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Your Parmesan Cheese Is Hiding This Gross Ingredient

The FDA definitely does NOT approve. 


There's no better way to top off a steaming bowl of pasta than with a yummy sprinkling of grated wood pulp.

... Wait, what?!

That's right. The FDA has issued a warning that cheeses labeled "100% parmesan" are often filled with cheese substitutes, wood pulp being a common culprit.

 

The Science

But before you start picturing actual chunks of wood in your food, let's get technical. The offender here is cellulose, a fiber that's naturally found in every fruit and vegetable you eat. It's often referred to as "wood pulp" since manufacturers will grind up wood to exract the fibers.

Wood cellulose is actually a relatively common food additive, and is used to keep shredded cheeses from clumping, to make low-fat ice cream creamy, and give sauces a smooth texture.

So is it bad for you or not?

So is it bad for you or not?

It depends. Cellulose is a natural fiber, and passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed. Humans actually need a certain amount of fiber in their diets to be healthy, which is why eating leafy greens and prunes are encouraged. The difference is that cellulose has no nutritional value — unlike other food-based fibers which carry vitamins and minerals — so really it just adds extra bulk to the food you're eating.

When it comes to wood cellulose as a food additive, the FDA says the safe level is somewhere around 2-4% — but many grated cheeses contain a whole lot more. Walmart's Great Value 100 % Grated Parmesan Cheese tested at 7.8%, while Jewel-Osco's 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese contained upwards of 8.8%!

So What Should You Do?

Ultimately, the cellulose in your food isn't dangerous... But it does mean that you're paying extra to eat wood pulp. By cutting expensive products (like Parmesan) with cellulose, retailers are able to charge you big bucks for stuff that tastes like paper.

The best thing to do is to skip the processed stuff and buy real, whole Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy. The depth of taste will blow you away, and you can pick up a wedge from Costco that may be a little pricier, but will last you for months.

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Chef Tips and Tricks

Three Cheese Baguette

You'll drool over this 3 cheese, bacon-wrapped baguette.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • Blue cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Mozarella
  • 1 baguette
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Bacon

METHOD

  1. Cut your cheeses into thin slices
  2. Slice baguette down the middle (like a sandwich)
  3. Layer cheddar, blue, and mozarella cheese inside the bread
  4. Top with sun-dried tomatoes
  5. Close baguette and wrap with bacon strips
  6. Put in oven and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees
  7. Slice and serve!

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