Friday, July 23, 2010

Medical Cheddar?

Cheese. This is a powerful food, loved by many. Creamy, melty, rich, cheesy. There was a time that I actually dipped my cheese in cheese. If ever a feeling of loss descended on me during the journey toward a healthier lifestyle, it was when cheese came under fire.

Some theorize that we can satisfy what we need by eating what we crave, suggesting that cravings are an indication of what the body is requiring. I will refrain from elaborating on my opinion of this until another time. I mention it, though, because cheese is something that I always craved. For the protein? For the calcium, maybe? The more cheese I ate, the more I wanted.

Actually, it was a little component within cheese called casomorphins. Sounds a bit like morphine. In fact, this is not far off. Casomorphins are opiates that occur naturally in dairy, or more specifically, they are peptides that produce an opioid effect. In cow's milk, they are called bovine casomorphins, and since roughly ten pounds of milk are used to produce a pound of cheese, these addictive substances are highly concentrated in the end product.

So what?

For starters, casein, a milk protein that is found not only in the dairy section of the grocery store, but in seemingly every product on the shelf from crackers to breath mints, is broken down in the stomach to produce casomorphins. These casomorphins act as a histamine releaser. If you have a dairy sensitivity or allergy, it may be a reaction to casein, not lactose. Children with autism are often found to have high levels of casomorphins in their bodies. Many believe that these peptides are also linked to other conditions including diabetes, heart disease and schizophrenia.

Almost all of the cheese you will find on the shelves in this country is from pasteurized milk. Pasteurization aims to reduce the number of pathogens in the milk, thereby decreasing the likelihood of disease. This process is essentially one of heating the milk to about 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, pasteurization destroys virtually all of the possible nutritional components of milk.

According to Sally Fallon of the Weston Price Foundation:

“Heat alters milk’s amino acids, lysine and tyrosine, making the whole complex of proteins less available; it promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids and destruction of vitamins. Vitamin C loss in pasteurization usually exceeds 50 percent; loss of other water-soluble vitamins can run as high as 80 percent. Pasteurization alters milk’s mineral components such as calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur as well as many trace minerals, making them less available. There is some evidence that pasteurization alters lactose, making it more readily absorbable.”

Pasteurized milk products, like other foods that are void of enzymes, put extra strain on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes to break it down and on the digestive system as a whole.

Beyond high cholesterol levels and increased mucus production, pasteurized milk has been linked to prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, anemia, MS, leukemia and ovarian cancer, many reports and studies in the past few years also suggest health issues including allergies, intestinal irritation and bleeding, and salmonella.

Not fair. The kitchen giveth and it taketh away, I know. If you are looking for an alternative to give that extra bit of creaminess and flavor to your sandwiches, try adding some avocado. The richness of texture and flavor adds a new dimension to food, and avocado, unlike milk, is full of healthy fats and soluble fiber, making it a hearth-healthy food. It also contains high levels of glutathione, a powerful phytochemical and antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and is crucial for, among many things, immune and detoxification functions.

Truly, the infamous cheetah had it right when he said "It ain't easy being cheesy."

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