Nutritional Benefits of Parmesan
The nutritional benefits of Parmesan are such that it should rightly be regarded as a 'super-food'. Cheese contains all the goodness of milk but in a concentrated form - 16 litres of milk are required for every kilo of Parmesan. A look at the table opposite will give some idea of its relative merits:
Easy to Digest
One of the factors that make Parmesan so 'super' is the ease with which the human digestive system can assimilate all this goodness. Due to its long ageing, much of the protein in Parmesan has been broken down into peptones, peptides and free amino acids, in effect the protein has been 'pre-digested'; the protein is readily available and as such it puts very little strain on the metabolism.
Parmesan contains 33% protein compared to 20% in lean beef and that animal protein takes 4 hours to digest while the protein in Parmesan takes just 45 minutes. Other benfits to the digestion include Parmesan's ability to promote the development of Bacillus Bifidus, which is useful for the maintenance of a healthy gut, and also the fact that there is no lactose present - good news for the lactose intolerant or those with gastro-intestinal inflammation.
But isn't the fat content high?
The fat content of cheese often causes alarm to the health conscious but it is important to note that fat is a fundamental part of nutrition. Muscular activity is dependent on fatty acids and, again, because of the changes that occur during the ageing of Parmesan, much of the fat is in the form of short-chain fatty acids, these compounds are absorbed more easily and supply energy very quickly to the body; in fact, they are treated by the body in much the same way as glucosides (sugar). The cholesterol content of Parmesan is only 80 - 85mg/100g, much lower than other full fat cheeses. Exponents of preventative medicine take an unfavourable view of this sterol but a daily intake of 300mg is beneficial according to health guidelines so cholesterol should not be seen as a limiting factor in the consumption of Parmesan.
This combination of nutritional benefits explains why in Italy doctors recommend Parmesan to infants and the elderly as well as to athletes.