On the list of no-no’s for the paleo diet, dairy products rank high. The idea behind the paleo diet is to cut out the consumption of anything refined, whether it’s sugar, oil, grains, or dairy. As cheese is a dairy product, I’m afraid it is off the list of foods you can eat on the paleo diet.
Many people believe that dairy isn’t Paleo because it contains whey, lactose, and casein, proteins that trigger sensitivities, are hard to convert and cause insulin levels to spike. However, a small number of paleo experts see nothing wrong with consuming dairy products, especially when the milk comes from grass-fed cows.
Can you have cheese on the paleo diet? The answer is not a simple yes or no. Cheese is a dairy product, and our ancestors didn’t consume milk from other animals. Using that logic, it is fair to say that cheese is not paleo-friendly.
However, there are a few exceptions, such as dairy from grass-fed cows and low-lactose alternatives.
Be that as it may, there is no definitive reason why cheese should be on the paleo diet, so it’s better to avoid it altogether.
Table of Contents
Alternatives To Cheese On The Paleo Diet
Nevertheless, if you must have your cheese or as close an alternative as you can get, here are some options to consider.
Ghee is the only dairy product that is certified paleo. Otherwise known as clarified butter, ghee is mainly made up of healthy fats.
Pasteurized organic ghee contains Omega-3 oils, linoleic acid (CLA), and vitamin K2 and lacks the growth proteins most dairy products have in abundance.
Ghee is the closest dairy cheese substitute you can get: tasty, nutritious, and 100% paleo.
If you need to thicken a soup, coconut cream serves as an excellent alternative to creamy cheeses. Coconut is not only paleo-friendly; it is also gluten-free and has a rich, creamy flavor.
It’s not 100% risk-free, though; coconut milk has lots of saturated fats. Eating too much of it will cause health problems, so as usual, moderation is key.
It may sound unorthodox, but adding a handful of nutritional yeast to your dishes can give them a familiar cheesy flavor.
This paleo diet “life-hack” is enriched with B-complex vitamins and trace amounts of minerals. In addition, it possesses a strong cheesy flavor (some people call it nutty) that makes it a great cheese substitute in delicacies like mashed potatoes.
Sold as flakes, granules, or powder, nutritional yeast can be found at your local natural food store and can be bought in bulk since it’s easier to store.
Can You Eat Any Cheese On The Paleo Diet?
Yes, you can. If it comes down to picking a lesser evil, some cheeses are better for paleo diets than others.
Your criteria for selecting paleo “friendly” cheeses will look like this:
- Full fat
Pasture-raised and grass-fed cows produce milk of a much higher quality than their grain-fed counterparts. This milk is full of good fats, which are lost in the process of skimming.
Furthermore, fermented dairy has lower amounts of lactose and casein, the trouble proteins banned from the paleo diet.
That narrows your options to some dairy products, including cheeses, kefir, and yogurt. Raw dairy may not be easy to find, but it is far healthier than refined milk, especially if it’s goat’s or sheep’s milk.
Can You Eat Non-Dairy Cheese On The Paleo Diet?
Commercially produced non-dairy cheese may seem like a good option, but most experts advise us to be wary about these. They may not have any dairy, but they often contain additives and preservatives that have a worse impact on your body.
It’s advisable to steer clear of most non-dairy cheese products or read the ingredients first. If they contain artificial additives, they’re already not paleo-friendly.
That said, there are some excellent non-dairy cheese alternatives available. Made from nuts, almonds and cashews, these paleo cheeses taste as good as the real thing and are packed with nutrients.
Here’s Where To Buy Paleo Cheese
Siete makes cashew queso that’s free of artificial additives and packed with flavor and nutrition. This cashew queso checks all the boxes as far as cheeses go, especially when you look at its ingredients list.
- Coconut milk powder
- Nutritional yeast
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Bell peppers
- Fermented extracts (plum, oregano, flaxseed)
Except for clarified butter (ghee), regular dairy products are not allowed on the paleo diet. That leaves you with healthy cheese alternatives like coconut cream, nutritional yeast, and a few non-dairy kinds of cheese.
Cheese is quite the grey area for paleo diets, so incorporate it into your diet and make sure you don’t overdo it.
Make a habit of reading the ingredients on non-dairy cheese containers before buying them. You’ll be sparing yourself from additives that could interfere with your diet.
References Used In This Article
- Paleolithic Diet
- Compliance, Palatability and Feasibility of PALEOLITHIC and Australian Guide to Healthy Eating Diets in Healthy Women: A 4-Week Dietary Intervention
- The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation
- Comparison of the Effects of Goat Dairy and Cow Dairy Based Breakfasts on Satiety, Appetite Hormones, and Metabolic Profile