One of the most difficult things for many vegan to give up is cheese. Fortunately, as veganism has grown in popularity, food manufacturers have begun manufacturing a wider range of vegan cheeses, with some success in imitating what people love about cheese, including its texture and taste. However, not all vegan cheeses are created equal, and many are nutritionally deficient.
Vegan cheese buyers may expect it to be as healthful as dairy cheese. However, this is rarely the case because many manufacturers are focused on making the cheese taste, look, and even melt like dairy cheese. Many vegan cheeses are made primarily of starch and vegetable oils, notably coconut oil or palm oil.
Vegan cheeses have a texture due to starch and oil, but they have minimal nutritional value. When we eat starch, for example, it is broken down in our intestines into sugar. Too much starch can lead to weight gain or diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease over time.
Even worse are the vegetable oils used in vegan cheese. Coconut oil is almost entirely made up of saturated fats. Some forms of saturated fat elevate LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, which increases the risk of heart disease.
This is true of lauric acid, the primary form of saturated fat found in coconut oil. Despite some online assertions that coconut is healthful, lauric acid considerably raises LDL cholesterol levels. It also raises the likelihood of coronary heart disease. Because of the high quantities of coconut oil in some vegan cheeses, even a little portion (30g) contains around one-third of a person’s total recommended daily limit for saturated fat.
Many people believe that vegan cheese, like dairy cheese, is a good source of protein. Vegan cheeses made from vegetable oils and carbohydrates, on the other hand, have little to no protein.
The levels and types of vitamins and minerals found in vegan cheeses vary greatly, as it is up to the maker to add these during the manufacturing process. As a result, most vegan cheeses have little or no calcium, as opposed to dairy cheese. They also frequently lack key minerals found in dairy cheese, such as iodine, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
While the occasional piece of vegan cheese is unlikely to hurt your health, relying on it as a replacement for dairy may. In one clinical investigation, persons who substituted vegan alternatives for animal-based dairy and eggs for 12 weeks had worse bone health at the end of the study than those who ate animal-based dairy and eggs. This was most likely due to a lack of vitamin D and calcium. More research like this is needed, however, to better understand the long-term health repercussions of vegans who do not consume dairy.
However, it is not all terrible news. Depending on the ingredients, some vegan cheeses may be healthier than others, such as those made with cashew nuts. These products typically have more protein and less sodium and saturated fat than other forms of vegan cheese. They may, however, be more expensive than the other sorts.
Of course, there are numerous reasons why a person might wish to switch to a vegan diet, including environmental concerns or improved health. However, while multiple studies have showed that vegan diets can be healthful, this is usually only true for people who eat a lot of natural foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and pulses.
As a result, vegans should limit their use of ultra-processed food alternatives (such as vegan cheese), as these may have many of the same detrimental health impacts (such as heart disease and cancer) as non-vegans.
This entails carefully inspecting the contents of vegan cheese products (and other vegan substitutes) to reduce the quantity of dangerous substances, such as saturated fats, that vegans consume on a regular basis. Vegans should also prioritise acquiring key micronutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, and vitamin D via whole meals or vitamin supplements.