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Articles Fitness Nutrition

Substitutions for Cheese

Jun 30, 2010

Whether due to allergies or other dietary reasons, some people don’t eat cheese and would prefer to eat a dairy-free alternative.

Many people have trouble digesting dairy foods, particularly cheese. It takes somewhere between 4 to 5 hours for your body to completely digest cheese. Cheese’s long digestion time strains your pancreas and this can lead to belly aches. Your body might struggle to digest the cheese’s lactose, which can lead to bloating, cramps and diarrhea. Still, you might choose to abstain from cheese consumption for entirely different reasons. Regardless, no one has to give up the flavor or texture of cheese anymore because there are an abundance of cheese substitutes. Cheese substitutes are usually lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than cheese made from cow’s milk, making them a healthy alternative.  

Soy Cheese Substitute

Soy cheese might be a good cheese alternative, but not all soy cheeses are alike. While some replicate cheese’s taste and elasticity well, other soy cheeses can be quite tough and tasteless. When it comes to soy cheese, a big determining factor is whether it contains casein. Casein is the protein that is responsible for giving cow’s milk cheese its elasticity. You probably expect cheese to have this familiar stretchiness, and cheese lacking casein usually struggles to replicate it. Casein is a dairy product, however, so if you suffer from dairy allergies you might not be able to eat soy cheese made with casein. Recently, a few new casein-free soy cheeses have hit health food stores that do a better job at imitating cheese’s stretchiness.

While commercial soy cheese is perhaps the most fool-proof substitute available, it might not be the healthiest option. Some soy cheeses contain nearly as much fat as some whole cow’s milk cheeses.

Nutritional Yeast Substitute

The most common natural cheese substitute is a product called nutritional yeast, a favorite in the vegan community thanks to its nutty, cheesy flavor. Nutritional yeast can be a good substitute for cheese because it’s rich in protein and B-vitamins while being low in fat and sodium. It’s yellow in color and is available in both powdered and flaked form. Vegans, vegetarians who abstain from dairy products, commonly use nutritional yeast as a quick substitute for Parmesan cheese because it’s easy to sprinkle. You can also mix nutritional yeast into sauces and gravies when you desire a cheesy, creamy flavor.

Traditional Japanese Substitutes

Another natural substitute is miso, a traditional Japanese ingredient used in miso soup. Miso is a fermented paste, usually made from soy, that imparts an aged, salty flavor to foods. While high in sodium, miso is also rich in trace minerals like zinc and magnesium. You can lightly spread miso on foods, or you can mix it into hot sauces until it's dissolved.

 Some heese substitutes might require some effort to find and prepare, but their health benefits might make the effort worthwhile.

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