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Debunking the Dairy Myth

Move over belly aches, a new crop of artisan cheese-makers now develop delicious and healthful cheese alternatives from different kinds of tree nuts. In the past, vegan cheese was typically made of highly processed ingredients like oils, artificial flavors and preservatives which offered no nutritional value. Welcome to 2015, where the demand for both healthy and vegan options is taking over, and it’s not just the lactose intolerant or environmentally friendly groups that seek out these alternatives to cheese. People who live a healthy and active lifestyle are taking the time to educate themselves on the benefits of eating whole, plant-based foods and are driving the market for these healthier options.

Americans in general, however, are still eating large amounts of dairy. In the United States in 2013, we consumed 33.5 pounds of cheese per capita; that is up from 14.2 pounds each in 1975, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s no secret that milk, cheese, and other dairy products are not health foods. Those decadent-tasting cheeses carry with them very high amount of cholesterol and saturated fat. Skim versions contain added sugars, not to mention too much animal protein can increase IGF-1 to levels that are much too high; studies have shown that high IGF-1 levels have strong links to colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. To boot, too much dairy consumption is linked to acne, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and auto-immune diseases.

Keep in mind, however, that we aren’t healthy (or unhealthy) because of any one food, good or bad. What makes us healthy or unhealthy are our overall dietary and lifestyle patterns. I encourage you to add an alternative like this once in a while, and you just might find that it fits the bill for a cheese-like dip that will keep you healthy, wealthy, and wise!

Cashew Queso Dip

1 minced vidalia onion
1½ cups cashews, soaked for at least an 1 hour, drained
1 orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 red, 1/2 green bell pepper
1 cup unsweetened almond or rice milk
1 Tbsp. Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin

Optional garnishes: cilantro or sliced green onions.

Sautee the orange bell pepper and half of the onion in Braggs for about 4-8 minutes or until translucent. Add spices to the mixture. Place the sautéed mixture (half the onion and the full orange pepper into a high speed blender, along with the cashews (not soak water) and almond milk. Blend until creamy. In the meantime, sautee the other peppers and onions for 4-8 minutes. Fold peppers and onions into the cashew cream and garnish with cilantro and/or sliced green onions.

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