Much has been written in the last several years about the addictive qualities of dairy products due to a certain protein found in great abundance in cow’s milk: casein. Perhaps it was Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s seminal work, The China Study, that was the catalyst for this new understanding of dairy addiction.
In her new book, Main Street Vegan, 28-year vegan author Victoria Moran includes a chapter called Hooked on Dairy, where she describes how we become chemically and emotionally addicted to dairy. She follows that with a chapter titled “The Vegan Dairy“ where she lays out a concrete plan for easing into dairy-free eating while still satisfying the cravings we once thought were the exclusive domain of cow and goat milk. Moran writes:
“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.” “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.” The result can be a major opiate addiction that can cause people to have serious withdrawal symptoms.
Writer Jennifer Valentine of onegreenplanet.org recently noted that craving dairy can also be attributed to a flavor quality called “umami.” She writes:
“Umami, or “savory” is an often-overlooked but extremely important taste experience. In fact, some scientists and dietitians have even linked umami cravings to difficulty adhering to a plant-based diet! Umami is often associated with animal foods, especially grilled meat and aged cheeses, likely due to their high levels of the amino acid glutamate. However, there are plenty of plant-based sources of umami! Fermented foods are high in umami flavor, and roasting, caramelizing and browning foods (including soy-based foods and vegetables) boosts that ‘savory’ factor.”
In these and other articles by some of the leading plant-based nutritionists, the key strategy is to understand the craving and then learn how to satisfy it with plant based ingredients, thereby preventing a regression back to animal products. Author and lecturer Colleen Patrick Goudreau, calls this replacing an old foundation with a new one. Goudreau does a great job of addressing this also in her lecture at the 2011 World Veg Fest.