We love hearing that the things we love are good for us. When researchers find benefits to cheese, chocolate, and wine, it’s a great excuse to indulge.

Of course, the story is always a little more complicated than a simple headline can convey. Nevertheless, researchers at Texas A&M have found that spermidine, a compound that certain cheeses are rich in, can prolong your life. The helpful chemical can also prevent liver fibrosis and liver cancer.

Scientists discovered the positive effects of the compound by feeding lab animals spermidine supplements. Some of the animals lived 25 percent longer than their species’ average lifespan.

The dramatic increase in lifespan only occurred in animals that ingested spermidine for their entire lives. When researchers started feeding the animals the compound later in life, lifespans only increased about 10 percent.

That’s still a major benefit for eating something you enjoy. Recent studies have confirmed that eating cheese can offer a host of other health benefits. Here are some more positive traits of cheese.

Cheese can increase your metabolism.

Yes, it’s high in fat, but cheese also contains butyrate, which helps boost the metabolism. There are other ingredients in cheese that increase the amount of butyrate in your gut, which can increase your metabolism even more.

Wedge of soft blue cheese, surrounded by figs, nuts, and cheese knife
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Butyrate has additional benefits. According to Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Karen Ansel, “One study found that the butyrate in cheese can protect against colon cancer by nourishing the cells of your colon and by reducing that inflammation that can damage the colon over time.”

Just make sure the cheese your eating has this healthful ingredient. Many imitation cheese products don’t contain the compound.

It’s good for your teeth and bones.

Cheese is packed with calcium, which helps build and protect teeth and bones. Parmesan, in particular, boasts a high dose of calcium, with about 336 milligrams in a one-ounce serving.

The phosphorus that cheese contains also helps protect teeth from lactic acid. Milk is a fine way to get these helpful minerals, but it contains far more sugar than cheese.

Cheese helps you put on muscle mass.

Adding cheese to a meal is a great way to get extra protein if you’re trying to build muscle. Cheeses that are high in fat and calories are fine if you’re putting in the hours at the gym.

Soft white cheese on cutting board with crackers
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If you want a low-calorie alternative that still has protein, try feta. The low-fat, low-calorie cheese tastes great and can be added to salads and sandwiches.

It’s great for your heart health.

Scientists have known for a while about the French paradox. It goes like this. The French eat more cheese per capita than any other country. They eat about 22 pounds per year more than Americans.

Wheels of cheese on aging shelves
Katrin Leinfellner on Unsplash

Still, the French have a very low rate of death from heart disease. Scientists have a few theories about why cheese is good for the heart, but the exact reason is not yet known. For now, we’ll just have to accept that cheese is good for you.