Ira Glass sometimes warns, at the beginning of a piece on This American Life, “This segment acknowledges the existence of sex.” In the same spirit, I’d like to say that this article acknowledges the existence of veganism. (Did you think I was about to break into a steamy sex fueled cheese rant? Next article, I swear). I say that in case you have the tendency to break into wild and uncontrollable fits when someone says they’re a vegan or recommends the vegan lifestyle. As such, I’ll give you a moment to stop reading and/or cover the ears of the young one sitting beside you.
Are we good? Okay. Now let’s talk about cheese.
In his 18th book, The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy, Dr. Neal Barnard, a nutrition researcher and adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, outlines the problems with cheese in our diet. In the book, he suggests a plant-based vegan lifestyle as the absolutely healthiest way to eat.
That’s not too shocking on its own, but Barnard’s suggestions of giving up cheese (and meat) will still end up being controversial. Not so much due to the science he reports, but because it’s not something we like to hear. No one wants to know that their favorite foods might not be doing them any favors. Nor do we want to hear that these same foods could be genuinely harmful.
From Barnard’s perspective, our beloved cheese is already killing us, so even if it makes us sad (and it does) to learn that that gouda and cheddar aren’t our friends (sworn enemies, in fact) he has a duty to inform us of what they’re doing to our insides. “My job as a doctor,” he says, “is to help people who are looking for an answer to their weight problems. My job as a doctor is to give people information. It’s not to control them, it’s to empower them.”
So here’s the good news: Barnard’s not going to walk into your house and slap down that cheesy slice of pizza you’re holding (that’s still illegal, thank god), but he does implore you to think really hard before ordering it. Because as much as we love gooey mozzarella, it may be hurting us in the long run.
“Cheese, is a love affair that’s not going very well,” Dr. Barnard says. “Which is to say, we love cheese, but it doesn’t love us back.”