Is brie the healthiest cheese?

Cheese is a beloved food for many people. With its rich, creamy texture and unique flavors, it’s no wonder cheese is a popular item on cheese boards and charcuterie platters. But is all cheese created equal when it comes to health? One variety that often gets dubbed as a “healthy” choice is brie. Let’s take a closer look at how brie stacks up nutritionally.

Nutrition profile of brie

First, let’s examine the basic nutrition facts of brie cheese. A 1 ounce serving of brie provides (1):

  • 98 calories
  • 8 grams of fat
  • 2 grams of saturated fat
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of carbohydrates
  • 15% DV calcium
  • 10% DV vitamin B12
  • 10% DV phosphorus

As you can see, brie is high in fat and protein, but contains no carbs. The majority of the fat in brie is from saturated fats and mono-unsaturated fats, which have been linked to both positive and negative health effects when consumed in moderation (2, 3).

Brie contains conjugated linoleic acid

One unique aspect of brie’s nutritional profile is that it contains a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (4). CLA is a naturally occurring trans fat found in small amounts in dairy products and ruminant meats like beef.

Studies have linked CLA to an array of potential health benefits, including (5, 6, 7):

  • Reduced body fat mass
  • Improved body composition
  • Lowered cholesterol
  • Enhanced bone mineralization
  • Immune system stimulation
  • Anti-carcinogenic effects

However, most research has used CLA supplements rather than dietary CLA. More studies are needed to confirm if CLA from real foods like cheese can offer the same effects.

Brie is high in vitamin B12

Brie also provides a good amount of vitamin B12 per serving. Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve and blood cells and supports DNA production (8). Since vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal foods, brie can be a good option for vegetarians looking to increase B12 intake from non-meat sources.

How does brie compare to other cheeses?

Now let’s see how brie stacks up against some other popular cheese varieties.

Brie vs. cheddar

Cheddar cheese is one of the most widely consumed cheeses. Here’s how 1 ounce of brie and cheddar compare (1, 9):

Nutrient Brie Cheddar
Calories 98 113
Total fat 8 g 9 g
Saturated fat 2 g 6 g
Protein 5 g 7 g
Carbs 0 g 0.4 g
Calcium 15% DV 20% DV
Vitamin B12 10% DV 15% DV

While both cheeses are high in fat and protein, cheddar contains more saturated fat than brie. Cheddar also provides a bit more vitamin B12. However, cheddar has slightly higher calories in a typical 1 ounce serving.

Brie vs. swiss

Now let’s compare nutty, dense swiss cheese to creamy brie (1, 10):

Nutrient Brie Swiss
Calories 98 111
Total fat 8 g 9 g
Saturated fat 2 g 4 g
Protein 5 g 8 g
Carbs 0 g 1 g
Calcium 15% DV 25% DV
Vitamin B12 10% DV 15% DV

Swiss cheese is very similar to brie nutritionally, providing a comparable amount of fat, protein, and vitamin B12. However, swiss contains more calcium while brie contains more CLA.

Brie vs. mozzarella

Mozzarella is one of the most popular cheeses thanks to its starring role on pizza. Here’s an ounce of brie next to fresh mozzarella (1, 11):

Nutrient Brie Mozzarella
Calories 98 85
Total fat 8 g 6 g
Saturated fat 2 g 4 g
Protein 5 g 7 g
Carbs 0 g 1 g
Calcium 15% DV 15% DV
Vitamin B12 10% DV 15% DV

Fresh mozzarella contains less fat and calories than brie in a typical serving. However, brie provides more CLA. The two cheeses have similar amounts of calcium and vitamin B12.

Brie vs. feta

Finally, let’s see how the nutrition of crumbly, salty feta compares to smooth brie (1, 12):

Nutrient Brie Feta
Calories 98 75
Total fat 8 g 6 g
Saturated fat 2 g 4 g
Protein 5 g 4 g
Carbs 0 g 1 g
Calcium 15% DV 10% DV
Vitamin B12 10% DV 5% DV

Feta contains less calories, fat, and protein compared to brie. It also has less vitamin B12. However, feta provides more calcium. Overall, brie has a richer nutritional profile than feta.

Potential health benefits of brie

We’ve compared the basic nutritional profile of brie to other cheeses. Now let’s dive deeper into some of the specific potential health benefits associated with eating brie cheese.

May support heart health

Research suggests CLA, which is present in brie, may benefit heart health in various ways, including by (5, 6, 13):

  • Reducing atherosclerosis
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving blood lipid profiles
  • Decreasing inflammation

The mono-unsaturated fatty acids in brie may also support heart health when consumed in moderation (3).

However, brie’s saturated fat content may negatively impact heart health markers if consumed in excess. Overall, eating brie in moderation as part of a heart-healthy diet may be beneficial for heart health.

May support bone health

Brie provides calcium, phosphorus, and protein, all of which promote strong, healthy bones. One study found dairy-source calcium positively impacted bone strength in subjects (14).

The CLA in brie may also help optimize bone density (5, 6).

May benefit digestive health

Fermented cheeses like brie contain probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that support digestive and gut health (15).

One study also found the conjugated linoleic acid in dairy foods may have protective effects for colorectal cancer (16).

May support immune function

Studies indicate the CLA in dairy products like brie may help regulate immune function (5, 6). The vitamin B12 brie provides also supports immune system health (8).

Potential downsides of eating brie

While brie has some nutritional components that may promote health, there are also some potential downsides to keep in mind.

High in saturated fat

Brie contains saturated fat, which can negatively impact heart health and cholesterol levels when eaten excessively (17).

If you have high cholesterol or heart health concerns, it’s best to consume brie in moderation as part of a diet low in saturated fat from other sources.

High in calories

Cheese is very energy dense, meaning it packs a lot of calories relative to its serving size. Eating more than a serving or two of brie can quickly add up calorie-wise.

Be mindful of portion sizes if you’re aiming to manage your waistline.

Contains sodium

Cheeses contain varying amounts of sodium depending on the variety. Brie made from cow’s milk has around 75-150 mg of sodium per ounce (1).

This isn’t an excessive amount, but can add up for those limiting sodium intake.

May trigger allergies or sensitivities

Brie is made from cow’s milk, so it contains dairy proteins that can trigger food allergies or sensitivities in some individuals.

If you have a dairy allergy or sensitivity, it’s important to avoid brie and other dairy-based cheeses.

Is brie safe during pregnancy?

Soft cheeses like brie pose a slight risk for listeria contamination when pregnant. Listeria is a type of harmful bacteria that can be found in unpasteurized cheeses (18).

To reduce pregnancy risks, it’s recommended to choose pasteurized brie and avoid “raw milk” varieties (18). When reheating brie, ensure it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F to kill any potential bacteria.

Of course, always check with your doctor about specific dietary restrictions during pregnancy.

The bottom line

Is brie the “healthiest” cheese overall? Based on its nutrition profile, potential benefits, and risks, here are some key points:

  • Brie is high in beneficial nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, and CLA.
  • CLA and B12 in particular may promote heart, bone, gut, and immune health.
  • However, brie is high in saturated fat, calories, and sodium, which may negatively impact health in excess.
  • Compared to other cheeses, brie is lower in saturated fat than cheddar or swiss but higher in calories than feta or mozzarella.
  • When consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, brie can be part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
  • Those with specific dietary restrictions or allergies should take precautions when consuming brie.

Overall, brie can be a good option for those looking for a cheese with beneficial nutrients. But despite being touted as healthy by some, no single food is “the healthiest.”

The healthiest dietary pattern focuses on moderation, variety, and balancing all types of foods. By keeping these principles in mind, cheese lovers can savor brie as part of a balanced diet.

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