October 1st is National Vegetarian Day, a day to recognize that more people are leaving meat behind and leaning into a more plant-based approach. The difference between eating plant-based or vegan and a vegetarian approach lies in the fact that vegans avoid all animal products, including dairy, whereas vegetarians have given up meat but still eat dairy, including cheese and eggs.

But what many people who are following a vegetarian diet don't realize is that there are delicious plant-based cheeses (made out of cashews, almonds, and other ingredients) and convincing egg substitutes (including chia seeds). However you choose to go plant-based, we know one thing is for sure: The more plants you eat, the healthier you are.

Eating a plant-based diet can reduce inflammation as well as lower your risk of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and boost your immune system thanks to plant-based foods naturally rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

A Cheese-Free Diet is Healthier and May Help Prevent Diseases

Dr. Neil Barnard, who wrote the book Your Body in Balance, explained to The Beet in an exclusive interview that eating too much dairy can cause all sorts of health problems such as hormonal cancers like breast and prostate cancers, as well as mood disorders, fertility issues, and more.

"When you introduce even small amounts of estrogen into your body, it increases the risk of hormone-related cancers, such as breast, uterine, and prostate cancer," Barnard told The Beet's Editorial Director Lucy Danziger. "Milk also contains estrogen, but cheese is more condensed. The worst offender? Goat cheese has even more of it. All animal cheese is laden with fat and hormones, which add up," he added.

3 Dairy-Free Recipes We Know You'll Love

To celebrate a plant-forward national holiday, we rounded up our three most-loved cheese-less cheese recipes made with either cashew, nutritional yeast, Brazil nuts, and carrots, or a mix of everything for the ultimate gooey, cheesy experience and to help you live healthier, and even take the extra step to become fully plant-based, if that's right for you.

Find your favorite recipe, or create your own on this national holiday. If you'd rather pass on making your own vegan cheese, we conducted a grilled cheese stretch test with five different store-bought dairy-free cheeses and rated them based on which cheese melted best.


1. Spinach Grilled Cheese with Homemade Vegan Cashew Cheese

The 'cheese' in this sandwich is cashew-based, but the key ingredient to achieving the perfect texture is tapioca starch, also known as tapioca flour, says JD Raymundo, The Beet's recipe developer and founder of The Little Almond. which will help you achieve that cheesy stretch. Note that this cannot be substituted for any other starch such as cornstarch."


2. Vegan Stovetop Mac and Cheese

"This dairy-free macaroni and cheese recipe is simple, economical, and uses everyday ingredients," " says Chef Linda Soper-Kolton, author of Compassionate Cuisine. "So you can dig into this luscious, creamy, family-favorite anytime you want. Our approach is deceptively delicious. Carrots, potatoes, and chickpeas are blended to silky-smooth perfection, and together with few additional ingredients, create a sauce that is undeniably cheesy."


3. Mini Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes

We saved the sweetest recipe for last. This 'cheesecake' recipe is made with dairy-free cream cheese (Violife makes a good one but there are many plant-based cream cheeses to choose from), coconut cream, and coconut oil which creates the same consistency as regular cheesecake normally made with a softer cheese like brie.

For more great ideas of plant-based cheese, butter spreads, milk and coffee creamers and other delicious healthy dairy substitutes, check out The Beet Meters where you'll find ratings for and taste and health, and you can add your own!

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