You Think Your Faux-Cheese Is Completely Safe? Faux-Gettaboutit.Posted: March 4, 2014
When I started my journey to veganism, I knew one of my biggest struggles would be letting go of cheese. Oh wonderful, fatty, stringy cheese. Cheese, regardless of its fat content, is quite dangerous for a person who has high cholesterol like me. Not only is it high in cholesterol, but it is also high in saturated fats, which is dangerous in its own way. I’ll post later about why satfats are bad.
To make my transition a little smoother, I invested in vegan meat, mayonnaise, and cheese at the beginning of my journey. I bought Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds because I had heard it was one of the “best” (whatever standards that goes by) out there. It tastes nothing like cheese, but I expected that and won’t count that against it. I actually quite like the taste of it; it’s very salty and is somewhat reminiscent of cheese crackers. When it “melts”, it turns slimy and not at all fun for me to eat, so I avoided melting it.
One day about 2 weeks after I bought the cheese, I went on a rampage looking at the ingredients of all of the vegan “faux” food that I had. This was because I read that soy protein, a very popular ingredient in vegan meats and cheeses, is very processed and can even lead to enlarged organs. Doctor Oz calls this “Frankensoy” and advises that vegans and omnivores alike avoid it. Thankfully, Daiya does not have soy protein in it, but many MANY vegan cheeses do. I had to once again narrow my spectrum of what I felt I could eat safely.
A huge amount of processed foods have xanthan gum in it, including vegan cheeses. For some reason, I thought I remembered Food Inc., the movie, saying that xanthan gum is made from corn which frightened me because I always equated anything made from corn to high fructose corn syrup. Wikipedia confirms this memory, but I can’t say that I’m 100% right. There is conflicting data on xanthan gum: WebMD says that it isn’t dangerous and can actually lower blood sugar and be used safely as a laxative while Wikipedia says that it can cause an allergic reaction in those allergic to corn and soy and shouldn’t be fed to newborns because it can cause necrotizing enterocolitis. Whichever you subscribe to, you should be mindful of how frequent it is in the western diet. Daiya contains xanthan gum.
And finally, titanium dioxide. Daiya says that it’s a “naturally occurring mineral,” which makes it sound natural and inevitable. However, it’s also considered to be a Group 2B carcinogen if inhaled in substantial quantities. You’ll find it mostly in sunscreens, whitened makeup, and processed foods. This is not to say that Daiya intentionally added titanium dioxide into their cheese and now we consumers have to suffer the consequences, it’s just a reminder that the process that ingredients undergo to become faux cheese results in titanium dioxide. This mineral is indeed naturally occurring, but that doesn’t make it safe to eat.
Don’t assume that eating any of these will cause your immediate demise and don’t let these ingredients stress you out. I’ve always gone by the mantra “One unhealthy choice won’t kill you, just like one healthy choice won’t cure you.” I research this stuff so that I can understand what I eat and regulate it with confident knowledge, not find more reasons to cower in a cower in a corner and curse the gods for making healthy eating so difficult.