Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Parmesan Cheese Bad For You?

Also Known As: Parmigiano Reggiano



Short answer

Parmesan cheese is actually quite good for you in moderation. The version commonly found in America is slightly different and may cause diarrhea, but only when overconsumed.



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Long answer

Parmesan cheese, strictly speaking, is Parmigiano Reggiano, a special type of aged hard cheese made in Northern Italy. In the United States, however, "Parmesan" cheese does not necessarily follow the same standards as the original (it is worthy of note that in Europe, "Parmesan" always refers to Parmigiano Reggiano). 

Still, both versions are rather good for your health. For the purpose of this entry, "Parmesan" will refer to Parmigiano Reggiano. Just two ounces of Parmesan cheese is packed with several of the daily essentials. There are 671 mg of calcium - 67% the amount recommended per day. In addition, 41% the value needed for protein is present in just 2 ounces. Other important nutrients include Vitamin A (necessary for eyesight, skin, teeth, and body tissue), Vitamin B12 (nervous system and blood formation), and Vitamin B2 (also known as Riboflavin and an important antioxidant). Apart from their special uses, the B complex vitamins are vital in converting food into energy, breaking carbohydrates down into sugars the body needs to function. 

The calorie count in Parmesan cheese is very low, with one tablespoon accounting for just over 20 calories and one gram of fat. If used in hefty amounts, the calorie and fat total could add up, but Parmesan has such a strong flavor that small amounts usually add enough potency. 

Other than possibly adding too much fat due to overconsumption, Parmesan cheese is quite high in sodium, to the tune of 780 mg per two ounces. This represents 32.5% of the daily value. When ingestion large amounts of sodium at one time, symptoms such as dehydration, dizziness, stomach cramps and nausea are possible. Again, moderate the amount you use and you will be fine. 

In the United States, one well-known brand of 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese also adds cellulose powder, potassium sorbate, and cheese cultures into its ingredients, three items which are not found in Parmigiano Reggiano. Potassium sorbate, consumed in large quantities, can cause a depletion in nutrients via diarrhea. Cellulose powder, made from wood pulp, may also cause diarrhea when consumed in large amounts. Still, in the case of Parmesan cheese, the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Possible short-term side effects

  • headache / migraine
  • dehydration
  • stomach cramps
  • nausea
  • diarrhea when having consumed a large amount

Possible long-term side effects

  • increased blood pressure due to sodium

Ingredients to be aware of


  • good source of protein
  • provides energy
  • promotes healthy vision
  • promotes healthy nervous system
  • promotes blood formation
  • helps prevent various bone diseases

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

365 Grated Parmesan

  • Conveniently grated
  • Rich in flavor
  • 5-ounce portion
  • Whole Foods quality
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 01-02-2016
Last updated: 12-15-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 01-02-2016
Last updated: 12-15-2023

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