When it comes to adding flavor and texture to your favorite pasta dishes, nothing quite beats a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese. But with so many options available on the market, how do you know which one is the healthiest? In this article, we’ll explore what to look for when choosing Parmesan cheese and some of the healthiest options available.
What Makes Parmesan Cheese Healthy?
Parmesan cheese is a hard, aged cheese made from cow’s milk. It’s a good source of protein and calcium, as well as other essential nutrients like vitamin A and phosphorus. However, not all Parmesan cheeses are created equal in terms of nutritional value.
Look for Unpasteurized Options
One important factor to consider when choosing Parmesan cheese is whether it’s made from unpasteurized milk. Pasteurization is a process that heats milk to kill bacteria, but it also destroys some of the beneficial enzymes and bacteria that can aid in digestion. Unpasteurized Parmesan cheese (also known as raw milk Parmesan) contains these beneficial enzymes and bacteria, making it easier on the digestive system.
Choose Aged Varieties
Another factor to consider is the age of the cheese. The longer a Parmesan cheese is aged, the more flavorful and complex it becomes.
It also tends to have a lower lactose content than younger cheeses. Lactose intolerance affects many people worldwide, so choosing an aged variety may be beneficial for those who experience digestive discomfort after consuming dairy products.
The Healthiest Grated Parmesan Cheeses
Now that you know what makes a healthy Parmesan cheese let’s explore some of the healthiest grated options available:
- Parmigiano-Reggiano: This is often considered the king of Parmesan cheeses due to its strict production standards and rich, nutty flavor. It’s made from unpasteurized milk and aged for at least 24 months, making it a great option for those looking for a healthy and flavorful cheese.
- Pecorino Romano: While not technically a Parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty cheese made from sheep’s milk.
It’s lower in fat than Parmesan cheese and is also a good source of protein and calcium.
- Grana Padano: This is another hard Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. It’s similar in flavor to Parmigiano-Reggiano but is often less expensive. It’s aged for at least 9 months and contains no added preservatives or fillers.
When it comes to choosing the healthiest grated Parmesan cheese, look for unpasteurized options that are aged for an extended period. Parmigiano-Reggiano is often considered the gold standard due to its strict production standards and rich flavor profile.
However, other options like Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano can also be healthy choices that add delicious flavor to your favorite pasta dishes. Remember to always read the labels carefully and choose high-quality cheeses with no added preservatives or fillers.