Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research
Q: Is adding Parmesan cheese a good way to add flavor to salads and other healthy foods without adding a lot of calories?
A: Richly flavored cheese, like Parmesan, used in small amounts can be a smart strategy for adding flavor without many calories. One tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese adds only 22 calories, just less than one gram of saturated fat and only 76 milligrams (mg) of sodium. You might want to try the blocks of Parmesan and Romano, as they tend to have a stronger flavor than the pre-grated cheeses. Then you can grate just the amount you need at home. With a flavorful cheese like Parmesan or Romano, one tablespoon or less is plenty. However, when large amounts are melted over a food or when it’s part of baked dishes that include the Parmesan name (like Eggplant Parmesan), the calorie and fat (especially saturated fat) can add up.
If adding some grated Parmesan to salads or vegetables helps you enjoy them so much more that you eat larger portions of these healthful foods, then overall it will probably help you fill up on fewer calories. A diet with plenty of leafy greens and other low calorie vegetables is linked to health benefits including lower risk of cancer, heart disease and more.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, http://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.