By: Karen Cicero
I grew up in a very Italian family -- Sunday pasta dinners with crusty bread, antipasto salad, and cannoli for dessert. (If you don’t know what these are, feast your eyes on this.) But the thing I loved most was sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese on the homemade tomato sauce. My cousin and I exemplified the lyrics, “On top of spaghetti, all covered in cheese!”
I’m still a Parm addict, and my 9-year-old and her younger cousins are too. So I actually squealed when I ran across a recent study that showed that Grana Padano cheese, a regional version of Parmesan, drops blood pressure as much as BP-lowering medications!
The researchers from Italy gave patients with slightly high blood pressure 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) of Grana Padano daily for two months. By the end of the study, the average blood pressure reading dropped from 145 over 90 to 135 over 82. Presenting the results at the European Society of Hypertension meeting last month, the lead researcher, Dr. Giuseppe Crippa, said that what accounts for the blood pressure–lowering benefits of the cheese are two tripeptides produced during fermentation.
Since Grana Padano is made slightly differently from Parmigiano-Reggiano, which I typically buy, it’s impossible to know whether it would have the same effect -- without another study. (Hint, hint! Scientists, help out an Italian girl!)
So I’ve decided to switch to Grana Padano and use it as not only a pasta topping, but also a salad accent and even a grilled cheese topping. It’s typically cheaper than Parmigiano-Reggiano, and it has a slightly nuttier flavor. I noticed that Sargento also sells it already shredded as part of an Italian cheese blend. I picked up both at the supermarket today. Can’t wait till dinnertime!
is Completely You’s Need to Know blogger. A health journalist and magazine editor with more than 15 years of experience, she has contributed to such publications as Prevention, SELF and Health, and she has edited the dental column for Heart & Soul magazine.
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