(Also see Finding the Right Vegan Cheese for more information about replacing dairy cheese with vegan alternatives.)
“Cheese consumption in the U.S. rose from 15 pounds per person per year in 1975 to more than 30 pounds in 1999. And you can thank the federal government. The USDA Report to Congress on the Dairy Promotion Programs for the year 2000 described how the government and industry worked with fast-food chains to make sure that cheese was prominently displayed in menu items.”
~ Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine
“But I could never give up cheese…”
Have you ever found yourself speaking these words, or just thinking them inside your own mind? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, this belief is so widespread that vegan advocates have devoted pages and pages of writing to addressing this one simple statement.
There’s a reason for this, and it’s much simpler than most people would probably imagine.
Cheese is addictive.
Yes, you heard that right. I’m not saying that cheese has the power of cocaine or heroin, or even cigarettes. But it is, nevertheless, habit-forming in a physical sense. Just ask the experts at the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine:
“In PCRM’s research studies, when we take people off meat, dairy products, and other unhealthy fare, we often find that the desire for cheese, in particular, lingers on much more strongly than for other foods. While they might like ice cream or yogurt, they describe their feelings for cheese as a deep-seated craving.”
The PCRM paper goes on to explain how, in 1981, researchers discovered that animal milk actually contains morphine, a highly addictive opioid substance with pain-reducing qualities. As any breastfeeding mother could easily confirm, the morphine in mother’s milk serves to calm a nursing baby and strengthen the mother-infant bond, ensuring the child’s desire to nurse and thereby obtain the necessary nutrition.
The article goes on:
“But that was only the beginning, as other researchers soon found. Cow’s milk—or the milk of any other species, for that matter—contains a protein called casein that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates called casomorphins. A cup of cow’s milk contains about six grams of casein. Skim milk contains a bit more, and casein is concentrated in the production of cheese…” (emphasis mine)
Add to this the fact that the dairy industry has been working in an underhanded way to push this high-fat, high-sodium product onto an unsuspecting population, it’s no wonder our society has a cheese problem. Yes, since the year 2000, food chains such as Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and Subway have been the public faces for this government-sanctioned program to “trigger the cheese craving” in you and your children, and thereby sell millions more pounds of cheese.
The funny thing is, when you think about what cheese actually is, it’s really not particularly appetizing:
• Milk pumped from the mammary glands of another species
• Inoculated with the same bacteria that causes human body odors
• Curdled with enzymes from the stomachs of young calves after they have been killed for veal.
Yes, anyone who thinks veal is an affront to the conscience of humanity really ought to look very closely at wherever cheese appears in his or her diet.
Not to mention, as the article points out,
“… there are many hormones and other compounds in cheese and other dairy products whose functions are not yet understood.*”
But what is one supposed to do during that three-week withdrawal from a chemical that not only calms and sedates, but also has pain-reducing qualities? There’s a simple solution: Learn everything you can about why cheese doesn’t belong on our plates, and before you know it, you’ll be repulsed by the very idea… Not to mention the smell.
In the meantime, there are a myriad of plant-based cheeses on the market, and the number is only growing. And for those with a little culinary flair, there are a number of recipes that can be made at home. From soft, spreadable cheeses to those that melt on a pizza or a grilled sandwich, there’s a vegan cheese for every purpose. Google it if you don’t believe me! (And stay tuned for more information on alternatives to animal-based cheeses.)
* An important note: The hormones in milk are not limited to those added by the industry in an attempt to expand production. Breast milk contains naturally occurring hormones that assist in the development of a nursing infant of the species for which the milk is intended. ‘Hormone-free’ milk is only free from added hormones, not hormones that occur naturally.
Image courtesy of Ivan Torres at Unsplash