One of the things that people find most challenging to wrap their heads around when transitioning to a plant-based diet, is how they’re going to live without cheese.
This might sound dramatic but there’s actually some science suggesting that that’s a lot harder than it might sound.
Cheese contains the protein casein, which can act as a mild opiate.
Fragments of cheese protein, called casomorphins, attach to the same brain receptors as heroin and other narcotics and other addictive drugs. As a result, each bite of cheese produces a tiny hit of dopamine. Apparently, this has a calming effect on the baby cows, for which cow’s milk is intended, and may not only play a role in the mother-infant bond but also encourage the baby to eat more. And that’s fine, for a baby cow who gains 2 – 2.5 pounds a day until they weigh anywhere from 900 – 1500 pounds. That’s probably not the goal of the average human.
And speaking of humans, not only is dairy not good for us in that it contributes to a number of health problems, including certain cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, but it is one of the foods most guilty of causing inflammation.
But it tastes so good! I know, it does. But like many addictive foods, it becomes less and less appealing, the longer you go without it.
But so many great recipes call for cheese!
That’s true, and thankfully there are more and more cheese alternatives on the market every day.
I’ll be honest, I try every single one that I find, but I have yet to find a plant-based cheese that both tastes and feels like dairy-based cheese, and I have eaten A LOT of vegan cheese during that quest.
I have found only a couple of cheeses that come really close, but they usually contain coconut oil or other ingredients that make them a little less healthy than I’d like them to be so I try not to eat them very often.
I have found some oil-free recipes that make an adequate stand-in sometimes though, and that includes:
A mix of ground cashews, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast in place of parmesan on pasta.
A mix of blanched almonds and soft/semi-firm tofu mashed with herbs to replace ricotta.
Soaking cubed firm tofu in a lemon and salt brine to replace feta in salads.
A nut-based feta and a nut-based oil-free mozzarella, both from the cookbook Homemade Vegan Pantry by Miyoko Schinner.
Julie Piat also has a few really tasty recipes in her book, This Cheese is Nuts.
If you’ve found any that you leave a comment! I’d love to try it!