When I first started making some major changes in my diet, such as cutting out processed foods, meat, and other animal products, I remember saying to myself, ‘I don’t think I could ever fully give up cheese.’
The idea of not having cheese in my life anymore didn’t seem like an attainable reality. After I actually stopped eating it, I would say, the one thing I really miss is cheese (…and chicken fingers). But now, years later, I feel like I have finally let go of the need for cheese, and have also discovered some great alternatives along the way. I did not think it was possible, but here I am, a recovering cheese-aholic.
Cheese is a very popular ingredient in American cuisine. You can find it in almost any traditional American comfort food, so when you think about it, it hardly comes as a surprise to find out that many people are actually addicted to cheese. And so, it all comes together…
How Is Cheese Addictive?
This may sound crazy, but dairy actually contains a chemical that is similar to morphine. Researchers identified a protein known as casein in 1981 that is present in all mammals, including humans and cows. When we eat dairy and it begins to digest, the casein actually releases opiates that are known as casomorphins. Casomorphins, similar to morphine, are a member of the opioid family, and the implications of this are pretty astonishing. You may literally be addicted to cheese. (1)
When you consider the purpose of milk in the first place – to provide nourishment for rapidly growing infants and establish a strong connection between mother and child – the true, intended purpose of casomorphins becomes clear.
However, the majority of the cheese we consume on a regular basis is primarily made from cow’s milk, which has at least 10 times the amount of casomorphins compared to our own Mother’s milk. In the process of converting milk into cheese, about 10 pounds of milk are actually required to make 1 pound of cheese, which means that the presence of casomorphins is highly concentrated.
No, this will not actually get you “high” if you consume a large amounts of dairy products, and you won’t need to go see an addiction therapist or go to rehab to cut cheese from your diet. It just explains why we may feel strong cravings for this food and just generally love it so much. This may be one of the reasons that cheese consumption has nearly tripled in America since 1950’s and dun.. dun.. duh… so has the obesity rate. (2)
Why Should We Break This Addiction?
There is a lot of evidence now to support the idea that Most Human Being’s Are Actually Lactose Intolerant. Our bodies are not actually capable of properly breaking down and digesting cheese and other dairy products. Aside from that issue, there is also plenty of evidence to suggest that there is a link between dairy consumption and a number of serious health concerns, such as various forms of cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, and, surprisingly enough, osteoporosis. (3, 4, 5)
“There is compelling evidence, now published in top scientific journals and some of which is decades old, showing that cows’ milk is associated, possibly even causally, with a wide variety of serious human ailments including various cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and an array of allergy-related diseases. And, this food contains no nutrients that cannot be better obtained from other far more nutritious and tasty foods.” – Dr. Colin Campbell (Author of “The China Study”)
Aside from the many potential health concerns raised by the consumption of cheese, there is another very pressing issue at hand, which is the dairy industry itself. The cows that are raised for dairy are forced to live in absolutely atrocious conditions, are kept pregnant their entire lives, and are pumped full of antibiotics and synthetic hormones. What’s worse, their babies are taken away from them at birth, which is traumatizing for both mother and child. And you’d better believe those drugs are making it onto your pizza or cheeseburger. You can read more about that here.
What Are Our Options?
You don’t have to give up cheese entirely to make a difference. Just being mindful of the amount that you consume can help significantly. The average American consumes 30 pounds of cheese a year (6). That is a lot of cheese! Consider drastically cutting down your consumption, having it as a treat rather than a staple.
If you are slowly cutting out animal products and you are ready to eliminate cheese entirely, there are, fortunately, some amazing cheese alternatives! Brand such as: Daiya, Sheese, and Follow Your Heart are available at many grocery stores. You can also find some more gourmet vegan cheeses, made from nuts and seeds, at specialty shops and health food stores.
You wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference with many of the options. There are also a number of recipes for dishes using homemade cheese alternatives based on cashews and nutritional yeast. One of my favorite recipes is for a simple vegan “Mac n’ Cheeze,” and can be found here.
I recently started experimented with making my own nut cheeses as well, with great success! My favorites are a simple Baked Almond Feta that can be used as a pizza topping or crumbled in a wrap or salad, and a Vegan Cashew Brie. Sure these take a bit of time to prepare, but they are so worth it!
Here’s to compassion and health!