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Why is it so hard to give up cheese?

 

And 5 tips on how to reduce your dairy consumption

 

What is the most difficult food to give up before going plant-based?

Many vegans will tell you: it’s cheese. 

Even for those who managed to give up eggs, meat and fish easily, dairy is completely another story. 

So, if you’d like to go plant-based but are still struggling with dairy, your situation is not uncommon at all.

Don’t blame yourself, the problem is not your willpower. 

The problem is that cheese is actually an addictive food

But why is that?

 

Why is cheese so addictive?

 

Some key characteristics of cheese make it addictive. These are the main ones.

  • It’s high in salt

Cheese is generally very high in salt, a flavour enhancer that makes our food tastier. 

This ingredient is widely used in ready meals and industrial foods also because it can trigger cravings for more salty foods, thus tempting us to buy more.

You’ve probably already had the experience of being “hooked” on chips without being able to stop, right? 

Well, salt is one of the main reasons for this.

And with cheese it’s the same: the more you eat it, the more you crave for it.

 

  • It’s high in fat

Cheese is also high in another addictive nutrient, fat.

Studies have actually found that fatty foods can affect our brain in a way similar to drugs. 

Eating fat causes the release of dopamine in our brain. This gives us a sense of reward which pushes us to repeat the behaviour over and over again.

 

  • It contains casein

More recently, we’ve gained an even better understanding on why cheese can be so addictive, as more research has been done on one of its proteins - casein - and its fragments, casomorphins. 

Casomorphins are morphine-like substances that attach to the same brain receptors as drugs after you eat dairy.  

While their effect is much milder than the one recreational drugs have on us, it’s strong enough to make extremely difficult for you to quit dairy. 

 

Combine salt, fat and casein and you have the perfect recipe for an addictive food…

 

5 tips to reduce your dairy consumption

 

Although giving up cheese is very hard, the following tips can help you head in the right direction:

  1. If you can, don’t reach the point where you eat dairy several times per day. The more you’re used to eating it, the more it will be difficult to quit.
  2. Start by giving up your least favourite type of dairy. For example, if you love cheese but wouldn’t mind reducing milk and yoghurt, start with these two. You’ll see that by simply reducing your total dairy intake, you won’t crave for it as much as before. 
  3. Replace dairy with plant-based alternatives as much as you can. Nowadays there are so many options of vegan milk, yoghurt and cheese to choose from, that you just need to find your favourite brands. As a general rule, nut-based cheese is tastier and more nutritious.
  4. You could also experiment in the kitchen and create your own cheese replacement. From nuts to legumes, there are so many ingredients you can play with, so just have fun!
  5. If there’s a particular type of cheese or a dish you really love, that’s not a problem, you can still do occasional exceptions to your plant-based diet. It may take years for you to go fully plant-based but that’s OK too. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s your journey and you should go at the pace that works better for you.

And now, let’s try a healthy and delicious plant-based alternative to cheese spread.

 

Cheesy sesame spread

 

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

75 g sesame seeds (1/2 cup)

75 g sunflower seeds (1/2 cup)

2 tsps. nutritional yeast

1 garlic clove

2 tsps. miso paste

The juice of ½ lemon 

A pinch of salt

 

Soak the seeds for 4-6 hours.

Blend all the ingredients together until creamy and smooth. Add water if necessary.

Serve chilled.

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