To the shock of many, a vegan diet does not include dairy, which means we don't eat cheese! Removing cheese from the diet proves to be one of the most daunting tasks for those transitioning to a plant-based diet. However, it is not completely correct to attribute the urge to consume cheese to lack of will-power. There are biological factors at play when we consume cheese. Prepare for some science ahead!
Cheese consists of a protein called casein, which is typically found in dairy products with a substantial protein content. Within casein, there is a peptide sequence known as B-casomorphin-7 (BCM7). Interestingly enough, BCM7 codes for an opioid peptide. Opioid receptors on nerve cells interact with opioids to produce an ephemeral, euphoric effect.
The temporary euphoria and pain-relief are obvious reasons as to why drugs like heroin and Oxycontin are abused. However, do not be too alarmed! Casomorphins must go through a series of many events that lower their biological activity before reaching the blood-brain barrier. Cheese is certainly not a Schedule I drug, but it may increase one's susceptibility to food addiction.
Taking more of a macro look at cheese, it is not only a calorically-dense food, but also contains a significant amount of saturated fat. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, excess saturated fat consumption of any kind puts one at risk for heart disease.
Moreover, cheese is packed with sodium. The Journal of Dairy Science conducted a study in which researchers examined sodium levels in commercially available cheese. The study found that manufacturers under-reported the amount of sodium on the nutrition label compared to the actual value in the cheese. Long-term consumption of excess sodium can contribute to hypertension and water-weight gain.
Of course we wouldn't bombard you with these unsettling facts about dairy cheese without providing you with alternatives!
- One of the best brands for cream cheese alternatives is Kite Hill. Cultured and oil-free, these dairy-reminiscent spreads are at the top of our list.
- Treeline Cheese is a must for your wine and artisan cheese tastings.
- The reward of devouring something you hand-crafted rivals the dopamine-induced happiness of those darn casomorphins. Check out this inexpensive, gluten-free baked mac and cheese recipe by frommybowl.com!