Why do people buy soy cheese? Some want a food that will help them lose weight or reduce their cholesterol levels. Some people have allergies to dairy products. And of course, vegans don't want to use any animal products for many reasons.
Let's look closely at the labels on a few different cheese substitutes. Which ones contain dairy? Which are best for over all health? which are good for weight loss? Here is a short course in reading nutrition labels.
From the front of the package, this soy cheese sounds good. It contains no lactose, cholesterol, or hydrogenated oil,It is low in saturated fat. Ignore these advertisements and read the nutrition label on the back.
- This soy cheese contains 25 fat calories in a 40-calorie serving. That is 25/40 or 62% fat: definitely not good for weight loss.
- Check the sodium content. The 40-calorie serving contains 185 mg of sodium. That is way too high. It should be 40 mg or less.
- What about the the calorie density? It is 40/19 or 2.1 calories per gram. That is the same as 60 calories per ounce. The calorie density is too high for our weight loss program.
- The fine print at the bottom of the label says it is not a significant source of dietary fiber. So there is less than 1/2 gram of fiber.
Even though we have basically rejected this as a weight loss food, let's review the list of ingredients:
- The second ingredient is caseinate, a milk protein. In fact, 87% of the protein in milk is casein. This cheese is definitely not vegan.
Casein is the main protein in cows' milk. It accounts for 87% of milk protein. Many companies put casein in soy cheese to make the cheese melt. Casein is not healthful. In the landmark nutrition book The China Study, T. Colin Campbell describes his research linking casein with liver cancer. Casein also raises cholesterol levels.
- This product also contains soy oil. Like all other oils, soy oil is a processed food with an extremely high calorie density.
- Natural flavors are always suspicious. Soy lecithin is basically another type of added fat. The other ingredients may be harmless, but we have enough reasons to look for a better product.
Galaxy Vegan Cheddar
This cheese says "vegan" in big letters, so there shouldn't be any casein in it.
- There are 20 fat calories in a 45-calorie serving. That means 20/45 or 44% fat. It is not a good product for weight loss.
- There are 160 mg sodium in a 45-calorie serving. That is too much sodium. We want to see 45 mg or less.
- The calorie density is 45/1, or 45 calories per ounce. That is more than our weight loss goal of 35 but not that bad for "cheese."
- A serving contains no fiber.
What about the ingredients?
- Isolated soy protein, also known as soy protein isolate, is a highly processed food. You will find it in many vegetarian mock cheeses and mock meats. We avoid it.
- The product also contains soybean oil, carrageenan, and several chemicals. There are no whole plant foods in this product at all.
Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet
Many vegans like Vegan Gourmet soy cheese. It tastes good and it melts, sort of. Maybe we can use it for our weight loss program.
- It contains 60 fat calories out of 70 calories. That means it is 85% fat. Wow. Pretty fattening.
- There are 110 mg of sodium in 70 calories. We hoped to see no more than 70 mg.
- The calorie density is 70/1, or 70 calories per ounce. If you eat much of this soy cheese it will surely help you gain weight.
- The good news is, a serving contains 2 grams of fiber.
Are the ingredients good?
- We aren't surprised to see that the first ingredient after water is soy oil.
- Tofu is fine.
- Soy protein is just shorthand for isolated soy protein.
- This cheese also contains carrageenan and "natural flavors". Oh well, it was too high in fat anyway.
But what About Daiya?
When Daiya appeared on the market, many vegans went crazy. They were so happy to find a dairy free cheese that melted and tasted like the real thing. For people who couldn't eat soy, it was even soy-free. Here we take a close look at Daiya. Is it healthy and is it OK for our vegan weight loss plan?