A toasted bagel with cream cheese is a quintessential breakfast staple. And for all the dairy-free eaters out there, spreadable vegan cream cheese options have come a long way in recent years. But what if the cream cheese you slather on your morning bagel could also be a healthy, probiotic boost for your gut, while also being good for the planet?
A 2013 study out of Harvard University shows consuming a diet largely consisting of dairy-based cheese—as well as meat—can disrupt the gut flora. This can cause a number of digestive issues and other health-related problems.
Gut flora are the microorganisms that live within the digestive tract. Gut bacteria—which are located in the intestines—play an essential role in promoting healthy digestion. They also create key vitamins like vitamin K and biotin—the latter of which helps to convert nutrients into energy.
One New Zealand-based company is looking to disrupt the cheese industry with its cashew-based cream cheeses. In addition to being plant-based, the cream cheeses promote a healthy gut. Terra Nut Cheese began making probiotic-cultured, vegan cream cheese three years ago. The company’s founder, Alexandra Verkholantseva, said she noticed a lack of healthy, vegan options on the market.
“I started making nut cheeses with my partner Lark in 2017. As a vegan, I wanted to create healthier options for us. We were trying to follow a whole-food, plant-based diet, but couldn’t find wholesome and oil-free vegan alternatives that would be great on crackers, bagels as well as in dishes like creamy pasta or risotto,” Verkholantseva told LIVEKINDLY.
Probiotic-Cultured Cream Cheese
While the company’s nut cream cheese may look just like the real thing, Verkholantseva says they’re not imitation products. “I realized that nut cheeses are not only great products in their own right, but they can also be superior to dairy products in many ways,” she added.
According to Verkholantseva, Terra Nut cheeses’ tangy, cheesy flavors are developed through a natural culturing process with vegan probiotics.
A variety of fermented food and drink products contain probiotics. Common food and drinks include sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, miso, and kimchi. There are also probiotic supplements.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. The friendly bacteria work to restore the gut flora and can help improve the body’s immune system.
Moreover, research has linked gut health to mental health and overall mood. Studies show certain strains of probiotics may help improve depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, memory problems, and even autism.
‘The Cheese Of The Future Grows On Trees’
The texture and crave-able flavor of nuts make them incredibly versatile. They blend well in a wide range of plant-based products, including veggie burgers and milk.
Verkholantseva says the health benefits of cashews—Terra Nut Cheese’s primary ingredient—is what inspired her to create nut-based cream cheese.
“I believe the cheese of the future grows on trees, and my goal is to [give people] cream cheese that’s as minimally processed and as healthful as possible,” she said.
She continued: “In my opinion, the definition of cheese will be transformed in the future, with nut cheese being a big part of it, just like we’ve seen with nut butter or plant milk. We’re just starting out, and I’m happy to be part of this positive change towards a plant-based food system.”
Wholesome, Plant-Based Ingredients
Many vegan cream cheese brands’ nutritional labels feature a lengthy list of ingredients. However, Terra Nut Cheese products’ ingredients list is relatively short.
The spreadable vegan cream cheese features only whole-food, plant-based ingredients. These include organic whole cashews, purified water, New Zealand sea salt, dairy-free probiotics, and herbs and spices. Terra Nut Cheese products are also oil-free and do not contain any preservatives.
“Our cream cheeses are full of healthy nutrients and amino acids, protein, fiber, and good fats, with four to five times less saturated fat than in standard dairy cream cheese and no cholesterol. Plus, no animals are used in the process, which is incredibly important in 2020 for ethical and environmental reasons,” Verkholantseva explained.
And while cream cheese is most often enjoyed when slathered across a bagel, Terra Nut’s cheese, which comes in three flavors—Natural, Dill and Garlic, and Smoky—can be used to “veganize” a number of delicious meals.
The company’s Instagram shows just how versatile its products can be. The dairy-free, nut-based cream cheeses are showcased in a variety of dishes, including mac n’ cheese, cheezy quiche, tofu scrambles, and creamy Carbonara—to name a few. Terra Nut Cheese’s Natural flavor even blends perfectly to make a guilt-free, vegan cake frosting.
Good for the Body and the Earth
Terra Nut Cheese created its products so that they are healthy for the body. But the company crafts its vegan cream cheeses so that they are healthy for the earth, too.
“Besides being a vegan company, we strive to be as environmentally friendly as possible,” Verkholantseva said. She added: “All our products are 100% plastic-free and come in glass jars, we also use compostable rubbish bags, ship to stores in cardboard boxes, use paper tape, and compostable paper bubble wrap.”
The company also gives back to those in need. “From the very beginning, I wanted Terra Nut Cheese to be a vehicle to bring more of what’s right to the world: compassion, kindness, and support,” the founder said.
She continued: “Since we launched our products in June 2019, we’ve been regularly donating part of our earnings to two local animal sanctuaries, as well as other causes related to animal rights, conservation, education, and helping our local community.”
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