Who Moved My (Toxic) Cheese?

It happened again the other night. There I was, sitting at a table with some other ladies at a social function, and my family’s nutritional profile came up. “Oh, I could give up meat,” declared one woman, “but never cheese!” The other table members emphatically nodded.

What is it about cheese that makes people take complete leave of their senses?  I know it is a concentrated source of casomorphin–the addictive chemical compound that keeps baby calves returning to their mama cow–and that casomorphin can take up to 3 weeks to clear your system.  But is that all that’s at work here?  Why is cheese so very addictive?  In addition to the casomorphin, there is also the growing body of research that shows that fatty foods can be as addictive as cocaine. Yes, I understand that cheese tastes good.  So do a lot of foods that aren’t good for us, but people aren’t eating them every day.  Cheese, however, has been successfully marketed as a veritable health food, with some people eating it at every meal and feeding it to their children frequently too.

I recently took my daughter to the pediatrician’s office for a well-child check-up. Plastered on the wall is an extensive list of “healthy” snacks to feed your child. Two-thirds of the list contain yogurt or cheese.  A year ago, I would have been okay with that, but knowing what I do now, there is NO WAY that I would ever feed a child cheese.  In fact, cheese is the single most harmful food you can feed a child, because not only does it possess all the poor qualities of dairy, but it possesses them in concentrated form because it takes a huge quantity of milk to make cheese.

This is a good breakdown of the disadvantages of cow’s milk, courtesy of the book Healthy Eating for Life for Children.

  • Cow’s milk protein
    • Proteins in cow’s milk have been implicated in insulin-dependent diabetes.
    • Cow’s milk proteins are a common cause of food allergies in children .
  • Cow’s milk fat
    • Cow’s milk contains significant amounts of saturated fat (except skim) and cholesterol that contribute to heart disease and cancer.
    • Cow’s milk is low in essential fatty acids.
  • Cow’s milk sugar
    • Many older children, esp those of Asian and African ancestry, cannot digest the cow’s milk sugar, lactose.  The results are diarrhea and gas.
    • Galactose, one of the components of lactose, has been implicated in ovarian cancer and cataracts.
  • Low in iron
    • Cow’s milk is very low in iron and is associated with iron deficiency anemia.
    • Cow’s milk causes blood loss from the intestinal tract, which reduces iron stores.
  • Contaminants
    • Traces of antibiotics fed to cows can show up in cow’s milk products.
    • Pesticides and other drugs are also frequent contaminants of dairy products.
  • IGF-1
    • Cow’s milk consumption increases the levels of insulinlike growth factor (IGF-1) in the blood of individuals who regularly consume cow’s milk.
    • Higher levels of IFG-1 are liked to breast and prostate cancer.

But don’t despair!!!  There are so many delicious “cheese” options out there!  Cashews can make cashew cheese, which can be used in lots of other dishes.  And how about these awesome pumpkin cheese bites?  The Happy Herbivore has done a fantastic job coming up with loads of cheese sauces using nutritional yeast, which, despite the gross-sounding name, is a fantastic and tasty product.  It looks kind of like flaky fish food and tastes a little cheesy, a little nutty.  My favorite cheese sauces are the Quick Queso and the Nacho Cheese.  Give them a try–I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

I wish more people would do their own research instead of trusting the celebrity “got milk?” ads to steer them in the right direction.

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