When it comes to chocolate or Diet Coke, many are quick to proclaim they’re addicts. But chocoholics and Diet Coke-heads alike probably have an additional substance abuse problem they’re not even aware of: cheese.
If you like the taste, chances are you’re not afraid to sprinkle cheese to enhance just about everything you eat. Statistics prove our societal dairy devotion, with U.S. cheese consumption rising from 15 pounds per person annually in 1975 to more than 30 pounds in 1999. And if you’ve ever tried to make the leap into veganism, your utter inability to give up cheese may have been the one obstacle preventing you from going herbivore.
What makes cheese so seductive that you just can’t say no? As it turns out, it comes down to a protein found in all milk products called casein. When digested, this protein triggers the release of opiates, which are known for their ability to induce euphoria (and the ugly withdrawal symptoms that come with it). Milk contains opioid protein fragments, or casomorphins, to foster calming, “feel good” sensations in a newborn so that it can bond with its mother. This also explains why a mug of warm milk can work wonders on nights you can’t sleep. It takes 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese, giving cheese the highest concentration of casein and, thus, opioids. Some cheeses have even live sex rooms been found to contain traces of morphine, a highly addictive opiate. If you’ve ever experienced digestive discomfort due to cheese, it’s because dairy slows down intestinal movements in the same way heroin, codeine or opiate painkillers do. Cheese also contains phenylethylamine, an amphetamine-like chemical that’s also found in chocolate and sausage. Under the microscope, cheese is practically a drug cocktail just begging you to check into rehab.
While unfortunately no 12-step program for cheese junkies currently exists, there’s still a simple way to break the cycle of addiction. What really makes cheese so dangerous is its lactose, animal protein and saturated fat content, making a cheese detox all the more sensible. Simply ensuring you stick to a balanced, plant-based, unprocessed diet is the first step toward kicking the habit and keeping blood sugar levels stable with a filling breakfast and plenty of healthy snacks means you won’t fall victim to cravings. All of these measures, combined with adequate exercise and sleep, will also help curb cravings by keeping the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin in production.
Cheesie’s is likely to peddle its addictively delicious wares for a long time to come, and the tempting cheese section at Whole Foods isn’t leaving anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean resistance is futile. All it takes is some willpower and a little know-how to stop dairy dependence and get buzzed on a healthier diet instead.