Cheese is certainly delicious, but you might be surprised to learn that eating it regularly can also be beneficial to your health. Recent research from the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension seems to suggest that there is, at least, one Italian cheese that can protect your heart. What great news this is for us cheese lovers!
The study showed that people with high blood pressure saw their systolic blood pressure improve by 7 to 8 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and their diastolic blood pressure by 5 to 7 mm Hg, after they had eaten a single ounce of the renowned Italian cheese Grana Padano per day for two months.
The people in the study who did not eat the semi-fat hard, parmesan-like cheese, but rather a fake-dairy version of it, saw no improvement in their blood pressure.
Lead study author Giuseppe Crippa, MD, director of the hypertension unit at Italy's Guglielmo Saliceto Hospital, found that Grana Padano contains two compounds that can relax your blood vessels, leading to a lowering of your blood pressure. These are known as isoleucine-proline-proline (IPP) and valine-proline-proline (VPP).
IPP and VPP function like common blood pressure ACE inhibitors (e.g. Lotensin or Capoten), which stop our bodies producing angiotensin II, an active hormone that increases blood pressure by constricting blood vessels.
Although this study is exciting, both for the health news and for the excuse to eat cheese, Dr. Crippa sounds a note of caution. He says that because cheeses contain lots of salt and fat, they can really boost your calorie count if you’re not careful. For this reason, he recommends substituting an ounce of Grana Padano cheese for every dairy serving you normally eat per day.
It's not clear at this stage whether similar cheeses, such as the similar Parmigiano Reggiano, offer the same health benefits. Yet, future studies are likely to be started to explore and resolve the question.
About Grana Padano
Grana Padano is a hard, slow ripened, and semi-fat cheese, made from cows’ milk that comes from the Po River valley. The name derives from the grana (grain) due to the grainy texture of the cheese. It was first created around 900 years ago, by Cistercian monks from Chiaravalle Abbey near Milan. It quickly became one of Italy’s most famous cheeses.
The cheese is ripened slowly over at least 9 months, which is less than Parmigiano Reggiano. Grana Padano thus is less crumbly, milder, and has less complex flavors than its more expensive rival.
You will probably be able to find Grana Padano in your local store’s gourmet cheese section.