Ahh, cheese – the ingredient that makes a burger mouthwatering, a plate of pasta scrumptious, and a slice of pizza irresistible. We love all different kinds of cheeses, and, as Americans, we each eat up to 35 pounds of it on average each year. So, if you happen to find yourself on a cheese-eating binge, you’re not alone. But why do we all ogle over this dairy deliciousness?

According to an article on, researchers at the University of Michigan set out to determine which foods were considered the most addictive. In their study, they found that it’s pizza that people just can’t get enough of. They then determined which ingredient on the pie is the culprit to blame, and it’s not the crusty bread or the rich tomato sauce – it’s that gooey, melty cheese topping that we all crave.

Researchers found that a protein called casein, which can be found in dairy products like milk and butter, is packed in all types of cheeses, and could be responsible for causing you to grab another slice of cheesecake.

Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says in the article that when casein breaks down during the digestion process, it is responsible for releasing casomorphins, which are a type of opiates. Research trials have found that casomorphins cause the brain to release chemicals such as dopamine, which activates addictive, not so healthy, behaviors – you know, the ones that cause you to eat a whole cheese quesadilla in one sitting.

So, the next time you find yourself dumping a pile of parmesan onto your bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, don’t blame yourself too much. Instead, opt for other options that are lighter and healthier for you. Check out these tips to help you enjoy cheese in a healthy way in your daily diet.

Find Alternatives.

If you find yourself fighting the urge to make a greasy grilled cheese sandwich, it may be time to find a healthier option that you might enjoy as well, like a grilled veggie panini. Check out sites such as Pinterest to discover cheese-less meals and snacks.

Set Limits.

Cheese is an important source of dairy, which helps to build strong bones – so you can enjoy it in moderation for a healthy diet. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, you shouldn’t eat more than 2 ounces of cheese per week. Keep that in mind the next time you mindlessly nibble on cheese and crackers!

Weigh Your Options.

Like many foods, some cheeses are better than others. Opt for varieties that are healthier choices, such as cottage cheese and fresh ricotta, which tend to pack lots of protein into each serving and have less sodium than other types of cheeses. These cheeses work well for healthier pasta and pizza, to satisfy your cravings.

Strive for Balance.

Went on a bit of a cheese eating binge? Balance out your intake of excess fat and salts by eating healthy fruits and veggies that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and water content. This will help your system digest the extra cheese and get absorb some additional nutrients in the process.

Smart Lifebites