Blue cheese with its distinctive flavor and pungent aroma isn’t for everyone. But once you start to savor the flavor, it can be hard to resist. And while blue cheese is an indulgence in terms of calories and fat, it may actually have some health benefits that make it worth eating. Here’s a look at something to quell your conscience the next time that craving strikes!
1. Has Many Nutrients And A Distinct Flavor
Blue cheeses abound in the cheese-eating world – the English have their blue Stilton, the French their Roquefort, the Italian Gorgonzola, and the Danish their blue cheese. Whether it is made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk, blue cheese is a bit of an acquired taste. These cheeses get their characteristic mottled blue-veined appearance from the streaks of mold, formed from Penicillium cultures that are infused into the cheese or the curds. The cheeses may be infused with Penicillium glaucum or Penicillium roqueforti as well as lactic acid bacteria. This process of production means that ripened molded cheeses are rich in a variety of fungal, bacterial, and mammalian substances that aren’t found in other cheese.1 While Danish blue and Gorgonzola are milder and a good place to start for the blue cheese novice, Stilton slightly raises the pungency stakes and Roquefort is for the connoisseur who truly loves blue cheese or strong flavors.
Regardless of what variety you choose, blue cheeses are rich in protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Just one ounce of blue cheese will give you 6.07 gm of protein, 8.15 gm of fat, but just 0.66 gm of carbohydrates, making it good for anyone on a carbohydrate-restricted diet.
Each 1 oz portion also gives you:
- 150 mg of calcium (meeting 11.5% of your required daily value (DV))
- 0.35 mcg of vitamin B12 (14.6 %DV)
- 110 mg of phosphorus (8.8% DV)
- 0.75 mg of zinc (6.8% DV)
- 4.1 mcg of selenium (7.4% DV)
- 56 mcg RAE of vitamin A (4% DV)
- 10 mcg of folate (2.5% DV)
- 6 IU of vitamin D (2% DV)
- 7 mg of magnesium (1.6% DV)
- 73 mg of potassium (1.4% DV)
In addition, it also has a small amount of vitamin K and other B vitamins.2 3 These nutrients add up to a host of potential health benefits when you have this cheese in moderation, as part of a balanced diet.
2. Boosts Bone Health
Calcium is a vital nutrient for your bones, a building block for the tissue in your bones. When you are younger and have a growing body, you need the calcium to build strong bones. As you grow older, your body’s ability to utilize the calcium from diet reduces, requiring you to have more of it to maintain healthy bones.4 Inadequate calcium intake causes the body to break down calcium stores from the bone for other uses in the body like nerve and muscle function maintenance. Consuming adequate levels of calcium along with vitamin D, another nutrient found in cheese, may prevent or lower risk of osteoporosis.5
But how much of the nutrient are you getting against the daily value (DV) or recommended intake anyway? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has updated the daily value or DV for calcium intake at 1,300 mg for adults. Which means that a 1 oz serving of blue cheese will give you 11.5% DV of calcium.6 7
3. Is Good For Dental Health
Thanks to its calcium content, blue cheese can also help dental health. The American Dental Association actually recommends consuming dairy products like cheese to get protein and calcium since they are low in sugar – good news for anyone trying to avoid tooth decay – while also helping strengthen your teeth.8 Blue cheese, like all cheeses, also helps generate saliva which counters the effects of the enzymes and acids that can attack your teeth and lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and cavities. The calcium and phosphate also help restore mineral content to teeth in which these minerals are eroded by bacterial acids.9
4. Helps Build Muscle
You need protein to build and preserve muscle as well as body tissue.10 Blue cheese is a delicious way to get your protein, with 6 gm per ounce. It especially adds to your intake if you are trying to build muscle. It makes a quick nutritious snack especially if you pair it with some heart-healthy nuts and fresh fruit.
5. May Be Anti-Inflammatory
The process of ripening cheese results in the formation of substances that cut inflammation in the body. This is done by reducing pro-inflammatory markers and cell signaling mechanisms responsible for inflammatory conditions. This effect may play a role in what’s dubbed the French paradox – that the French eat a diet high in saturated fat and yet record a low level of cardiovascular disease. Molded cheeses or blue cheese, in particular, may have a major contribution in this.11
This has even led to suggestions that blue cheese might even help those with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. However, on the flip side, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society in the UK cautions anyone with rheumatoid arthritis against having blue cheese because their compromised immune system puts them at risk of risk of food poisoning or infection from consuming blue vein or mold-ripened cheeses.12
6. Immune System Health
Blue cheese contains lactobacillus bacteria that is a probiotic and can help boost immune function.13 Probiotics increase the good bacteria in your intestine or gut, which helps act as effective protection against infection-causing microbes.14
7. Improves Gut Health And Eases IBS
Lactobacillus bacteria in blue cheese also has benefits for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The probiotic effect of lactobacillus may help to not just reduce but also alleviate symptoms associated with IBS like gas, abdominal pain, bloating, and difficulty passing stool.15
8. Boosts Neurological Function
The vitamin B12 in blue cheese helps with normal red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis, and neurological function. Not getting enough B12 may also cause neurological problems like numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, besides possibly resulting in anemia, weakness, appetite loss, weight loss, and constipation.16 Just one ounce of blue cheese is enough to meet 14.6% of your DV.
9. Has Antioxidant Potential
The antioxidant potential of blue cheeses like Roquefort has been explored in studies evaluating their phenolic content and potential to inhibit enzymes linked to hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Researchers concluded that Roquefort cheese samples were associated with the greatest antioxidant-linked free radical-scavenging activity, making them promising as a possible functional food, that is food consumed for its health benefits.17 However, further research is needed to back this up.
Don’t Overdo It: Blue Cheese Has High Sodium, Calories, And Fat
At the end of the day though, there’s no denying the high calorie count and fat content of blue cheese. It has 8.15 gm of fat serving size in a 1 ounce serving, which will also run you to 100 calories.18 And considering it also packs in a whopping amount of sodium or salt (325 mg per ounce), it is important to monitor your intake and treat it as an indulgence and not a health food.
Think of it this way – if you are trying to choose between cheeses, blue cheese may offer some additional benefits over other varieties owing to its possible functional benefits. But should you pick blue cheese over a lean or vegan protein source as a part of a regular diet? Probably not. If you are in otherwise good health and enjoy your cheese, there’s no reason to stop eating blue cheese – just watch your portion size. A little wedge here and a slice there should be fine. Bon appétit!
|↑1, ↑11||Petyaev, Ivan M., and Yuriy K. Bashmakov. “Could cheese be the missing piece in the French paradox puzzle?.” Medical hypotheses 79, no. 6 (2012): 746-749.|
|↑2, ↑18||Cheese, blue. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑3, ↑7||Labeling Daily Values. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4||Good nutrition for healthy bones. International Osteoporosis Foundation.|
|↑5, ↑6||Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑8||Good Foods for Dental Health. American Dental Association.|
|↑9||The Best and Worst Foods for Your Teeth. University of Rochester Medical Center.|
|↑10||Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑12||Diet & Rheumatoid Arthritis. National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, UK.|
|↑13||Parvez, S., K. A. Malik, S. Ah Kang, and H‐Y. Kim. “Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health.” Journal of applied microbiology 100, no. 6 (2006): 1171-1185.|
|↑14||Guarner, Francisco, and Juan-R. Malagelada. “Gut flora in health and disease.” The Lancet 361, no. 9356 (2003): 512-519.|
|↑15||O’Mahony, Liam, Jane McCarthy, Peter Kelly, George Hurley, Fangyi Luo, Kersang Chen, Gerald C. O’Sullivan et al. “Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in irritable bowel syndrome: symptom responses and relationship to cytokine profiles.” Gastroenterology 128, no. 3 (2005): 541-551.|
|↑16||Vitamin B12. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑17||Apostolidis, E., Y-I. Kwon, and K. Shetty. “Inhibitory potential of herb, fruit, and fungal-enriched cheese against key enzymes linked to type 2 diabetes and hypertension.” Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies 8, no. 1 (2007): 46-54.|