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You Ask, I Answer: Vegan “Butter” and “Cheese”

tumblr_l024ebWGmt1qzq14lo1_400I’d love to know your thoughts on Earth Balance “butter” and Daiya “cheese.” They seem relatively non-evil, but I defer to the experts.

– Jennifer DiSanto
(Location Unknown)

Earth Balance spreads are popular among vegans, mainly as a butter substitute.  Depending on which variety they use, they can be used in baking or to top freshly baked garlic bread.

I am not as worried about them as I am of some overly-processed faux-meat products for a variety of reasons:

  • Whereas it is feasible to eat two mega-processed soy burgers in one meal, most people consume small amounts of these spreads (i.e.: 1 Tablespoon over two slices of toast) at a given time
  • Unlike other butter alternatives, Earth Balance spreads are free of partially hydrogenated oils
  • Earth Balance offers soy-free spreads (for those who are choose to avoid soybean oil)
  • Earth Balance spreads are mainly a combination of different plant oils; it’s not as “Frankenfoody” as other products
  • Most of their spreads offer a fair amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids

Daiya “cheese” in increasingly gaining popularity in the vegan community.  Let’s take a look at the ingredient list:

Purified water, tapioca and/or arrowroot flours, non-GMO expeller pressed canola and/or non-GMO expeller pressed safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, inactive yeast, vegetable glycerin, natural flavors (derived from plants), xanthan gum, sunflower lecithin, vegan enzymes (no animal rennet or animal enzymes), vegan bacterial cultures, citric acid (for flavor), annatto.

There is nothing about that ingredient list worth raving — or ranting — about.  I wouldn’t necessarily call this a nutritious product (it’s basically flours, oils, and thickeners), but it’s also not horrific.  I guess you could place this in the “meh” category for me.

The only thing to keep in mind is that Daiya cheese offers a moderate amount of sodium per serving (250 milligrams per ounce, approximately fifty percent more than the same amount of cheddar cheese) and significantly less protein than dairy or soy-based cheeses (1 to 1.5 grams per ounce, as opposed to 7 grams).

As far as vitamins and minerals go, Daiya offers vitamin B12 (a plus for those who are fully vegan!) but is not a good source of calcium (which, truly, isn’t a concern if one’s vegan diet is high in leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, or is otherwise fortified).



  1. Jenn said on April 23rd, 2010

    Thanks for the info!

  2. Mary said on June 22nd, 2010

    Thanks so much for the information. I am vegan and worry sometimes when I eat too many substitutes. I look at the ingredients a lot. I love Earth Balance and Daiya Cheese, so thanks for looking into it!

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