HELP! | Viva! - The Vegan Charity



I’m addicted to cheese!

Veronika Powell no longer needs her fromage fix and gives some helpful advice on kicking the habit

If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of going vegan, you’ve probably thought (at least once) that you might not be able to live without cheese. I can relate – when I went vegan, my cheese cravings reached epic proportions and there were times I even daydreamed about cheese, as if it was a drug…

The truth is, cheese addiction is real and once you break free from it, the cravings stop.

What makes it so addictive is the extremely high concentration of the milk protein casein that, when digested, results in casomorphins. And casomorphins are opioids, belonging to the same chemical family as morphine and opium which induce euphoric feelings and lower your pain threshold. In the same way that morphine and opium are addictive, so are casomorphins and if you suddenly stop eating cheese, you might experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and strong cravings.

Why cheese and not other dairy products? It takes about ten pounds of milk to make a pound of cheese and it’s mostly water that’s lost in the process. It follows that cheese is very high in milk protein (casein) compared to other dairy products.

The more casein you eat, the more casomorphins are produced and the harder it is to give it up. Cheese isn’t as strong as other opiates but science shows casomorphins can cross the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream so eating cheese can have noticeable effects – especially if you suddenly decide to stop.

In nature, it’s only the very young offspring of mammals that drink their mother’s milk and it’s been suggested that casomorphins are nature’s way for breast milk to have a light calming effect and aid the motherinfant bond.

Opiates in general also slow down bowel movements, which can be a desirable effect in newborns prone to diarrhoea but they almost always cause constipation in adults. I’m sure many cheese lovers would agree.

Of course, a huge part of our cheese cravings come from the fact that cheese is high in fat and salt, which is the magical combination that humans respond to with voracious appetite. Think crisps, chips, bacon, everything cheesy, salted nuts and fried savoury foods – basically all junk food.

It’s because for a major part of humankind’s history, food wasn’t always abundant so our bodies evolved to recognise fatty foods as a good energy source and developed a taste for them.

Even though most of us now have more than enough, our bodies still crave fats – and cheese is a prime example of that desire backfiring.

But how do you kick your cheese addiction? Unfortunately, what you need is willpower!

If you stay away from cheese for a few weeks, you’ll one day realise the desperate craving’s gone.

To help you along the way, the naughty, salty, fatty taste might be what you’re after – I’m talking chips and crisps, within reason!

Or try adding nutritional yeast flakes to savoury dishes as they give a subtle, cheesy flavour. And if your fancy is a pizza or pasta bake, give vegan cheese a go – grate it on top and blast at high heat.

Nationwide restaurant chains Zizzi and The Stable offer vegan cheese on pizzas as do many local pizza shops so don’t be afraid to ask!

Go on, break the dairy cheese spell – you know you can!