There’s no doubt that cheese has it’s appeal. It’s rich, delicious and tastes good on almost anything. It’s also a food that is not considered healthy. Not only can it wreak havoc in your cholesterol but it also increases the size of your your waistline. Why is cheese so addictive? Cheese from cows milk contains a protein called casein, which is an opiate derivative excreted during lactation so that baby cows will nurse. Since lactose and water are removed during the cheese making process, the concentration or opiates is far stronger than cows milk. I am not going to the extremes as the lovely actress, Gweneth Paltrow, in saying that I would rather do crack than eat cheese from a can (Cheesewiz), however I would stay away from crack and the canned cheese for maximum health. Yikes! Don’t get me wrong. There’s no harm in having real, delicious cheese in moderation if you are not allergic to dairy but it is interesting to know how this food reacts in our bodies.
What’s a person to do if they want something rich and creamy without the saturated fat and opiates? Check out my 5 favorite cheese substitutes below and you’ll see why cheese will not NEED to be a dietary staple but, rather, an occasional treat.
1.) Tahini Sauce – Made from ground sesame seeds, it’s rich in polyunsaturated fat ( good fat) and calcium. You can mix it with chickpeas, lemon, garlic and olive oil to make hummus or have it on it’s own. Try drizzling tahini sauce over your cooked broccoli and brown rice. Yummy!
2.) Cashew or Almond cheese – There are some wonderful varieties sold in your favorite health food stores. This cheese is lower in fat and calories but it still melts nicely on burritos and pasta or can be added to sandwiches. Check out this recipe from my favorite vegan chef for cashew cheese. Delicious!
3.) Almond Butter- Almonds contain calcium and essential fatty acids, which, help regulate metabolism and maintain lean body mass, if consumed in moderation. These nuts are also not allergenic like peanuts. Try an almond butter and honey sandwich or have it with crackers.
4.) Greek Yogurt – Rich and creamy it goes great with baked potatoes, over fruit salads or mixed with muesli. Greek yogurt is rich in healthy gut bacteria and contains protein and calcium.
5.) Olive Oil with Herbs – When I was growing up my Italian Grandma would make delicious white pizza from scratch. It did not have ricotta cheese on it as most white pizzas do. The freshly baked pizza dough was delicately drizzled with olive oil and Italian herbs. It was absolutely delicious! Olive oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats and Omega 3’s which assist in raising HDL (good cholesterol). Olive oil can be drizzled on pasta with basil, steamed vegetables or on fresh bread. My mouth is watering!