Plant-Based

Can You Eat Cheese On A Plant-Based Diet? 7 Types That Pass The Test

by:
Reviewed by:
Jacqueline Sanchez

Despite the diverse landscape of food preferences, one question stands out: can you eat cheese on a plant-based diet? It’s like wondering if a bird can survive without the sky.

For countless individuals, cheese is akin to a warm hug during chilly evenings, the melt in your mouth magic in a bite, or the finishing touch on a delectable pie.

Yet, when one treads the path of plant-based eating, how does cheese find its place? The response might surprise you. Join me as we decode this gastronomic puzzle, step by step. 

Venturing further, we’ll shed light on the intricacies of classic cheese, its green counterparts, and the moral dilemmas they bring.

Yes, you can eat cheese on a plant-based diet if it’s vegan cheese made from plant-derived ingredients. Traditional cheese, made from animal milk, isn’t considered plant-based.

Challenges of Consuming Traditional Cheese on a Plant-Based Diet

1. Origin of Traditional Cheese

Traditional cheese is derived from the milk of animals, commonly from cows, goats, or sheep. 

The process by which milk becomes cheese can happen organically, as illustrated by a Washington Post story where outdated milk transformed into an early stage of cheese upon contact with cereal. 

This event emphasizes the intriguing progression of milk as it metamorphoses into the varied spectrum of cheeses familiar to us.

2. Rennet in Cheese Production

Rennet in Cheese Production: Many hard cheeses are produced using rennet, an enzyme traditionally sourced from the stomach lining of slaughtered calves. 

Animal rennet is traditionally derived from the stomachs of young calves, lambs, or goats, while vegetable rennet is derived from plants such as thistle, fig leaves, or nettles.

Even if one were to argue for the nutritional aspects of cheese, the inclusion of rennet would make many cheeses incompatible with a plant-based diet, especially from an ethical standpoint.

3. Health Implications

Cheese, while nutritious, has its share of concerns. As per Healthline’s research, cheese might be rich in calories, laden with saturated fats, and carry a high sodium content.

Some cheese varieties, particularly those crafted from raw milk, can harbor listeria. Moreover, the lactose in cheese can trouble those with lactose sensitivity.

4. Ethical Perspectives

A significant motivation for adopting a plant-centric diet stems from concerns about the well-being of animals. 

The practices of the dairy sector, particularly about the handling of livestock and the environmental repercussions of extensive dairy operations, have faced scrutiny. 

Opting for conventional cheese can inadvertently endorse such methods.

What Kind Of Cheese Can I Eat On A Plant-Based Diet?

1. Cashew Brie

Primarily made from cashews, this cheese often incorporates nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and various seasonings to achieve its distinct flavor.

Cashews are a good source of healthy fats, magnesium, and copper. They can help improve heart health and support weight management due to their satiating properties.

2. Tofu Gouda

Tofu is rich in protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. This cheese is crafted from tofu and potatoes, and seasoned with nutritional yeast and various spices. It’s also a valuable source of iron, calcium, and other minerals, making it beneficial for bone health.

3. Almond Feta

Almonds, abundant in antioxidants, vitamin E, and magnesium, have properties that can aid in stabilizing blood sugar, moderating blood pressure, and decreasing cholesterol levels. 

A blend of almonds, tangy lemon juice, aromatic garlic, and rich olive oil forms the base for this cheese, resulting in a smooth and zesty consistency.

4. Macadamia Ricotta

Crafted from macadamia nuts combined with hints of lemon, garlic, and various herbs, this cheese offers a luscious texture. Macadamias, known for their abundance of monounsaturated fats, promote cardiovascular health.

5. Sunflower Seed Cheddar

Sunflower seeds boast a rich content of vitamin E, selenium, and numerous antioxidants. Their consumption can aid in diminishing bodily inflammation and bolstering cardiac well-being. This distinct cheese is crafted by blending sunflower seeds with nutritional yeast, a dash of lemon juice, and a medley of seasonings.

6. Soy-derived Mozzarella

Originating from soy milk, this cheese typically incorporates elements like tapioca starch, coconut oil, and various spices to give it its elastic texture. 

Soy stands out as a comprehensive protein, offering advantages for cardiovascular well-being. It’s known to decrease unfavorable cholesterol and boasts a high content of isoflavones, associated with multiple health advantages.

7. Coconut Pepper Jack

Derived mainly from coconut cream, this cheese variety incorporates peppers for a kick, complemented by nutritional yeast and agar-agar to achieve its texture. Coconut’s medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are notable for supporting energy generation and may also assist with maintaining a healthy weight.

Can You Eat Cheese On A Plant-Based Diet For Weight Loss?

Incorporating cheese into a plant-based regimen with a focus on weight loss requires careful consideration of the cheese variety and the broader dietary framework.

1. Animal-derived Cheese

Cheeses originating from animal milk aren’t typically included in plant-based diets. Their saturated fat and calorie content can be substantial. Consuming them in significant quantities might hinder weight loss goals, particularly if caloric consumption surpasses caloric burn.

2. Plant-based Cheese

These cheeses are formulated from sources such as nuts, soy, and tapioca. They align with plant-based diets. 

Y Yet, their role in weight loss is contingent upon their nutritional makeup. For instance, nut-based vegan cheeses or vegan marshmellows might be rich in calories. It’s prudent to assess their nutritional labels and partake in them judiciously.

Weight management is a crucial aspect of any diet, and for more on this, see How Much Weight Can You Lose On A Plant-Based Diet?

3. Dietary Structure

The crux of weight loss revolves around the balance between calories consumed and expended. Even within the confines of a plant-centric diet, excessive caloric intake is feasible if there’s a lack of vigilance regarding serving sizes and food selection.

For those exploring broader aspects of plant-based eating, understanding the Plant-Based Mediterranean Diet can offer additional insights into healthy and diverse meal planning.

The inclusion of any cheese, be it from plant or animal sources, should harmonize with a diet abundant in nutrient-rich, calorie-conscious foods such as greens, fruits, pulses, and grains.

Conclusion

Within the spectrum of food preferences, the dilemma of including cheese in a plant-based regimen presents complexities. 

Plant-based approaches, which prioritize avoiding animal-derived items, do not support cheeses made from animal milk.

On the brighter side, the emergence of vegan cheeses, made from sources such as nuts, soy, and tapioca, provides a promising substitute for those desiring the richness of cheese.

This option allows them to enjoy that flavor without compromising their plant-centric values.

The proliferation of plant-derived cheese options ensures that plant-based cheese enthusiasts have a variety of tasty, ethical choices.

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