Breaking Up With Cheese

Like a narcissistic lover, going no contact with cheese is the only way out.

As a health coach and plant-based nutrition educator, I find that people are very willing to give plant-based eating a try– until it comes to cheese.

“The first thing you should do,” I say, “is give up dairy products.”

“No problem,” the people say. “I don’t even like milk and yogurt, and I can go without ice cream.”

“And cheese,” I say.

“Say what?” say the people. You heard me.

“I can’t live without cheese,” they say; as if their cheddar knows their soul.

I take their clammy hand in mine, and gently, but firmly, reiterate, “especially cheese. Cheese doesn’t love you back.”

Yes, I remind them, cheese is a dairy product. The people know this, of course. We all learned it as children. Cheese comes from milk; milk is dairy. Dairy is one of the four food groups we were taught that we need in order to grow up to be big and strong…and overweight, diabetic, asthmatic, allergy-ridden, gut-pain tormented adults.

The hard truth is that cheese, like his dairy cronies, leads a double life. You were led to believe that cheese is a wholesome, all-American companion who gets along with everyone–pizza and burgers, potatoes and pasta. Cheese is just as comfortable on a pretzel as a silver charcuterie tray.

A master manipulator, cheese had you fooled from your first slice of American between two grilled slices of bread.

The truth is, your precious cheese isn’t what you thought.

That cheese to which you have given so much of your life (and what have you received in return besides pounds, cholesterol, and acne?) is made from the milk of imprisoned, tortured cows, whose babies are taken away from their mothers within hours of birth.

Your fancy cheese, always dressed to impress in little wooden boxes or sexy round molds, is really just milk to which bacteria and enzymes are added to coagulate it into lumps, which are then aged, packaged, and sold to unsuspecting lovers.

Don’t feel bad; cheese had all of us fooled.

I was just like you. I, too, grew up knowing cheese. My parents thought cheese was great. A grilled cheese sandwich and soup often took care of me when I was sick, and my mom’s macaroni and cheese was always hanging around our house.

Cheese went to college with me. I can’t tell you how many late-night pizzas I consumed while pulling all-nighters. And after a big night out, cheese on a burger was always there to help me feel better.

The truth we have to face, though, is that cheese has lied to us all these years.

Cheese has been in cahoots with the dairy industry, gaslighting us into believing it to be a significant source of calcium when actually many of our plant-based friends do a better job of meeting our needs.

And cheese’s claim to be wholesome? Well, it’s not a whole food at all. Cheese is highly processed and is one of the major sources of saturated fat and sodium in our diets.

I understand. All this time you thought cheese was on your side, but it’s been grooming you into submission; sabotaging your weight-loss efforts, causing your skin to break out, clogging your arteries, and raising your blood pressure.

So, why is it so hard to say goodbye?

When you try to leave, cheese employs sneaky tactics to draw you back.

An opiate-like substance called casomorphins present in mother cows’ milk encourages calves to want to nurse. Since cheese is just concentrated milk, the casomorphin concentration is much higher than in milk. This love bombing works. It feels good so you want it more and more.

The good news is that once you stop eating cheese, you are no longer under its drug-like control, and cravings subside. Your taste for cheese’s stretchy, gooey texture is a learned response to its charismatic ways, and after a period of no contact, you will lose your longing for cheese.

In time, you’ll get over cheese and can move on to the many other wonderful flavors and textures of foods out there– foods that will treat you right and help you be the best version of yourself. And you don’t have to wait to meet them; they’re waiting for you.

So get out there and play the plant-based field! You won’t look back, but just in case you need to hear a few more hard truths about your ex-love, remember these…

· Dairy cows are artificially impregnated annually for about four years, after which they are slaughtered. They are milked, painfully, three times a day. Upon giving birth, they mourn being separated from their newborn calves.

· Cheese’s orange color comes from beta-carotene in the milk, but if the makers want white cheese, they add peroxides or titanium dioxide, a potential carcinogen, to whiten the milk.

· Bacteria is added to ferment the milk, which produces the cheese flavor. Molds and yeast may also be added, depending on the flavor desired. Plant-based cheeses and recipes achieve the same flavors with better nutrition.

· One of the bacteria used in some cheeses is the same one that makes your feet stink if you haven’t washed them in a while. Additionally, cheese production causes chemical reactions that produce bacteria or compounds that are already present in the human body– the ones that produce body odor, the odor of vomit, and one that contributes to the odor of feces. No wonder some cheeses smell bad!

· Cheesemakers need to add something to the milk to coagulate it, turning liquid into curd. Traditionally, they used rennet, enzymes from the linings of slaughtered calves' stomachs. Some makers still use rennet, while others now use genetically engineered rennet.

· A large amount of salt is added to stop bacteria growth and promote flavor, making cheese very high in sodium.

· Cheese contains the protein casein, which is known to promote the growth of cancer cells.

Debbie is a health coach and author. She writes on plant-based nutrition, sustainable living & mental health. debbieingramcoaching@gmail.com, youonplants.com

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