Parmesan Cheese: Benefits, Comparison & Recipes

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Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, is an iconic and beloved Italian cheese that has captured the hearts and taste buds of people around the world. With its distinct nutty flavour and crumbly texture, Parmesan cheese is a versatile ingredient used in various culinary delights, from pasta dishes and salads to soups and sauces.

Beyond its culinary appeal, Parmesan cheese boasts an impressive nutritional profile that adds depth to its popularity. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the nutritional benefits of Parmesan cheese, exploring its macronutrient content, essential vitamins, and crucial minerals. We will also examine the impact of Parmesan cheese on overall health, including its potential role in weight management, heart health, and bone strength.

So, let’s embark on a delectable adventure into the world of Parmesan cheese, uncovering the secrets behind its nutritional goodness and understanding how it can fit seamlessly into a balanced and healthy diet.

Nutritional Profile Of Parmesan Cheese 

According to USDA, 100 grams of Parmesan cheese contain the following nutrients 

Water: 22.6 g

Calories: 392 kcal

Protein: 35.8 g

Total Fat: 25 g

Carbohydrates: 2.22 g

Calcium: 1180 mg

Phosphorous: 694 mg

Potassium: 92 mg

Sodium: 1180 mg

Health Benefits of Parmesan Cheese 

Parmesan cheese offers several nutritional benefits, making it a delightful addition to a balanced diet. Here are some of the key benefits of consuming Parmesan cheese:

Excellent Source of Protein

Parmesan cheese is a remarkable source of high-quality protein, essential for various bodily functions. Studies prove that protein is crucial for muscle repair, immune support, and the production of enzymes and hormones.

Packed with Essential Vitamins

Parmesan cheese contains essential vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin K. Vitamin A supports vision and immune function, vitamin B12 is vital for nerve health and red blood cell production, while vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting and bone metabolism. Reports by the Harvard School of Public Health show that phosphorus, another essential mineral found in Parmesan cheese, plays a significant role in energy metabolism, supporting the body’s ability to utilize and store energy effectively. Furthermore, the presence of fat in Parmesan cheese can enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K when consumed with other foods rich in these vitamins.

Read More: Fat Soluble Vitamins: Types, Benefits and More

Rich in Calcium

Parmesan cheese is one of the best dietary sources of calcium, a vital mineral for maintaining strong bones and teeth. Adequate calcium intake is essential for reducing the risk of osteoporosis and promoting overall bone health. The calcium and phosphorus in Parmesan cheese contribute to maintaining healthy teeth and preventing tooth decay.

Low Lactose Content

Studies show that parmesan cheese is exceptionally low in lactose, which makes it a more suitable option for individuals with lactose intolerance compared to other dairy products. 

Aids in Weight Management

With its high protein content and low carbohydrates, Parmesan cheese can be a satisfying addition to meals, helping to promote feelings of fullness and potentially aiding in weight management efforts.

Summary

Parmesan cheese is a nutrient-rich dairy product that offers several health benefits. It is an excellent source of high-quality protein, calcium, essential vitamins (A, B12, and K), and phosphorus. Parmesan cheese can support bone and dental health, and aid in weight management due to its protein content. Despite being a cheese, it contains primarily saturated fats, which, when consumed in moderation, may not negatively impact heart health. Additionally, its low lactose content makes it suitable for some lactose-intolerant individuals.

Healthy Recipes Using Parmesan Cheese

1. Parmesan Crisps

Ingredients

Grated fresh Parmesan cheese: 56 g 

Freshly ground black pepper: 1 tsp

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 400°.

2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon cheese by tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheet. Spread each mound to a 2-inch diameter. Sprinkle mounds with pepper. 

3. Bake at 400° for 6 to 8 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet. Remove from the baking sheet using a thin spatula and enjoy. 

2. Lemon Herb & Parmesan Crusted Fish

Ingredients

Breadcrumb: 25g 

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grated parmesan: 25g 

Chopped parsley: 1 tbsp

salt and pepper

4 fillets of white fish

Olive Oil: 1 tsp 

Butter: 1 tablespoon

Juice of 1 lemon

Method

1. Mix the breadcrumbs with the grated lemon zest, grated Parmesan, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

2. Season the fish fillets. Pan fry in a little oil for 2-3 minutes until just tender. 

3. Turn over and sprinkle with the crumb mixture. Brown in the pan under a hot preheated grill for 2-3 minutes. 

4. Add the butter to the pan with the juice of 1 lemon.

3. Parmesan Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

Raw vegetable(Carrot, Broccoli and Cauliflower Bell Peppers, Onion, etc): 250g 

Olive oil: 1 tsp 

Salt and ground black pepper to taste 

Grated Parmesan Cheese: 1 tablespoon 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Peel and cut them 

3. In a large bowl toss veggies with the oil,  salt and black pepper.

4. Add to sheet pan and roast.

5. Add Parmesan cheese over the food and roast.

Parmesan Cheese Vs Cheddar Cheese Vs Mozzarella Cheese 

Parmesan cheese stands out from other types of cheese in several ways, including taste, texture, nutritional content, and culinary applications. Below, I’ll highlight the key differences between Parmesan cheese and other common cheeses:

Taste and Texture

Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan has a distinct nutty and savoury flavour with a granular, crumbly texture. The longer it is aged, the more intense its flavour becomes.

Cheddar Cheese: Cheddar offers a sharp, tangy taste with a smooth and firm texture. It comes in various ageing levels, ranging from mild to extra sharp.

Mozzarella Cheese: Mozzarella has a mild, slightly sweet taste with a soft, stretchy texture when melted. It is commonly used on pizzas and in Italian dishes.

Nutritional Content

Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan is notably high in protein and calcium, making it an excellent choice for bone health. It is also a good source of vitamins A, B12, and K.

Cheddar Cheese: Cheddar is rich in protein and calcium as well, but its nutritional content can vary depending on the ageing process and fat content.

Mozzarella Cheese: Mozzarella is lower in calories and fat compared to Parmesan and Cheddar but contains less protein and calcium.

Ageing Process

Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan undergoes a long ageing process, typically lasting between 12 to 36 months, resulting in its robust flavour and crumbly texture.

Cheddar Cheese: Cheddar is aged for various periods, ranging from a few months to several years, contributing to its diverse flavour profiles.

Mozzarella Cheese: Mozzarella is typically consumed fresh and has a short ageing period, leading to its soft and elastic texture.

Culinary Uses

Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan is often grated or shaved over dishes like pasta, salads, and soups, adding a rich, umami flavour. It is also used in risottos and various Italian recipes.

Cheddar Cheese: Cheddar is commonly used in sandwiches, burgers, and as a melting cheese for dishes like macaroni and cheese.

Mozzarella Cheese: Mozzarella is a popular choice for pizzas, lasagnas, and other dishes where its meltability is desirable.

Lactose Content

Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan is naturally low in lactose, making it more tolerable for some lactose-intolerant individuals.

Cheddar Cheese: Cheddar may contain moderate levels of lactose, which could cause issues for those with lactose intolerance.

Mozzarella Cheese: Mozzarella contains lactose, so it may not be suitable for those with lactose intolerance.

Summary

Parmesan cheese has a distinct nutty and savoury flavour with a granular, crumbly texture that intensifies with ageing. It is notably high in protein and calcium, making it beneficial for bone health and a good source of vitamins A, B12, and K. In contrast, cheddar offers a sharp, tangy taste with a smooth, firm texture, and mozzarella has a mild, slightly sweet taste with a soft, stretchy texture when melted. Cheddar and mozzarella have varying nutritional content, ageing processes, and lactose levels, leading to diverse culinary uses and considerations for lactose-intolerant individuals.

Read More: Cheese – Health Benefits, Nutrition And More

Health Risks Associated with Parmesan Cheese Consumption 

High Sodium Content

Parmesan cheese is relatively high in sodium, which can contribute to hypertension (high blood pressure) when consumed in excess. Individuals with hypertension or those at risk should be mindful of their sodium intake and limit the amount of Parmesan cheese in their diet.

High Calorie and Saturated Fat Content

Due to its ageing process, Parmesan cheese is calorie-dense and contains saturated fats, which, when consumed in large quantities, can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of heart disease. Moderation is key, especially for individuals with weight management or heart health concerns.

Lactose Intolerance

Although Parmesan cheese is naturally low in lactose, it still contains some lactose, which can be problematic for individuals with lactose intolerance. Those who are lactose intolerant should monitor their tolerance level and consider lactose-free alternatives.

Histamine Intolerance

Aged cheeses like Parmesan have higher histamine levels, which may trigger symptoms in individuals with histamine intolerance. These symptoms can include headaches, hives, and digestive issues. If you suspect histamine intolerance, it’s advisable to limit or avoid aged cheeses.

Allergies

Parmesan cheese is a dairy product and contains milk proteins, which can cause allergic reactions in individuals with milk allergies. Those with milk allergies should avoid Parmesan cheese or opt for dairy-free alternatives.

Summary

Parmesan cheese poses several health risks and precautions that individuals should be aware of. Its high sodium content can contribute to hypertension, while its calorie-dense nature and saturated fats may lead to weight gain and heart disease if consumed excessively. Individuals with lactose intolerance should monitor their intake, and those with histamine intolerance or milk allergies should exercise caution or consider dairy-free alternatives. Being mindful of these risks and taking necessary precautions can help individuals enjoy Parmesan cheese as part of a balanced diet while addressing their specific health needs.

HealthifyMe Suggestion

Parmesan is one of the healthier cheese options. It tastes great and adds a lot of flavour to foods. It is as versatile as it is nutritious, and it can be used in a variety of dishes ranging from appetisers to desserts. Parmesan can be shaved on soups, vegetables, and salads. Freeze the rinds, then add them to the pot, simmer, and filter the next time you make vegetable stock. It gives flavorful depth and a great texture. 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, Parmesan cheese offers a delightful flavour and numerous nutritional benefits, such as being a rich source of protein, calcium, and essential vitamins. However, it is essential to approach its consumption with caution due to certain drawbacks and health risks associated with its high sodium content, calorie density, saturated fats, lactose content, histamine levels, and potential allergenic properties. Moderation is key when incorporating Parmesan cheese into a balanced diet. By being mindful of these factors and considering individual health needs, one can savour the unique taste of Parmesan cheese while promoting overall well-being. As with any dietary choice, seeking guidance from healthcare professionals can provide personalised advice and ensure a healthier and more enjoyable culinary experience.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information please contact our certified nutritionists Here

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Parmesan cheese made from cow’s milk?

Yes, Parmesan cheese is made from cow’s milk. It is a hard, granular cheese traditionally produced in specific regions of Italy, using cow’s milk, rennet, and salt.

How long does it take to make Parmesan cheese?

The process of making Parmesan cheese typically takes between 12 to 36 months. The ageing period contributes to its distinct flavour and texture.

Does Parmesan cheese have a specific ageing process?

Yes, Parmesan cheese undergoes a specific ageing process, which is crucial for developing its unique flavour and crumbly texture. The cheese wheels are carefully aged in controlled environments for an extended period.

What gives Parmesan cheese its distinct flavour?

Parmesan cheese owes its distinct flavour to the ageing process, which allows the breakdown of proteins and fats, resulting in the development of savoury, nutty, and umami notes.

Can Parmesan cheese be made from goat’s milk or sheep’s milk?

Authentic Parmesan cheese, known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, is made exclusively from cow’s milk. However, there are other similar cheeses made from goat’s or sheep’s milk, but they cannot legally be called Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Is Parmesan cheese gluten-free?

Parmesan cheese is naturally gluten-free since it is made from milk, salt, and enzymes, without the addition of gluten-containing ingredients.

Can people with lactose intolerance consume Parmesan cheese?

People with lactose intolerance can often tolerate Parmesan cheese due to its lower lactose content. However, individual tolerance may vary, and it’s advisable to monitor the body’s response.

How is Parmesan cheese different from other types of cheese?

Parmesan cheese differs from other types of cheese in terms of taste, texture, and ageing process. It has a distinct nutty flavour, crumbly texture, and is aged for an extended period, which sets it apart from other cheeses like cheddar or mozzarella.

What are some common uses for Parmesan cheese in cooking?

Parmesan cheese is commonly used in Italian cuisine, grated or shaved over dishes like pasta, risotto, salads, and soups. It also adds flavour to various sauces and casseroles.

How should Parmesan cheese be stored?

Parmesan cheese should be stored properly to maintain its freshness. It is best kept wrapped in wax paper or parchment paper and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

What is the shelf life of Parmesan cheese?

The shelf life of Parmesan cheese varies based on its age and storage conditions. Typically, unopened Parmesan cheese can last several months, while grated or shredded Parmesan may have a shorter shelf life.

Can Parmesan cheese be frozen?

Yes, Parmesan cheese can be frozen to prolong its shelf life. Grated or shredded Parmesan can be placed in an airtight container or freezer bag and frozen for up to several months.

Are there any health benefits associated with consuming Parmesan cheese?

Yes, Parmesan cheese offers various health benefits, including being a rich source of protein, calcium, and essential vitamins. However, moderation is crucial due to its high sodium and saturated fat content.

Can Parmesan cheese be grated or shredded?

Yes, Parmesan cheese can be both grated and shredded, depending on the desired use in recipes.

Are there any vegetarian alternatives to Parmesan cheese?

Yes, there are vegetarian-friendly alternatives to Parmesan cheese, often made with plant-based ingredients like nuts, nutritional yeast, and seasonings to mimic the flavour and texture of traditional Parmesan.

What are some popular dishes that feature Parmesan cheese as a key ingredient?

Parmesan cheese is a staple in classic Italian dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese, lasagna, Caesar salad, and risotto. It also complements many other dishes, from soups and stews to vegetable gratins and savoury tarts.

Reference Links 

Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6566799/

Phosphorus: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/phosphorus/

Nutritional management of lactose intolerance: the importance of diet and food labelling: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7318541/

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