Ever heard someone say they’re addicted to cheese? Well, they may be right. Some doctors and nutritionists believe that cheese has actual addictive properties that contribute to our craving for it. All mammalian milk contains opiate compounds called casomorphins (1) which help to strengthen the bond between mother and baby. And of all dairy products, cheese has the highest concentration of these opiates. Author Victoria Moran explains, “Casein, one of the proteins in milk, crosses the blood-brain barrier and becomes something called casomorphins. Yes’m, that sounds a lot like morphine— because casomorphin is also an opiod. Nature designed it that way so young mammals would enjoy nursing, come back for more, and live to reproduce themselves.” She goes on to note, “Human milk has only 2.7 grams of casein per liter. Cow’s milk has 26. And because it takes, on average, ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese or ice cream, you’re looking at a lot of casein and resultant casomorphin.”
Above and beyond cheese’s potentially addictive properties, it is also the greatest source of saturated fat in the U.S. diet (2), which increases risk of heart disease and diabetes, and there is a growing body of evidence that casein can promote several forms of cancer and other illnesses. (3)
If you have a cheese craving that seems insurmountable, consider these three basic steps for overcoming it:
- Get informed about the adverse health effects of eating cheese (see resources below), as well as the impact of the dairy industry on animals exploited for their mothers’ milk: visit our Dairy Factsheet for a thorough overview of dairy cruelty.
- Check out our Guide to Going Dairy-Free for delicious plant-based milks, cheeses, creams, yogurts, and more!
- Break the addiction. Go on a dairy fast for at least three weeks. In time your taste preferences will change, and you will find the cravings greatly weakened or even gone. You’ll still have a taste for creamy, rich and fatty foods in your diet, but eventually you’ll be able to satisfy them with healthier foods from plants instead of animals. If you find yourself continuing to struggle, introduce a good plant-based cheese. Check out our feature, Groundbreaking, Game Changing Vegan Cheese Is Here.
It may sound too easy to be true, but there’s no catch here. Addictions like dairy don’t have to control you. You can take control of them with a little effort and self-discipline. And you can be satisfied that you are doing something good for yourself, for the earth and for the animals.
Get Informed and Stay Informed with These Resources
Health Concerns About Dairy Products, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Casein, as a Proliferation Promoting Factor in Prostate Cancer Cells, World Journal of Men’s Health, 2014
Cow’s Milk and Children, Dr. Joel Furhmann
White Poison, Dr. Shanti Ragwani
Dairy and Type 1 Diabetes in Children: The Science Explained, Dr. John McDougall