"I'm interested in eating more plant based, but I don't know if I can give up cheese."
First of all if you don't want to give it up you don't have to.
If it brings you comfort, joy, it's part of a tradition or happy memories, don't be so hard on yourself and enjoy your small occasions with cheese.
Because restrictive dieting never makes anyone happy and the stress of that might even be worse than the cheese itself!
But if you are curious, there is a science behind why you feel like you might be a little addicted to that salty yellow delicious soft stuff:
Cheese contains mild opiates. Opiates trigger the same brain receptors that heroin and morphine do, telling your brain "hey this is great you want more of this!".
Nature built these magical little opiates into the cow's milk as a way of calming the calf when he/she is nursing from their mother.
However when this milk is then turned into cheese these opiates become more concentrated - therefor making them much addicting, say than a glass of milk is.
Doesn't it have calcium?
Yes, but the good news is that if you are eating cheese for it's "nutrition" (hello Got Milk calcium marketing campaign) -you have other better options. Plant foods like broccoli, kale, and brussels sprouts are packed with calcium and other disease fighting phytochemicals and none of the hormones, lactose, or cholesterol of cheese.
How do I stop eating it?
I suggest experimenting with filling up and getting excited to eat plant foods (and therefor no dairy/cheese) for a minimum of 14-21 days. Make it about the new positive healthy foods that your body is benefiting from and less about having to "give up" a food group.
The entire digestive system can take up to 2 days to digest just one item of food so it is hard to notice any changes unless it has been a consistent longer amount of time. Your body needs time to reset, flush itself out, and and rebuild gut bacteria.
If you are craving cheese there are amazing dairy-free cheeses out there now. Vio-life being my personal favorite.
Do your best to stick to the 2-3 weeks and notice any transformations big or small.
What happens when I give it up?
I chose to give up cheese (and all dairy) 10 years ago because when I tried it out for a few weeks my skin instantly cleared up. Freaked out, I thought to myself if it is doing this to my skin what is it doing to the inside of my body?
As much as I loved cheese, I found my own greater joy in not eating it. My digestive system works like a dream, and I feel more balanced knowing I am not eating the sex steroids like estrogen, antibiotics, or hormones that were given to the cow in order to produce milk.
Also if you have ever read the The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted you learned that Dr. Campbell turned on and off the growth of cancer in mice by feeding/not feeding them dairy.
But that's just me, my story. I find strength and comfort in evidence-based nutrition. It's important to lean into what brings YOU joy. We all have different emotional and personal reasons for liking the food that we do.
However, whatever your diet or lifestyle, the more anti-inflammatory plants and whole foods you consume (before you consume anything else)- the better you will feel inside and out, that is my promise to you.
Fill up on those first, and have fun with the rest- cheese or not.