One of the toughest foods for me to stay away from is cheese. It’s delicious, let’s all just agree on that. But it’s not always the best choice for our health, for animal welfare, or the planet.
Don’t get me wrong, there are dairy farmers out there who treat their animals like the superstar divas they are. But it’s an unfortunate truth that those farmers are few and far between. Even in the absolute best case scenarios where the animals are treated very well, cheese doesn’t always agree with everyone’s digestive system, and there are still unavoidable environmental impacts.
Unfit for Cheese
I admit I’m not a nutrition expert. But it doesn’t take a scientist or a PhD to understand that humans were not actually made to eat dairy longer than a couple years. I mean, I often wonder who pulled on a cow’s teat and decided to drink whatever came out. I’m also not entirely sure I want to thank that person for starting a food group that includes my favorite products- yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and butter. Or curse them for creating a food group that often ruins my perfect eating plan.
Being lactose intolerant sounds like an anomaly, but in reality, it’s the other way around. Our bodies are just not designed to intake what’s basically infant formula into adulthood.
Those who follow the paleo diet, often called the caveman diet, don’t eat cheese, or any dairy products. The agricultural revolution invented many foods we eat, like dairy, grains, and refined processed foods (sugar and flour). But what paleo-following athlete wouldn’t kill for a cheeseburger?
Effects on the Planet
There are other problems with cheese, too. As I mentioned before, many farmers take excellent care of their animals. But those who don’t aren’t just ruining it for other farmers, they are ruining it for our health, and even the planet.
Dairy farms use approximately 1.4 billion gallons of water keeping their stock hydrated properly, not to mention the amount of water used to grow the food to feed dairy cows. The most ironic part? Cows aren’t even made to eat what factory farms feed them. Cows are ruminants. They eat grass. But to keep their animals fat and “happy” (that is such a loose interpretation), huge operations often resort to feeding them grain, corn, and soy. In fact, most of the soy, grain, and corn crops around the world is specifically to feed livestock.
Dairy farms also contributes to soil contamination from animal waste, toxic air, climate change, and even ecosystem destruction. The waste management is a full time job, and not always done well.
Doing Our Part
So, what can we do? Can we eat cheese? Should we eat cheese? I say if you can get your dairy from a reputable source (like a local farmer), and it doesn’t affect you negatively, go for it. Support the farmers and producers who care for the environment and their animals.
But reducing our intake will help no matter if we get our dairy from a local farmer or not. Cheese almost always comes wrapped in plastic, which has been a mind-bender for me until I got really proficient at making my own vegan version of cheese. By using ingredients which don’t come wrapped in plastic, are paleo-friendly, and whole, clean foods, I am making a healthier choice, and a more sustainable choice.
Do I still eat cheese? Only on rare occasions. But making my own has been a great venture for me. And now, it can be something you can do to make a better impact as well.
The Cheesy Vegan (Sorta)
I started making my own vegan version of cheese after reading a book called The Cheesy Vegan. My husband has a good friend who is allergic to dairy (not quite the same as lactose intolerant). So, I was experimenting with ways to create a spinach artichoke dip, and used the recipe from the cookbook for mozzarella. It was delicious, and we all enjoyed it.
But as with everything in my life, I wanted to play with the recipe a bit. I think it’s also because a good friend of mine was gluten-intolerant, and I wanted to make the cheese for her. So instead of oats, I used almond flour.
And then I wanted to reduce our sodium. And we discovered turmeric is the secret ingredient to everything. Soon, I had a completely different recipe from the one I discovered so many years ago.
I started using it for more and more recipes. But I found the recipes this vegan alternative works best in are those that use mozzarella. Don’t fool yourself. The cheese does NOT taste like mozzarella. But it is a great substitute. Made with great ingredients.
Check out my previous post on nacho cheese! ZooFit Recipe of the Week: Let’s Get Ready to NACHO!
6 servings; 60 calories, Carbs 7.6 g, Fat: 5 g, Protein: 2.1 g
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 cup coconut/almond milk
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp tahini
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- ⅓ cup almond flour
- 1 Tbsp tapioca flour
- ½ tsp ground mustard
- 1½ tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp salt (or 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to reduce sodium)
- In a small pan, lightly brown garlic slices on stovetop.
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor/ninja. Blend together until smooth.
- Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat until it thickens, stirring constantly.
- Scoop mixture into a resealable container and place in fridge for at least 3 hours prior to using in recipes.