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?
Some key characteristics of cheese make it addictive. These are the main ones.
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.
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.
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…
Although giving up cheese is very hard, the following tips can help you head in the right direction:
And now, let’s try a healthy and delicious plant-based alternative to cheese 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.