Like many vegans, we love the taste and texture of Daiya cheese. One of the most delicious restaurant meals we've ever had was a pizza covered with this stuff. But sadly, foods that taste good are not always good for us. Let's take a cold hard look at the nutrition facts and ingredients, then decide whether to include this dairy free cheese in our diet.
Why people love it
Of all the nondairy cheeses, this is the one that truly melts.
It is smooth and drippy, just like real cheese.
It contains no soy, which makes many people happy.
It comes in three flavors: cheddar, mozzarella, and pepperjack.
This is a package of the mozzarella style. It tastes so authentic that Tofurky uses it on their pizzas. Many pizza restaurants use it too.
To help you understand the discussion below, here is a helpful lesson on reading nutrition labels.
First we look at the Nutrition Facts label:
- A serving contains 90 calories and 60 of them come from fat. That means that 67% of the calories come from fat. This is definitely a high fat food.
- Two grams of fat out of six (33%) are saturated fat! Every soy cheese we analyzed contained 0.5 grams or less per serving.
- A 90-calorie serving contains 280 mg of sodium. That is pretty high, since the ideal amount would be 90 mg or less.
- A serving is 28 grams, which equals one ounce. The calorie density is 90 calories per ounce, which is very high. To lose weight, we need to focus our diet on foods that are 35 calories per ounce or less.
- A serving contains 1 gram of fiber, which is better than nothing but certainly not good. Of course real cheese, being an animal product, contains none.
So far, Daiya doesn't look too great for health or for weight loss. What about the ingredients?
- This cheese contains 3 types of oil, and the coconut oil is the one that adds all that saturated fat.
- Pea protein is just another highly processed isolated protein substance, similar to soy protein.
The Verdict on Daiya
Let's be clear. We are not picking on Daiya. All nondairy cheeses are highly processed foods. They are made of a combination of oil, isolated plant proteins, chemicals, and lots of salt. Cheese is fatty and salty and has no fiber, so companies make vegan cheeses that are fatty, salty, and low in fiber. If they weren't fatty and salty, they wouldn't taste like cheese!
So why do we feel the need to find a vegan food that tastes like cheese? We just might be addicted to cheese. Check out this information about how we get addicted to food, especially cheese and chocolate.
New brands of non-dairy cheese appear from time to time. We recently saw one made mainly of nuts. It was not highly processed, but still very high in fat. Read labels carefully and make the best decision for your weight loss program and your health. Save the Daiya for special occasions and try to reeducate your taste buds.
Enjoy the taste of simple whole plant foods. Or make your own mock cheeses from The Uncheese Cookbook by Joanne Stepaniak. The author is a creative cook and we have tried many of her recipes. Maybe some day food companies will produce a healthy "cheese" made of onions, carrots, potatoes, and tofu.....