Are macaroni and cheese healthy? (3 health risks)
In this article, we will answer the following question: “Are macaroni and cheese healthy?” and discuss what makes macaroni and cheese a less healthy option to include in your diet, the benefits and drawbacks of eating macaroni and cheese.
Are macaroni and cheese healthy?
Macaroni and cheese are not considered healthy because it is a processed food that contains a high amount of fats in its composition, including saturated fat, along with a high concentration of sodium (1).
The long-term consumption of foods containing high amounts of fat, especially saturated fats, is related to obesity and diabetes, while the long-term ingestion of foods containing high amounts of sodium is related to kidney diseases and increased blood pressure (2,3).
Are macaroni and cheese unhealthy?
Yes, macaroni and cheese is an unhealthy option in the diet due to the high amount of saturated fat and sodium in its composition.
According to the information provided by the manufacturer of commercial ready-to-heat frozen macaroni and cheese, in one portion of the cooked product (340 g), there is 29 g of fat, corresponding to 30% of the recommended total fat ingestion in one day (1).
From the total fat content, 15 g is saturated fat, corresponding to 77% of the upper limit for this type of fat. In addition, there are 1200 mg of sodium in a portion, which equals 52% of the daily recommended ingestion of an adult.
The regular consumption of highly processed foods is related to an increased risk of developing metabolic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease (2).
What are benefits of macaroni and cheese?
The benefits of eating macaroni and cheese are the nutrients that this dish contains, which are important to include in the diet. Macaroni and cheese contain cheese, which is rich in proteins and calcium.
A portion of ready-to-heat frozen macaroni and cheese contains 27 g of proteins, and 490 mg of calcium, which corresponds to 35% of the daily needs of calcium (1). In addition, it is added with iron and vitamins of the B-complex niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and folic acid.
Proteins are important for the maintenance of muscles and bones, for body growth and metabolism and nitrogen balance of the organism (5).
Calcium is necessary for muscle and nerve contraction and for the activation of reactions, including the oxidation of fatty acids. Iron is essential for oxygen storage and transportation in the haemoglobin. Impaired ingestion of iron and calcium can lead to growth deficiencies (4).
Thiamine is an essential cofactor for the metabolism of carbohydrates and necessary for muscle function. Niacin and Riboflavin are cofactors in the cell mitochondrial respiration chain. Folic acid is essential in many metabolic pathways involving cell growth (4).
What are risks of macaroni and cheese?
The risks of eating macaroni and cheese are to have a higher risk of developing some diseases in the long-term, including obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart stroke (2,3).
Macaroni and cheese is a highly processed food and contains a high amount of fat, including a high amount of saturated fat, and a high amount of sodium. The ingestion of highly processed foods is related to an increased incidence of metabolic diseases and unhealthy patterns in the population.
The ingestion of processed food was related to an increase of more than 10 % in the risk of cancer in a study made in France and an increase of 10 % in the risk of heart disease in the UK.
Another risks of macaroni and cheese?
Another risk of macaroni and cheese is the presence of food additives, such as phosphate salts, and colourings. The increasing exposure and ingestion of these chemicals can be harmful to health, according to studies.
Allergic reactions and intoxication with long-term and cumulative effects are some of the risks related to food additives, especially for children (6).
FAQs about Mac and Cheese that you may be interested in.
In this article, we answered the question “Are macaroni and cheese healthy?” and discussed the reasons why macaroni and cheese are considered a less healthy option to be included in the diet, the benefits and drawbacks of eating macaroni and cheese.
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Deluxe four cheese mac & cheese frozen meal [Internet]. Kraftmacandcheese.com. [cited 2023 Aug 15]. Available from: https://www.kraftmacandcheese.com/products/00021000081578-deluxe-four-cheese-mac-cheese-frozen-meal/
Rauber F, da Costa Louzada ML, Steele E, Millett C, Monteiro CA, Levy RB. Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases-Related Dietary Nutrient Profile in the UK (2008–2014). Nutrients [Internet] 2018;10(5):587.
Malta D, Petersen KS, Johnson C, Trieu K, Rae S, Jefferson K, Santos JA, Wong MM, Raj TS, Webster J, Campbell NR. High sodium intake increases blood pressure and risk of kidney disease. From the Science of Salt: A regularly updated systematic review of salt and health outcomes (August 2016 to March 2017). The Journal of Clinical Hypertension. 2018 Dec;20(12):1654-65.
Huskisson E, Maggini S, Ruf M. The role of vitamins and minerals in energy metabolism and well-being. Journal of international medical research. 2007 May;35(3):277-89.
Millward DJ, Layman DK, Tomé D, Schaafsma G. Protein quality assessment: impact of expanding understanding of protein and amino acid needs for optimal health. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2008 May;87(5):1576S-81S.
Trasande L, Shaffer RM, Sathyanarayana S, Lowry JA, Ahdoot S, Baum CR, Bernstein AS, Bole A, Campbell CC, Landrigan PJ, Pacheco SE. Food additives and child health. Pediatrics. 2018 Aug 1;142(2).