Have you ever watched a baby nurse? It’s amazing to watch a cranky, tense, hungry infant instantly slip into a relaxed, sleepy, almost drunken state.
We sometimes attribute this familiar scene to the beauty of the mother-baby bond.
Drug-like compounds in milk? It’s true. Think about it this way: if a baby, a calf, or any other mammal didn’t want to nurse, the survival of the species would be in trouble. So, nature devised these compounds to reward babies for nursing.
Like human milk, cow’s milk contains mild opiate-like compounds called casomorphins. Just like addictive drugs, casomorphins attach to opiate receptors in our brain; the same receptors that heroin or morphine attach to.
Casomorphins are especially concentrated in cheese. It’s presumably one of the reasons why Americans today are so hooked on the stuff. Recently, researchers at the University of Michigan surveyed hundreds of people to determine what foods they just can’t seem to put down. Topping the list at #1? Greasy, gooey, cheesy pizza.
I hear the same thing time and time again from patients seeking to improve their health. They often report that it’s easy enough to drop the bacon, burgers, and soda, but cheese is the hardest habit to break.
We’re more hooked now than ever. Back in 1909, the average American ate less than four pounds of cheese each year. Today that number stands at a whopping 35 pounds per person per year; a nearly tenfold increase.
Lest there be any doubt, cheese is a seriously unhealthy product. It’s loaded with salt, calories, and fat. And most of this fat comes in the form of artery-clogging saturated fat. In fact, cheese and other dairy products are the number-one source of saturated fat in the American diet. A single serving of cheddar contains as much saturated fat as eight slices of bacon. With as much cheese, cholesterol, and saturated fat we’re eating, it’s no surprise that heart disease is the nation’s leading cause of death.
As for sodium, two ounces of potato chips have 330 milligrams of sodium. Two ounces of processed cheese have (hold onto your blood pressure!) 800 milligrams of sodium.
Fortunately, I’ve seen patients time and time again lose weight, gain energy, and improve their health from simply cutting the dairy products out of their diets. Even celebrities like Khloe Kardashian, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Venus Williams have ditched dairy in favor of clear skin, healthy joints, healthy body weight, and faster recovery times.
Looking for resources to help you break the cheese habit? Visit the Physicians Committee’s website for tips and recipes and join us for a dairy detox every month with our free 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. You can also check out my book, The Cheese Trap, which features information, tips, and delicious recipes from Dreena Burton.