treat than something with any real nutritional value. However, cheesecake actually has some surprising health benefits that make it a better option than other sweets like regular cake, cookies, or ice cream. The main ingredients in cheesecake provide important nutrients that your body needs.
The Beneficial Ingredients in Cheesecake
The basic components of cheesecake – cream cheese, eggs, cheese, milk, and often a fruit topping – pack a nutritious punch. Here is a breakdown of the health perks of the main ingredients:
Cream cheese is the star ingredient and base of cheesecake. Cream cheese contains a good amount of protein, which can help you feel fuller for longer after eating it. The protein also helps build and maintain muscle mass.
Eggs provide even more protein for satiety and muscle building, along with vitamin D and zinc. The yolks contain antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin that support eye health.
Cheese (cream cheese along with ricotta or cottage cheese in some recipes) offers a boost of calcium for strong bones and teeth, along with protein.
Milk gives an extra calcium kick and vitamin D too. Dairy milk also contains vitamin A, magnesium, and potassium.
Antioxidants and Key Micronutrients
In addition to protein, cheesecake provides antioxidants and several micronutrients that offer important health benefits:
- Antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C (especially if fruit is added), selenium, and zinc help combat inflammation and cell damage throughout the body.
- Vitamin A supports immune system functioning, eye health, and cell growth.
- Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium to strengthen bones and teeth.
- Zinc assists immune system functioning and cell division.
- Phosphorus helps strengthen bones and generate energy in cells.
Less Sugar Than Other Popular Desserts
Cheesecake has less added sugar than many traditional desserts like cake, cookies, and ice cream. For example, a thin slice of NY style cheesecake has around 20-30 grams of sugar, while a slice of chocolate cake can have 40-50 grams. A small scoop of ice cream often has over 25 grams of sugar too.
The protein and fat in cheesecake helps prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar that are seen when consuming foods high in sugar alone. Less dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar provide more consistent energy levels.
The substantial amounts of protein and fat in cheesecake lead to increased satiety and fullness. This means cheesecake can prevent overeating compared to eating sugary sweets.
Protein takes a long time to digest, so your body feels satisfied for hours after eating cheesecake. Protein also suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin.
Dietary fats like those in cream cheese, eggs, and cheese help release satiety hormones like CCK, leaving you feeling full and reducing subsequent calorie intake.
Enjoy Cheesecake in Moderation
While cheesecake does contain some beneficial nutrients, it is still a high calorie food that should be enjoyed in moderation. A good rule of thumb is to stick to a serving size of one thin slice of cheesecake, or a mini/single-serve cheesecake.
Limit cheesecake to a couple times per week at most as part of an overall balanced diet. Be mindful of your portion size and pair it with more nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
The Bottom Line
Cheesecake has gotten a bad reputation as being extremely indulgent and unhealthy. However, in reality, it provides important nutrients like protein, calcium, antioxidants, and vitamins. Cheesecake offers more nutritional value than other popular desserts due to its main ingredients of cream cheese, eggs, and cheese. It can promote satiety and blood sugar control compared to sugary sweets when enjoyed in moderation. So go ahead and enjoy a slice of cheesecake guilt-free once in awhile!
Bethany is an experienced food writer and recipe developer whose popular site Grangefarmschool.org provides home cooks with approachable recipes, cooking tips, and practical kitchen advice. Her thoroughly-tested recipes and inviting photography aim to make cooking fun and fulfilling for cooks of all levels.