Is vegan cheese healthy?

Vegan cheese is becoming increasingly popular. That's because more and more vegan cheeses are making their way onto supermarket shelves as an alternative to conventional cheeses made from cow's, goat's and sheep's milk. But how healthy is vegan cheese really? And what ingredients are used?

All this we will clarify in this article. But beware: in the following article, we will deal in particular with homemade, fermented cheese.

What is vegan cheese?

Cheese is a generic term for all plant-based cheeses. It can be produced industrially or fermented in the home kitchen. If it is fermented with special animal-free cheese cultures, the production is very similar to that of traditional cheese production.

Fermentation can be used to make the following vegan cheeses:

  • Freshly fermented cheese: such as cream cheese, ricotta, mozzarella or feta.
  • Noble mold cheese: such as Camembert, brie or blue cheese


Industrially produced vegan cheese is often made with elaborate processes, trans fats, flavor enhancers and other additives. Traditional methods, such as the process of fermentation, are usually not used.

Instead, the intense cheese flavor is mimicked by flavorings. Unfortunately, the taste therefore rarely comes close to the original. Vegan cheese is easy to make yourself by fermentation in your own kitchen.

Making animal-free cheese yourself is closer to traditional cheese making and results in a natural, full-bodied cheese flavor. Here you use nuts, almonds or beans as a base instead of animal milk.

In our recipe for vegan cashew cheese you can learn how to make this delicious cheese alternative yourself.

Vegan cheese: ingredients

In many recipes, you use cashews because they give a smooth flavor and creamy texture. Almonds are also very suitable, as the ingredients are similar to those of cow's milk. They also provide a number of vitamins.

Proteins
Cashews and almonds contain mainly vitamin E and a number of B vitamins. Nuts and almonds are also rich in fiber and protein. Proteins are broken down into amino acids during fermentation, making them more accessible and digestible to the body.

Fatty acids
Another ingredient in vegan cheese is essential fatty acids. They are an important factor for the firm consistency and taste. They are increasingly produced during long ripening by a mold culture.

Depending on which ingredients are used and how long vegan cheese is ripened, different results are obtained. The conditions during fermentation and the composition of the culture are also decisive.

Other vital substances
In general, however, it can be said that the sugar content in the food decreases with increasing fermentation time. Organic acids, especially lactic acid, are produced to the same extent. In addition, minerals and trace elements (e.g. calcium, iron, sodium) and quite a few vitamins (e.g. vitamins B1 and B6) can be found in these products.

Vegan cheese (which is homemade and not heated) is full of living microorganisms. You initially add these to your substrate as freeze-dried cultures. During fermentation, they colonize the entire cheese mass and remain active until consumption.

Why is vegan cheese healthy?

Like regular cheese, a plant-based cheese alternative can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. If you make your own plant-based cheese, you know exactly what it contains.

Vegan cheese needs only a few, high-quality ingredients. This is because the nutritional value actually increases due to fermentation. This means that (homemade) cheese made from plant-based ingredients is often healthier than ready-made cheese from the supermarket.

You can find the following ingredients in fermented cheese alternatives based on nuts or almonds:

 

  • Dietary fiber

In addition to the good lactic acid bacteria produced by fermentation, dietary fiber also contributes to healthy digestion. They are food for the good intestinal bacteria and regulate the digestive process.

  • Unsaturated fatty acids

Unsaturated fatty acids have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system and on blood lipid levels. Thus, they can protect against heart disease and contribute to our health.

  • Proteins

Proteins are an essential part of our diet and perform a variety of functions in our body. On the one hand, like fats and carbohydrates, they are a source of energy. On the other hand, they are building materials for cells, tissue, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, clotting factors and transport substances for nutrients. Nuts are a great source of protein, especially in a vegan diet.

  • Lactic acid

Lactic acid has a positive effect on our intestinal health. It stimulates digestion, regulates the acid balance of our body and supports a healthy intestinal mucosa.

  • Lactic acid bacteria

The contained lactic acid bacteria have a proven positive influence on your immune system and can have a positive effect on diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. They contribute to a balanced intestinal flora and thus support your health.

  • Vitamins

Vitamins B1 and B6 regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They are important for nerves, brain, muscles and liver.

Vitamin E, which is abundant in almonds, is known as a good antioxidant for cell protection. It helps our body to defuse free radicals. These are produced during natural processes in our metabolism. But also when we are exposed to cigarette smoke or UV radiation.

Minerals and trace elements

Minerals and trace elements have different important functions in the body. They regulate the metabolism and are involved in the formation of body substances. The mineral Calcium is particularly important for building and maintaining bones, muscles and nerves.

Sodium regulates water balance, acid-base balance and blood pressure in your body. Iron is a trace element for your body, which is needed for the transport and storage of oxygen. You also need iron for a strong immune system.

In addition to all these nutritional components, fermented vegan cheese has another advantage. It is more digestible.

Homemade vegan cheese made from high quality ingredients is a useful addition to a healthy and balanced diet. Enjoy it best together with other delicious fermented foods!

FAQ

Is vegan cheese healthy?
Fresh and edible fermented foods contain mainly lactic acid bacteria. These have a positive effect on your immune system and intestinal health and are therefore very healthy.

Can I make vegan cheese myself?
Yes, you can easily make vegan cheese without animal products at home, for example by fermentation. Depending on the variety, the preparation varies from simple to a bit more sophisticated. They are a great alternative to cheese with milk and you can easily integrate them into your diet.

Vegan cheese: What are the advantages?
Vegan cheese alternatives are not only good for vegans, but also for lactose intolerant people. If you make the cheese alternatives yourself, you can easily avoid unnecessary additives and use healthy, high-quality ingredients. The fermentation process makes the cheese alternatives more digestible and has a probiotic effect on your body.

Sources:

  1. Nüsse: Gesund essen – BZfE
  2. https://www.dge.de/presse/pm/wie-viel-protein-brauchen-wir/
  3. https://www.ugb.de/lebensmittel-zubereitung/sauerkraut-frisch/
  4. Blum S: Milchsäurebakterien und Gesundheit: Das Anwendungsspektrum von Probiotika bei Erwachsenen. Schweiz Z Ganzheitsmed 2005;17:222-226. doi: 10.1159/000281943
  5. Das Centrosan-Lexikon der Nährstoffe
  6. Mineralstoffe und Spurenelemente | gesundheit.de
  7. Nayik, Gulzar Ahmad; Gull, Amir: Antioxidants in Vegetables and Nuts – Properties and Health Benefits (Springer, 2020)

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