Last week I received multiple emails entitled “cheese is crack” referring to an LA Times article. Yeah, yeah I thought as I clicked through, I could’ve told you that. Cheese is my dietary kryptonite. What I didn’t know was this:
“Casomorphins attach to the brain’s opiate receptors to cause a calming effect in much the same way heroin and morphine do," said Barnard. And since cheese has a concentrated content of casomorphins, Barnard suggested it may be called dairy crack.
While many associate sugar with a drug-like or addictive response, I thought cheese lovers were simply eating cheese because it’s the most delicious food in the universe. I am not sure if this notion of “calming cheese” makes me want to eat more or less of it but it makes sense to me. When cheese is in my life or kitchen, it’s hard to see it in my refrigerator drawer and pass it up. Fortunately, having not been to the Farmer’s market this week, I am cheese free. Fingers crossed no casomorph withdrawal.
Note: casomorphins come from casein (milk protein), all cheese has casein even though some cheeses are lactose free.
In other nutrition news, the NY Times Sunday Review highlighted “just the idea that we can have salad leads us toillicit treats”. The article explains something called the licensing effect. The licensing effect refers to our tendency to make an unhealthy choice following a healthy one. This can be the typical “I worked out so therefore…” or in supermarket studies research shows “drop a bunch of kale into your cart and you’re more likely to head to the ice cream or beer section.” There are some ways to get around this. First, the article mentions that we all have a concept of how healthy or unhealthy we are. When we stray too far from our norm, we’re more likely to compensate. I would say the more you tend to follow a positive decision with a negative one, the more you should opt for gradual, manageable changes versus rash ones. Second, focus on the behavior and not the scale. This licensing effect can encourage us to gain weight after we’ve lost it if the focus is numerical.
So the answer isn’t to skip the kale and head directly for the cheese plate but rather something along the lines of a kale Caesar salad. We need a place for cheese and other treats, crack-like or not, so that we don’t give ourselves license to binge.
Are you a cheese addict? Or what’s your dietary kryptonite? How have you seen yourself “licensing” unhealthy choices?