Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Is Aged Cheese Bad For You?



Short answer

Consuming aged cheese is generally not bad for you and can be part of a healthy diet when enjoyed in moderation. It offers nutritious benefits like protein, calcium, and potentially probiotics for gut health. However, it's higher in saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium compared to fresh cheese, which should be considered especially by those with heart or blood pressure concerns. Aged cheese also has lower lactose content, making it more digestible for the lactose intolerant. Mindful consumption, considering portion sizes and frequency, can make aged cheese a flavorful yet health-conscious addition to your meals.



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Long answer

Aged Cheese Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits

Aged cheese, often cherished for its rich flavors and distinct textures, is a broad term encompassing various types such as cheddar, parmesan, gouda, and blue cheese, among others. While it's easy to categorize cheese as simply a guilty pleasure, it’s important to delve into its nutritional content and the potential health benefits it can offer. Aged cheeses are typically higher in certain nutrients compared to their fresh counterparts due to the aging process, which concentrates the proteins, fats, and minerals as the cheese loses moisture.

Nutritional Proponents: When examining the nutritional profile of aged cheese, we can observe a concentration of several key nutrients:

  • Protein: Essential for muscle repair and growth, aged cheeses are a rich source of high-quality protein.
  • Calcium: Critical for bone health, cheeses like Parmesan can offer a significant amount of calcium in a single serving.
  • Phosphorus: Working hand-in-hand with calcium, phosphorus plays a role in maintaining bone structure and teeth health.
  • Vitamins: Depending on the type, aged cheeses can be a source of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and some B vitamins, which are vital for overall health.
  • Zinc: This mineral is important for immune function and is found in good amounts in many types of aged cheese.
  • Fats: While aged cheeses contain saturated fats, they also provide a matrix of fatty acids, some of which may have health benefits.

Health Benefits: Beyond the nutritional content, aged cheese may offer specific health benefits:

  • Boosting Bone Health: The high calcium and protein content in aged cheese is beneficial for bone density and health, potentially reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Probiotics: Certain aged cheeses are rich in probiotics which are beneficial for digestive health and may improve gut flora.
  • Dental Health: Some studies suggest that cheese consumption can increase the pH level in the mouth, thus reducing the risk of tooth decay.

Researchers have also explored the relationship between cheese consumption and cardiovascular health. A 2018 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition indicated that cheese, when consumed in moderation, might not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease as previously feared. This is partially attributed to the ‘cheese matrix’—the unique composition of proteins and fats in cheese that might alter the way fats are digested and absorbed in our bodies.

Furthermore, the aging process of cheese leads to the breakdown of lactose. This can make aged cheese more digestible for those who are lactose intolerant, expanding its inclusivity as part of a varied diet.

However, it's essential to remember that aged cheese should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Due to its concentrated nature, it is also higher in calories and sodium, which could contribute negatively to health if consumed in excessive amounts. Always consider individual dietary restrictions and preferences when incorporating aged cheese into your diet.

Histamine and Tyramine in Aged Cheese: Risks for Sensitive Individuals

For many, aged cheese is a delightful addition to a meal. However, it's critical to consider the effects of certain compounds found in these cheeses, such as histamine and tyramine, particularly for those with specific sensitivities or certain health conditions. This section delves into the potential risks associated with these substances.

Histamine: A histamine is a biogenic amine that can naturally occur in various foods, especially those that have undergone bacterial fermentation like aged cheese. While histamine plays several roles in the body, excessive intake can lead to adverse reactions in sensitive individuals, such as those with histamine intolerance or certain allergic conditions.

  • Symptoms: Consumption of high-histamine foods may cause headaches, hives, difficulty breathing, gastrointestinal distress, and in severe cases, anaphylactic reactions.
  • Intolerance: Individuals with histamine intolerance lack the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO), which is essential for breaking down histamine. Consequently, high-histamine foods like aged cheese may exacerbate their symptoms.
  • Recommendations: Experts advise that those with a history of histamine intolerance exercise caution with aged cheeses and consult healthcare providers for personalized dietary advice.

Tyramine: Similarly, tyramine is another biogenic amine found in aged cheese. It is formed from the natural breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine during the aging process of cheese.

  • Concern for MAOI Users: Individuals taking Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), a class of medications commonly prescribed for depression, are especially sensitive to tyramine. These medications inhibit the breakdown of tyramine, allowing it to accumulate in the body and potentially cause a hypertensive crisis.
  • Migraine Trigger: Some research suggests a correlation between tyramine intake and migraines. People prone to migraines may observe that consuming aged cheese triggers their symptoms.
  • Dietary Guidelines: Those affected by or at risk for these conditions should monitor their intake of aged cheeses. Health practitioners often recommend controlling portion sizes or choosing lower-tyramine alternatives.

It's important to highlight that each person's response to histamine and tyramine will vary, and not everyone will experience adverse effects. For those without sensitivities to these amines, aged cheeses remain a valuable source of nutrients such as calcium and protein.

To mitigate potential risks, consider the following precautions:

  • Maintain awareness of your own sensitivities or pre-existing conditions that may interact with histamine and tyramine.
  • Liaise with a healthcare professional to determine a suitable diet if you suspect intolerance or are on MAOI medications.
  • When in doubt, opt for fresh or lightly aged cheeses, which generally have lower levels of these compounds.

Understanding the balance between enjoyment of foods like aged cheese and the management of health considerations is crucial. Always consult with a healthcare provider for guidance tailored to your individual health profile and dietary needs.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Content: Heart Health Implications

While cheese can be a delightful addition to a diet, it's important to understand the balance between enjoying its rich flavors and considering its effects on heart health, especially when it comes to aged cheese. These cheeses, known for their robust taste and sometimes crumbly texture, often come with a higher saturated fat and cholesterol content compared to their fresher counterparts. This section delves into the implications of these components on cardiovascular health.

Saturated fat is commonly found in animal products, and aged cheeses, being more concentrated and less water-laden than fresh cheeses, are no exception. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats to no more than 5% to 6% of total daily calories to minimize the risk of heart disease. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that's about 13 grams of saturated fats.

Consuming high amounts of saturated fat can increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly referred to as 'bad' cholesterol. Elevated LDL levels are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis, where plaques build up in arteries, potentially leading to heart attacks or strokes.

Cholesterol, another lipid found in cheese, also plays a role in heart health. The human body needs cholesterol to build cells and produce certain hormones, but too much cholesterol can lead to adverse health effects. While our bodies produce the cholesterol we need, consuming high-cholesterol foods like aged cheese can contribute to elevated blood cholesterol levels.

According to a 2016 study published in the journal 'Nutrition', the intake of dairy fat, particularly from cheese, may not be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, challenging previous beliefs about the relationship between cheese consumption and heart health. This suggests that the matrix of nutrients within cheese may in fact modulate the effects of its saturated fat and cholesterol content.

However, it's pivotal to contextualize these findings. Portion control plays a crucial role, as moderate consumption of aged cheese may be incorporated into a balanced diet without significant detriment to heart health. In fact, some aged cheeses, like Parmesan and aged Cheddar, contain bioactive compounds like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which have been suggested to have heart-healthy benefits.

It's also worth considering the overall dietary pattern. For individuals adhering to a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, the impact of moderate consumption of saturated fats from aged cheese can be different from those whose diets are high in processed foods and low in dietary fiber.

Because individual health conditions and dietary needs can vary significantly, it's advisable for anyone with concerns about heart health to consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to personalize dietary choices. When it comes to heart health and aged cheese, the key is to enjoy it mindfully, considering the complex interplay between its delicious allure and its saturated fat and cholesterol content.

Lactose Content in Aged Cheese: Considerations for Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem where the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include bloating, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea after consuming lactose-containing foods. Understanding the lactose content in aged cheese is crucial for individuals with lactose intolerance to manage their symptoms and maintain a comfortable and healthy diet.

Aged cheeses are often better tolerated by people with lactose intolerance due to the cheese-making process. As cheese ages, lactose is broken down into simpler forms of sugar that are easier to digest. This is due to the action of bacteria or enzymes that consume lactose during the fermentation and aging periods.

Research indicates that the lactose content decreases significantly as cheese matures. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the lactose content of cheddar, a typically aged cheese, ranges from 0 to 2.1%. In contrast, fresh cheeses like cottage cheese can contain as much as 4.8% lactose.

For those with lactose intolerance, knowing which aged cheeses have lower lactose levels can be beneficial. Here is a list of some commonly consumed aged cheeses and their approximate lactose content:

Cheese Type Lactose Content
Cheddar (aged 1-12 months) 0-2.1%
Parmesan (aged 10-36 months) Nearly 0%
Gouda (aged 1-6 months) 0-2.2%
Swiss (aged 2-9 months) 0.0%-3.4%
Blue cheese (aged 2-3 months) 0.5-2.5%

Note that individual brands and aging processes can lead to variations in lactose content. Therefore, consulting nutrition labels or reaching out directly to the cheese manufacturer can provide more specific information.

It's also worth considering that personal tolerance to lactose can vary. Some individuals with lactose intolerance might be able to consume small quantities of aged cheese without experiencing adverse effects, whereas others might be more sensitive. Keeping a food diary to track your reaction to different aged cheeses can be a useful approach to identify what your body can tolerate.

Furthermore, for those who enjoy cheese but cannot tolerate even the small amounts of lactose in aged cheese, lactase enzyme supplements may offer a solution. These supplements help to break down lactose in the digestive system, making it easier to digest dairy products. Nevertheless, consulting with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement is always recommended.

In summary, while aged cheese can contain lower levels of lactose compared to their fresh counterparts, individuals with lactose intolerance should still approach consumption with caution. By choosing aged cheeses wisely and paying attention to your body's signals, you can enjoy cheese without compromising comfort or nutritional balance.

Sodium Levels in Aged Cheese and Blood Pressure Concerns

Aged cheeses are often lauded for their rich flavors and depth of character. However, these delectable bites can come with a high sodium content, which is a critical consideration for those monitoring their salt intake. Let's break down the influence of sodium in aged cheese on blood pressure and overall health.

Sodium Content in Aged Cheese: Cheeses that have been aged for longer periods tend to have a more concentrated flavor, as well as a higher sodium concentration. This is because cheese making involves using salt as a preservative and a flavor enhancer. As the cheese ages and loses moisture, the sodium becomes more concentrated. For example, a single ounce of aged cheddar can contain around 175 mg to 200 mg of sodium.

The Role of Sodium in Hypertension: The relationship between sodium intake and blood pressure is well-documented. Sodium can cause the body to retain water, leading to an increase in blood volume and, subsequently, an increase in blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day and is moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults, especially for those with hypertension.

How Aged Cheese Affects Blood Pressure: Consistently consuming high-sodium foods like aged cheese can contribute to elevated blood pressure levels over time. In fact, several studies have shown a clear association between high dietary sodium intake and raised blood pressure. An observational study published in the journal "Hypertension" suggests high sodium consumption is linked to a greater risk of developing hypertension, particularly in individuals who are salt-sensitive.

Portion Control and Dietary Balance: Enjoying aged cheese in moderation can be part of a balanced diet. For those with high blood pressure or at risk for hypertension, it's essential to monitor the portion sizes of high-sodium foods. Incorporating a variety of lower-sodium cheeses, such as mozzarella or Swiss, can also help in controlling overall sodium intake.

Alternatives for Sodium-Sensitive Individuals: Those with higher sensitivity to salt or existing blood pressure concerns might consider other cheese alternatives. Certain aged cheeses, such as parmigiano-reggiano, have natural flavor intensities that allow for smaller servings to satisfy the palate, potentially reducing sodium consumption. Cheeses made with lower sodium content or salt substitutes are also available, though the taste profile may differ from traditional aged cheeses.

Conclusion: While aged cheese has its place in a varied and enjoyable diet, awareness of its high sodium content is essential, particularly for individuals with hypertension or those at risk. Keeping sodium intake within recommended limits is crucial for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, and enjoying aged cheese in moderation can contribute to a diet that is both delicious and health-conscious.

It's always advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or a Registered Dietitian when making dietary changes, especially for those with health conditions influenced by diet.

Aged Cheese and Probiotics: The Gut Health Connection

The discussion regarding aged cheese often centers around its flavor and culinary uses. Yet, one of the lesser-known attributes of aged cheese is its potential for containing probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that can support gut health. Let's delve into the probiotics component of aged cheese and understand its connection to our digestive system.

Probiotics are living organisms that, when ingested in adequate amounts, provide health benefits, particularly for our digestive system. They fall under the category of 'good' bacteria, countering the 'bad' bacteria that can cause disease. Fermented foods, including aged cheese, can be sources of these probiotics.

Types of Probiotic Bacteria Found in Aged Cheese

  • Lactobacillus spp. – Commonly found in fermented foods, including certain varieties of aged cheese, they help maintain gut health by producing lactic acid.
  • Bifidobacterium spp. – Sometimes present in aged cheese, Bifidobacteria are known for their health-promoting capabilities, such as enhancing immune function.

It's important to note that not all aged cheeses contain substantial levels of probiotics. The presence of these beneficial bacteria largely depends on the cheese-making process, including factors such as fermentation time, the strains of bacteria used, and the aging conditions.

Benefits of Probiotics in Aged Cheese

  • Improving Digestive Health: Consuming probiotics may help balance the gut flora, which is crucial for a healthy digestive system.
  • Boosting Immune System: Probiotics can aid in strengthening the immune system, making the body more resistant to infections.
  • Enhancing Nutrient Absorption: A healthy gut environment allows for better absorption of nutrients from the food we consume.

Recent studies have suggested that aged cheeses, with their fermentation process fostering an environment for bacterial growth, might offer probiotic benefits. However, research on the specific impact of cheese-derived probiotics on gut health is ongoing.

One study, published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, indicates that certain cheeses can act as carriers for probiotic organisms, potentially providing health benefits when consumed. Another review highlighted in Frontiers in Microbiology discussed the beneficial impacts of cheese as a probiotic food, contributing to gut microbiota diversity and functionality.

Before considering aged cheese as a source of probiotics, it's essential for individuals to understand that cheese can also be high in saturated fats and sodium. These factors should be balanced within the context of an overall healthy diet, particularly for those with dietary restrictions or cardiovascular health concerns.

Further, the efficacy of cheese as a probiotic can vary based on how it's consumed. For instance, heating aged cheese may reduce the number of viable probiotic bacteria, thus diminishing its potential health benefits in this respect.

For those looking to aged cheese as a probiotic source, it may be beneficial to select varieties known for having higher probiotic content. Cheeses like Gouda, aged cheddar, and Swiss have been identified in research as potentially beneficial for gut health due to their maturation process and development of microflora.

While aged cheese can be a complementary addition to a probiotic-rich diet, it should not be the sole source. A balanced approach, incorporating a variety of fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, alongside aged cheese, may provide a more diverse and effective array of probiotics.

Ultimately, individuals interested in improving their gut health through diet should consult with a health professional or a dietician to tailor a plan that considers their specific nutritional needs and health conditions.

Balancing Aged Cheese in a Healthy Diet: Quantity and Frequency

Aged cheese can be both a flavorful addition to a diet and a source of dietary nutrients, like calcium and protein. The key to incorporating aged cheese into a healthy diet is understanding the appropriate quantity and frequency of consumption. Let's delve into the guidelines that can help you enjoy the benefits of aged cheese while minimizing potential health risks.

Recommended Portion Sizes
The portion size of aged cheese matters significantly, given its calorie density and the presence of saturated fats. Nutrition experts often recommend that cheese portions should be about 1-1.5 ounces (28-42 grams) per serving. To visualize, this is roughly the size of a pair of dice. By adhering to this serving size, aged cheese can be savored without excessive calorie intake.

Frequency of Consumption
Moderation is crucial when it comes to the frequency of aged cheese consumption. As with other indulgent foods, enjoying these cheeses occasionally, such as a few times a week, is more conducive to a balanced diet. Consistently consuming large quantities could lead to an increased risk of high cholesterol and heart disease due to the higher levels of saturated fats found in these cheeses.

Nutritional Balance
Balancing aged cheese with other foods is essential to ensure a nutrient-dense diet. Pairing a small portion of cheese with high-fiber foods like whole grain crackers, fruits, or vegetables can make for a satisfying snack that contributes positively to overall health. This combination allows for enjoyment of the cheese's taste and texture, while the fiber from accompanying foods helps moderate blood sugar levels and digestion.

Considering Individual Dietary Needs
It's important to tailor cheese consumption to individual health goals and dietary restrictions. For example, those with lactose intolerance may find aged cheeses to be more tolerable, as they typically contain less lactose. Conversely, individuals with high blood pressure might need to be cautious with aged cheeses due to their higher sodium content.

Alternating Cheese Types
Another approach to balance is alternating between aged and fresher cheeses. While aged cheeses have bold flavors and potentially more concentrated nutrients (like calcium), fresh cheeses generally contain less sodium and saturated fats. This diversity not only expands the palate but also offers a broader range of health benefits and nutritional values.

Be Mindful of Additives
It's also worth checking labels for any potential additives in aged cheeses. Some may contain extra salts used in the aging process or non-traditional ingredients that could impact health if consumed in large quantities over time.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, certain aged cheeses are lower in fat. For example, part-skim mozzarella and parmesan cheeses offer less fat content than other aged varieties. It's advisable to check nutritional labels and select cheese varieties that fit within your dietary fat requirements.

Aged cheese can be incorporated into a weight management diet when consumed in moderation. Given its high calorie density, portion control is crucial. Opt for small servings and pair with nutrient-dense, lower-calorie foods like vegetables to help maintain satiety without excessive calorie intake.

To include aged cheese in a heart-healthy diet, focus on moderate consumption, paying close attention to portion sizes. Opt for cheeses with lower sodium and saturated fat content, and balance with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to mitigate potential negative effects on heart health.

Aged cheese can be a suitable component of a high-protein diet, as it is typically rich in quality protein. Still, it's important to choose wisely; some aged cheeses come with higher saturated fat and sodium, which should be considered when planning an overall diet to meet individual health goals.

Ask a question about Aged Cheese and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • headaches
  • hives
  • difficulty breathing
  • gastrointestinal distress
  • anaphylactic reactions
  • elevated blood pressure
  • migraine trigger
  • water retention

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • atherosclerosis
  • elevated ldl cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • osteoporosis

Ingredients to be aware of

  • histamine
  • tyramine
  • saturated fats
  • cholesterol
  • sodium
  • lactose


  • muscle repair and growth
  • bone density
  • probiotic benefits for gut health
  • dental health
  • immune function
  • nutrient absorption

Healthier alternatives

  • low-histamine cheeses
  • low-tyramine cheeses
  • cheeses low in saturated fat
  • low-sodium cheeses
  • lactose-free cheeses
  • probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi

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Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-21-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 12-21-2023

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