Despite what you hear in the media, there really isn’t a cheese – low-fat or not – that will fit well into a healthy weight loss plan. Even most of the lower-fat cheeses are still high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
What’s more, studies have linked the consumption of cheese with a number of health problems, including breast cancer, childhood-onset diabetes, iron deficiency, obesity, heart disease, allergies, and digestive problems.
One recent study indicated that women who ate cheese every day were 50 percent more likely to die from breast cancer within 12 years than those who did not eat cheese. This may be due to the skatole and ammonia produced in cheese during the fermentation process of the milk protein.
The ripening process of cheese, which occurs due to the action of molds and bacteria on milk, also produces an alkaloid called roquefortine (a neurotoxin) and amines (which have been shown to cause migraines and high blood pressure).
What about all the health benefits of cheese?
Calcium and protein are the only bragging rights cheese has, but even here we find problems. The calcium present in cheese cannot be used by the body as well as the calcium found in other foods such as kale, collards, almonds, and sesame seeds. And the protein? There are many, many other much healthier and lower fat sources of protein than cheese.
There are several vegan cheeses on the market. While many vegan foods have created their own benchmarks and swagger that they don’t have to be compared to their “non-plant-based” counterparts (think of the amazing veggie burgers out there that some of the most die-hard meat eaters happily admit to being enthralled with and the handful of non-dairy milks that taste waaay better than cow’s milk), unfortunately vegan cheese has yet to be invited to the party.
Still they are an option (and some of them have made great strides in texture and taste) and they don’t carry most of the health risks that dairy cheese has. However, they are usually still high in fat. And I’ve never seen one that didn’t have some strange ingredients in it as well.
Homemade Non-Dairy Cheese?
That’s where homemade vegan cheese comes in. No weird ingredients. Low in refined fats. And customizable when it comes to taste.
This homemade vegan cheese is made from raw cashews and carrots, which offer you a healthy dose of fiber, vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, iron, and more.
Agar? What in the world is agar? Don’t let the strange ingredient deter you. Agar is a healthy ingredient that can be easily purchased from Amazon, health food stores, in Asian markets, and in some supermarkets.
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 3/8 cup (6 tablespoons) lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil – optional
- 1/4 cup tahini, scant
- 1 small carrot, peeled
- 1 tablespoon granulated onion
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt (Some have expressed this amount made the cheese a tad too salty for their taste. If you' like, you could cut back a bit.)
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic, scant
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons agar powder
- Place all ingredients, except 1 cup water and agar, in blender and blend until smooth.
- Scrape down sides of blender with a spatula and blend again on high speed until mixture is very, very smooth and creamy. (I recommend using a high-quality blender to get the mixture very smooth and creamy.) Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, stir agar into 1 cup water. Cover, and heat over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 60 seconds. Remove from heat.
- Immediately pour agar mixture into ingredients in blender and blend until thoroughly combined. Scrape pan with a spatula to get all the agar mixture.
- Promptly pour mixture into an oiled dish and refrigerate until chilled and set.
Other Vegan Cheese Recipes
If you’d like a recipe for vegan cheese that doesn’t involve agar or nutritional yeast flakes, check out this vegan cheese sauce recipe.
And here’s a vegan mozzarella cheese recipe for on top of your pizza or lasagna.