Is provolone a healthy cheese?

Provolone is a popular Italian cheese that is commonly used for sandwiches, pizzas, pastas, and more. With its smooth, mild flavor and versatility, it’s easy to see why provolone is a staple ingredient in many kitchens. However, when it comes to cheese, many people have questions about its health effects. Is provolone really a nutritious choice? Or is it high in fat, salt, and calories like some other cheese varieties?

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at provolone cheese and examine its nutrition facts. We’ll discuss:

  • What is provolone cheese?
  • Nutrition facts: Calories, fat, protein, etc.
  • Benefits of provolone cheese
  • Downsides and health risks
  • How to enjoy provolone in a healthy way

By the end, you’ll have a thorough understanding of whether provolone cheese can be part of a balanced diet or if it’s better left as an occasional indulgence. Let’s get started!

What is Provolone Cheese?

Provolone is an Italian cheese that originated in southern Italy. It is made from cow’s milk and comes in various forms:

  • Provolone Dolce: Aged 2-3 months, has a mild, creamy, delicate flavor
  • Provolone Piccante: Aged 3-12 months, has a sharper, tangier taste
  • Smoked Provolone: Cold smoked, has a smoky aroma and flavor

Traditionally, provolone was made by Italian cheesemakers as a pulled or stretched curd cheese, which gives it a smooth, pliable texture. The curds are dipped into hot whey and then stretched and shaped by hand into large pear, sausage, or cone shapes.

As it ages, provolone becomes drier and more crumbly. Young provolone is soft and elastic, while aged provolone is firmer. The color ranges from pale yellow to white.

Provolone has a buttery, mildly tangy taste that lacks the sharpness of cheeses like Parmesan or Pecorino Romano. Its mellow flavor makes it highly versatile for cooking. Provolone melts very well, which is why it’s such a popular pizza topping.

Nutrition Facts: Calories, Fat, Protein, and More

Now let’s analyze the nutrition profile of provolone cheese. We’ll compare 1 ounce (28g) of regular whole milk provolone versus low moisture part skim provolone [1].

Regular Provolone Nutrition Facts

Nutrient Amount
Calories 108
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 6g
Protein 6g
Carbohydrates 0g
Fiber 0g
Calcium 209mg
Sodium 181mg

As you can see, a 1 ounce serving of regular provolone packs 108 calories and 9 grams of total fat, 6 grams coming from saturated fat.

It also provides 209mg of calcium (21% DV) and 6g of protein.

Low Moisture Part Skim Provolone

Now let’s look at the nutrition for low moisture part skim provolone:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 90
Total Fat 6g
Saturated Fat 3.5g
Protein 9g
Carbohydrates 1g
Fiber 0g
Calcium 257mg
Sodium 146mg

The part skim provolone is lower in total fat (6g vs 9g) and saturated fat (3.5g vs 6g) compared to regular provolone. It also has slightly more protein and calcium.

As you can see, the nutrition profile can vary between different types of provolone cheese. Overall though, provolone is considered a high fat, higher calorie cheese.

Benefits of Provolone Cheese

Despite being high in calories and fat, provolone cheese does offer several health benefits:

Rich in Protein

A 1 ounce serving of provolone packs 6-9 grams of protein, giving you 11-16% of your daily protein needs [2]. This makes provolone an excellent source of protein.

Protein plays vital roles in building muscle mass, supporting bone health, regulating appetite and metabolism, and more [3].

High in Calcium

Provolone is also impressively high in calcium, providing 20-25% DV in just one ounce.

Calcium is essential for maintaining bone mineral density and preventing fractures. Adequate calcium intake can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis [4].

Source of Phosphorus

In addition to calcium, provolone cheese contains phosphorus. This mineral works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Phosphorus also assists in cell regeneration and energy production [5].

Vitamin B12

Provolone provides a moderate amount of vitamin B12, an important nutrient that supports nerve function and red blood cell formation [6].

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

As a dairy product, provolone contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is a healthy fatty acid that has been linked to anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects [7].

High Nutrient Density

Despite being high in fat and calories, provolone actually delivers a lot of nutrition per serving. It provides significant amounts of protein, calcium, B12, and more – all with just 1 ounce.

This makes it a nutrient-dense food option. Nutrient density is important for getting the biggest nutritional bang for your buck from foods.

Potential Downsides of Provolone

While provolone offers some nutritional upside, it also comes with some potential health risks:

High in Saturated Fat

The main concern with provolone is its high saturated fat content. One ounce provides around 20-25% DV for saturated fat.

Diets high in saturated fats are linked to increased LDL cholesterol levels, raising the risk for heart disease [8].

If you have high cholesterol or heart health concerns, it’s best to watch your saturated fat intake from provolone and other cheeses.

High in Sodium

Provolone also contains a fairly high amount of sodium, with 150-200mg per ounce.

This can be an issue for those with hypertension or who are watching their salt intake. Too much sodium may increase blood pressure and fluid retention [9].

Low in Vitamins and Minerals

Aside from its calcium and vitamin B12 content, provolone doesn’t contain significant amounts of other vitamins and minerals.

While no single food provides everything you need, provolone has nutritional limitations compared to some other cheese varieties. Swiss cheese, for example, also provides vitamin A. Cheddar contains some vitamin K as well [10, 11].

This doesn’t make provolone unhealthy, but it’s important to eat a variety of foods to obtain a full spectrum of nutrients. Relying solely on provolone would make it difficult to meet all your nutritional needs.

High in Calories

At over 100 calories per ounce, provolone is one of the higher calorie cheeses. It packs nearly double the calories as the same serving size of mozzarella [12].

This can be an issue if you’re closely managing your calorie intake or trying to lose weight. It’s easy to overindulge when eating calorie-dense provolone cheese.

How to Enjoy Provolone in a Healthy Way

Despite some drawbacks, provolone can still be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation and balanced with other nutritious foods:

Watch Portion Sizes

To keep calories, fat, and sodium in check, stick to 1-2 ounce servings of provolone cheese. Measure portions to prevent overeating.

Pair with Fruits and Veggies

Enjoy provolone cheese along with antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies. Try it on a salad, in a vegetable sandwich, or alongside fresh strawberries or melon.

Choose Low-Fat Versions

Opt for reduced fat or part-skim versions when possible to cut down on saturated fat intake.

Use Sparingly in Recipes

When cooking, use provolone moderately in casseroles, pastas, and other dishes. Bulk up recipes with extra veggies instead of extra cheese.

Substitute with Healthier Cheeses

For those watching calories or fat, substitute provolone with part-skim mozzarella, feta, goat cheese, or reduced-fat swiss. These have a similar meltability.

Read Labels

Check nutrition labels and compare brands when shopping for provolone. Ingredients and nutritional values can vary significantly between different types.

The Bottom Line

Overall, provolone cheese can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderate amounts. It offers protein, calcium, phosphorus, and other nutrients. However, provolone is high in saturated fat, sodium, and calories, so portion control is important. Watch your overall consumption and balance provolone with plenty of wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to reap its benefits while minimizing any potential downsides.

As with any food, enjoying provolone cheese in moderation as part of an overall nutritious diet is the healthiest approach. Used sparingly to add flavor and creamy texture, provolone can be a tasty addition to a balanced meal plan.

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