What you need to know about ingredient substitutions for cheese
When I started eating plant-strong, one of my biggest hurdles was learning how to substitute one ingredient for the other, to transform my favorite recipes into plant-powered, nutritious meals. I already knew which foods were not on my shopping list, but had to figure out which ones to eat in their place.
It got me thinking that perhaps you, as well, have been struggling to make the same changes, and since there are so many choices for healthier ingredients, I thought I would put together a few posts with ingredient substitutions that every plant-strong eater should know — starting with ingredient substitutions for cheese.
I love cheese.
Let me get right to the point here and say that most of the cheese substitutions I have tried really, really suck. Let’s face it.
When you are a cheese-lover, like myself, and you try to find an exact plant-strong duplicate for a soft brie or a sharp cheddar — well, it can be pretty frustrating. I know what you’ve read and what you’ve heard, that such-and-such a brand is “like the real thing”.
If I had to choose, I would say that Nutritional Yeast is my favorite cheese substitution. It has the cheesiest flavor and is also the healthiest, with a good dose of vitamin B12, which is lacking in plant-strong diets. It is the only vitamin that cannot be sourced from plants. I will be talking about that in another post, so stay tuned. Nutritional yeast can be sprinkled over salads, in soups, and over popcorn.
Be careful about the cheese substitutes you use. Many of them lack fiber and are heavily processed with long lists of ingredients, which makes them poor nutrient choices.
Some of them contain the milk proteins casein and whey. If you must, just use them sparingly while you transition to a non-dairy-based cheese.
Lots of cheeses on the market are now made with cashews, but if you are consuming a low-fat diet, be aware that cashews are pretty high in fat.
I’m also amazed at the amount of recipes out there to “make your own cheese”. Does anyone have the time? If we can’t find one already made by the professionals that works for us, then how can we possibly make something better?
I have been all over the internet trying to find the perfect recipe that is tasty and easy, and it’s just not there. Can you help me find one?
The largest source of saturated fat
In America, the largest source of saturated fat consumption comes from cheese. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic here.
Every restaurant I know, and just about every food manufacturer and fast food joint puts cheese on everything.
As if that’s not enough, most cheeses are made with rennet, which is an enzyme that comes from calves’ stomach linings. Sounds appealing, no?
The Vegetarian Society says, “The traditional source of rennet is the stomach of slaughtered newly-born calves. Vegetarian cheeses are manufactured using rennet from either fungal/bacterial sources or genetically modified micro-organisms.” I kinda just lost my appetite.
What about calcium?
Our bodies take small amounts of calcium from our bones and replaces it with new calcium, so it is really important to have enough calcium so that our bodies don’t decrease bone density in this daily process. Yes, calcium is necessary for bone health, but only to a point.
Once you have consumed more than 600 milligrams per day, you’ve passed the threshold and it does nothing to improve bone density at those levels. In other words, dairy has little or no benefit for bones. Check this out for plant-based calcium substitutions.
The magazine, Pediatrics, showed that milk consumption does not improve bone density in children. There was a study done by Harvard Nurses’ Health Study which followed more than 72,000 women for 18 years, and it showed that there was no protective effect of increased dairy or milk consumption, and that consuming dairy did not improve fracture risk.
Cheese contains mold?
Doesn’t that sound appetizing? Manufacturers spray mold onto the surface or the rind to encourage the growth of white rinds, especially on cheeses such as brie.
Cheese can also contain pus from cow’s bladder infections. So the poor manufacturing processes make cheese a really unhealthy choice. The cows are treated poorly, like milk-producing machines, and are pumped full of antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones which cause them to produce more milk.
Cows suffer, and in turn, humans suffer because of increased chances of developing cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
My suggestion is to read Dr. Barnard’s new book “The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy“ — available on Amazon.
Dr. Barnard talks about how cheese triggers the same brain receptors as heroin and morphine, and he presents a program to help break the cheese addiction, which ultimately leads to better health, weight loss and more energy.
What about my kids?
It’s pretty simple. Saturated fat, milk proteins, milk sugar and fat in dairy products all have potential health risks for kids, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Of course, low-fat or non-fat milk products are recommended, but a study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, indicated that there was no difference in the rates of obesity for kids who drank skim milk or 1%, versus those who drank full-fat milk products.
Babies digest formula or breast milk much easier than cow’s milk. The high concentration of protein and minerals can stress a babies kidneys, and has the potential to cause fever or diarrhea.
Think about it. Cow’s milk is for cows, to help a young calf grow really, really big, in a very short period of time. Human babies are not expected to weigh 800 to 12oo pounds in one year, are they?
I think you know by now that milk and dairy products really aren’t necessary, since there are so many plant-strong, nutrient-dense ways to meet your calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin B12 requirements. Don’t get tripped up by ingredient substitutions for cheese. There’s plenty of other plant-powered goodness to eat!