One of the biggest questions people have when switching to paleo is “can you eat cheese on the paleo diet?” Quitting cheese scares newcomers because everyone loves cheese so much.
It’s an addiction, right?
No, seriously, it is!
Cheese is addictive because dairy naturally contains casomorphins, which is basically morphine. Dairy contains only small amounts of casomorphins but when dairy is turned into cheese, the casomorphins are concentrated, making the effects even stronger.
If you think you’re addicted to cheese, you’re probably right.
Is There a Paleo Cheese?
The short answer to this is no, there is no paleo version of cheese.
Paleolithic people did not eat any dairy other than what was provided to them from breastfeeding. Animals were not domesticated at that time and wild game would have been too difficult and too dangerous to milk.
Giving up dairy is something people really struggle with when switching to a paleo diet, which is why everyone wants to know if there is a paleo version of cheese, or a paleo cheese substitute.
There really isn’t a paleo cheese, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still eat it.
Yes, You Can Still Eat Cheese on a Paleo Diet!
Cavemen didn’t eat cheese but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Some people don’t have any adverse reactions to dairy and if that’s you, then enjoying a little bit of cheese now and then might not be so bad. Just make sure that the cheese you’re eating comes from a quality source, meaning organic and grass-fed, and if you can find it, raw.
There are different variations to the paleo diet, one for example being Mark Sisson’s “Primal Blueprint” diet. He suggests that cheese and other dairy from quality sources are okay in moderation. His recommendation is to buy cheese in its most natural form possible, which means raw, untreated, and unprocessed. He also recommends that it’s full-fat, fermented, organic, and non-homogenized.
You can usually find high-quality grass-fed cheese at farmers markets or local farms in your area.
Some big name grocery stores are even starting to carry raw grass-fed cheese, but be careful because they might contain preservatives and emulsifiers.
Whole Foods typically has a large cheese section with several choices of grass-fed and raw milk cheese from cow, goat and sheep. They will often let you sample their cheeses too. Try before you buy!
Kerrygold, who has become famous in the paleo community for their grass-fed butter, also sells cheese.
Kerrygold cheese comes in three or four different flavors and it’s grass-fed (but not raw). You can find it places like Natural Grocer, Sprouts, Whole Foods and even King Soopers.
Some states have strict laws about raw dairy, but raw milk cheese might meet your state’s standards since the fermentation process destroys what regulators believe to be the “dangerous” properties of raw dairy.Don’t worry, those dangers are totally blown out of proportion. Raw dairy is less likely to make you sick than meat, eggs, and even fruits and veggies.
What About Dairy-Free Cheese?
If you don’t want to eat dairy, you could also try making your own “cheese,” but be wary of dairy-free cheese from the supermarket. Even someone new to the paleo diet can take one look at the ingredient lists on those frankenfoods and know that they shouldn’t eat it.
There are paleo cheese substitutes though and they’re usually pretty tasty.
Solid dairy-free cheeses take some work to make, but cheese-like sauces aren’t quite as difficult. Here’s a recipe for a creamy macadamia pine nut cheese, which would make a great paleo cheese sauce for pouring over steamed broccoli or to make sweet potato nachos. And here’s one for a cashew ricotta cheese.
These “cheeses” won’t taste exactly like the real thing but they can mimic the textures of cheese and still taste pretty good.
But just like with any food, you should try to make sure that all of your ingredients are organic and from quality sources.
One thing to be careful of when making a dairy-free substitute is that many recipes require the use of guar gum or carrageenan as thickeners, which are not paleo in any form. Carrageenan has side effects such as excessive gas, diarrhea and fatigue. There is also no evidence yet to prove that it’s safe. Guar gum on the other hand has been proven to be safe, although it is known to cause gastrointestinal distress.
But again, if you are okay with eating these things and you absolutely don’t want to eat dairy, small amounts might not be bad.
Don’t Worry, You’ll Get Over Cheese
It’s hard to give up cheese, believe me, I know. I gave up cheese for two and half years when I was vegan. It’s tough but the cravings go away and eventually you won’t even care about it anymore. I’ve actually tried raw, grass-fed cheese since going paleo and I found that I don’t really care for cheese anymore. I didn’t notice any side effects from eating it either, but then again I only had a small amount of cheese and it might not have been enough to effect me.
Even if you’re not lactose intolerant, you still might be sensitive and not even know it. Many people find that removing dairy greatly improves the way they feel and even clears up issues such as bloating, phlegm, and acne. Try removing it for a month to see how you feel before making a final decision on whether or not you want to keep it in your diet.
So is cheese paleo? No, sadly it’s not technically paleo in any form but if you buy cheese from a high-quality source and you don’t have dairy sensitivities, it’s probably not going to hurt you to have a little bit occasionally.