There are at least 2 BIG reasons to steer clear of the cheese tray that seems to make its ubiquitous appearance this time of year. Cheese cubes, cheese balls, cheese sauce – think of the incarnations!
You may already know the downside of dairy (see ‘Perils of Dairy’: Why dairy may not ‘do your body good’ and in fact be just plain bad for you – video)- especially if you’ve been coming by the plant-based fitness blog for any amount of time. Yet at this time of year, getting served up a reminder can only help. Plus I’ve got a great new visual for you: How big a ‘one oz’ size serving of cheese really is.
2 reasons to steer clear of the cheese tray
1) Fat and calories: That one oz. of cheese has 107 calories and 8 grams of fat. Hello!
That’s 67% of its calories from fat!
That innocent looking pile of swiss cheese in the image is a 1 oz. portion.
That’s right, when you see ‘serving size: 1 oz’ on the package, it means that tiny little heap of dice. Need we underscore that cheese is not your fat loss or weight loss friend?
2) Cheese addiction: Cheese has addictive properties (no wonder we like it). The primary protein in cheese comes from casein. Casein, the primary protein in cow’s milk, breaks apart in the digestive process and releases chemicals called casomorphins. Sound familiar? Casomorphins are casein-derived, morphine-like substances.
What does this mean for you? It means your body responds with a biochemical cascade as if you’d had an opiate.
To make just 1 lb of cheese, it takes about 10 lbs of milk. As milk goes through the process of being made into cheese, the water is largely removed and what’s left behind? The casein and fat. This is why highly concentrated dairy products such as cheese have unusually high levels of opiates.
So, is this an inherently bad thing? No. The biochemistry of casein and fat ingestion serves a powerful purpose in the natural world where nursing infants need that strong connection with their primary food source to survive.
But if you are trying to break the tie with this high fat item along with the rest of its dairy friends, then making a clean break will give a big boost to your process. There’s a reason we can’t seem to stop at one bite. See Stress eating: No wonder we crave chocolate and not broccoli (video).
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Hey Lani, it’s my first ‘cheese-free’ Christmas thanks to you! I can look back and see myself 10 lbs heavier a year ago. The inspiration and tweaks you have provided are making such a difference and I couldn’t be happier.
Happy Christmas and new year to you, and thanks again!
Shelli, 10 lbs? Really? Hurrah! And congrats on the cheese -free Christmas. The dairy thing DOES make such a difference and I’m thrilled for you.
And thank you, thank you for coming by with your kind words to tell me about it!
Lani, thank you so much for the visual guides you give us! They help. I am still picturing my ‘daily plate’ to be sure I am getting at least half each day of my veggies and fruit! I have always found dairy to be very hard to break the habit of. Even when it makes me feel so badly. Well, I am going to re-read the Mad Cowboy book again – I need the reminders in front of me all the time.
I am getting better by the day. Thanks for you help in the process!
I love pics too – they really pack a message, I can see you are a ‘visual grrrl’ like me as you totally ‘get’ it about the 50/50 plant-based plate.
On the dairy – it takes awhile to get it out of your ‘system’ yet is so worth the effort. Find all the motivators you can to reinforce your decision – and if Mad Cowboy is a big player in that department, then go for it! Gather your reinforcements! For me the big turner was a video of cow horn burn-back at a dairy. That did it.
Also, after awhile cheese will actually be ‘stinky’ to be around. Remember the first time you smelled a strong cheese and wrinkled your nose? That aroma starts to come through again and rather than being a learned draw works for you in keeping cheesy cheese at arms length.
thanks so much for sharing your thoughts this morning Kathy. Now, I want to hear more details of your ‘getting better day by day’ – OK?
Oh, how I remember the raclettes we used to have on Christmas Eve, with all sorts of different cheeses, hams and bread…..and I also remember how I felt after eating that……There is nothing better than feeling good and being free of addictions.
Happy Holidays and thanks
“There is nothing better than feeling good and being free…” – you said it grrrl! Have a wonderful holiday!
Thanks so much, Lani
I just made my way over to this article from your rebuttal to Oprah’s “healthy” snacks (great alternatives by the way!).
I’d like to offer my friendly rebuttal to this piece, and argue *for* cheese:
-Casein. It’s possible to find raw (or low temperature processed) cheese made from organic, grass-fed A2 cows that are free of the A1 beta casein protein that makes many people feel sick.
-Probiotics. Of course these can be had in any fermented product, not just cheese (kefir, yogurt, and even sauerkraut for the more dairy-free inclined), but cheese can be an excellent source of this.
-Fat & calories. I’m all about moderation. If one has a little bit of cheese and fits those calories into their daily calorie allowance (whether your in weight-loss or maintenance mode), I don’t see the problem with the calories. Also, if it’s cheese from organic, grass-fed cows, I would argue it’s a healthy fat.
-Vitamin K2. While K1 can be obtained from leafy greens, K2 cannot. K2 is an essential vitamin for heart health, and it can only be found in meats, eggs, cheese, and sauerkraut.
So yes, a few of these benefits can be had from sauerkraut and not cheese, but then if one if watching their sodium-intake they’ll have to be careful with the amount of sauerkraut consumed.
I’m not advocting noshing down on tons of cheese, but it seems to me that cheese, from a healthy source (A2, organic, grass-fed), and in moderation, can actually be very good for you!
In any case, I try to eat mostly plant-based foods, so I enjoy your website very much. Thank you for your great articles Lani!
Thanks Kenia! Your arguments are noted. The downfalls of cheese, in my opinion, outweigh any benefits. Have you seen the Perils of Dairy video? Jam -packed with info:
Thank you so much for coming by and for your kind words!