Morphine / Casein — Maybe I can Avoid Rehab

As you've heard me complain about in the past, I miss cow's milk. For breakfast I have banana/almond butter/protein powder/milk smoothie almost every morning. I use homemade almond milk. I really like the taste. But as an accompaniment to cookies or brownies, or on cereal, I haven't found anything I prefer over cow's milk. Recently, we discovered Silk's Light Chocolate Soymilk and may have found a substitute - well, I'm not sure if it'll work on cereal, but it works with our desserts. The light stuff has 120 calories per cup, and 1.5 grams of fat, as compared to 200 calories and 5 grams of fat for their "Regular" Chocolate Soymilk.

After 10+ months of eating vegan, we weren't sure if our taste buds had acclimated, or if the chocolate milk was a good replacement for cow's milk. We actually had the opportunity to test it on our omni friends who stayed with us for a few days. Well, the verdict is in. The omni's loved it too, the kids especially, they didn't know they weren't drinking "regular" chocolate milk. I'd consider that quite the testimonial.

We're paying about $3.50 for half a gallon, so it's a treat, not a daily drink. It's nice to have in our arsenal of goodies. What we like best about it, aside from the luscious taste of chocolate, is the mouth-feel. The vegan milks tend to be a little "thin." This beverage is nice and thick, just like the consistency I remember "real" milk having.

Or perhaps it's the casein in milk (and cheese) which I'm missing. I've read that milk/cheese can be more addictive than morphine! According to a 1981 study, Eli Hazum and his colleagues at Wellcome Research Laboratories in Research Triangle Park, NC found:

Cow's milk-or the milk of any other species, for that matter-contains a protein, called casein, that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates, called casomorphins.
If you examined a casein molecule under a powerful microscope, it would look like a long chain of beads (the "beads" are amino acids-simple building blocks that combine to make up all the proteins in your body). When you drink a glass of milk or eat a slice of cheese, stomach acid and intestinal bacteria snip the casein molecular chains into casomorphins of various lengths. One of them, a short string made up of just five amino acids, has about one-tenth the pain-killing potency of morphine.

That makes me feel better. After consuming a morphine like drug for 40+ years, at least I can understand why almost a year after quitting, I'm still craving my casein!

If you're interested, you can read more about the addictive nature of casein and other foods in this VegSource article, or Breaking the Food Seduction by Dr. Neal Barnard.


  1. I drink 8th continent soy, I just prefer the taste. Then again, I’ve never liked “real” milk–so I’m not comparing it to anything. For the first time in years, I’m not eating cereal dry!

  2. Have you tried the other versions of Silk soymilk? My favorite is Plain – Original. I’ve been drinking it for years and prefer it to cow’s milk. We get a great deal in San Diego at Costco. 🙂

  3. Hi Chelsea,
    People seem to really like 8th continent. I haven’t seen it in any of my local markets, but if I find it I’ll have to try it. I can’t imagine it would be better than the homemade stuff we make. Neither Jane and I are partial to the taste in general though. But if it makes cereal a possibility again… 🙂

    Julia, Yes – I love the mocha variety! We’ve even blogged about it here. I’ll sometimes blend that with ice cubes on a hot afternoon. We also really liked the VitaSoy Egg Nog. But, so far, the Light Chocolate Silk is the best.

  4. Thanks for the info about casein being addictive. I found that to be truly eye-opening because cheese is the ONLY reason I am still a vegetarian and not vegan. I like the soy yogurts (which I put on my cereal instead of milk), I love the Silk Chocolate Milk (never much liked regular cow’s milk EVER), I’m crazy about the Tofutti sour cream and cream cheese. When it comes to regular cheese, though, I am struggling to like any of the vegan alternatives. In fact, my whole family is struggling – so I don’t feel all alone. But now I wonder if the casein is the reason? Or if I’m just being stubborn?

    This gives me something to ponder today. Thanks.

  5. Hi Lee,
    Cheese is the number one reason we hear for most people not making the jump from vegetarian to vegan. We love the Tofutti Cream Cheese, just be careful and buy the one in the yellow tub, it contains no partially hydrogenated oils. Unfortunately, the sour cream doesn’t come in a healthier variety (it too contains the partially hydrogenated stuff which is not healthy). Jane often makes her own sour cream using tofu. But we’ve been known to buy that product on occasion too, for convenience sake.
    There are a number of vegan cheeses out there that people are raving about. We hear pretty good things about Teeze and Cheezly, and you can get those at Vegan Essentials.

    Hi David,
    Yes, it’s a tough habit to break. Jane’s been joking that we should open a spa and have a special “rehab” for vegans who slip and eat cheese. She’d be the first to sign up. She still regularly craves the stuff, and we have an agreement that neither of us can joke about ordering a pizza for dinner when we’re weak and trying to figure out what to eat.

  6. If you read The China Study, it may scare you out of your milk cravings. Milk casein is especially dangerous and has been shown to trigger various kinds of cancer. Moreover, animal protein is directly related to numerous diseases including heart disease, MS, diabetes, and more.

    PS, my favorite soy milk for cereal is WestSoy plain nonfat. To me it most resembles nonfat milk, the stuff I used to use in my cereals when I was lacto-ovo vegetarian.

  7. Hi! I am quite surprised to hear that you miss cow’s milk (I guess I never really got into it pre-vegan days) but through sampling quite a few alternative milks I find that rice milk works best with cereal. It already has a bit of that “I’ve left my cheerios too long in the milk” taste to it and it’s not too sweet. I use Rice Dream but I’m not sure if that is an international brand, as I am currently in the UK. Also, I really like oat milk. It doesn’t have that aftertaste that soy does and it is quite thick. Works well with tea and cereal. Just keep exploring. There are so many alternatives. I have quinoa milk yet to try.

  8. Hi Elaine,
    I’m working on the China Study now, but haven’t gotten to the casein yet.
    THANK YOU!!!!! Jane picked up some of the WestSoy and I had it on a granola earlier. Either I’ve forgotten, or it tastes like skim. I don’t think it will work as a straight glass of milk with cookies or a brownie, but this puts cereal back on the menu. The real test will be with Cheerios (just have to read the label there to make sure I still want to eat them).

    Hi Vanessa, What you have to understand is taht both Jane and I really loved cow’s milk. We’d often drink it plain, and were big cereal eaters… And we’ve been drinking the stuff for 40 years. So, it’ll probably take a while for us to forget it.
    As for the alternatives, we try to stay away from the rice milk, it has no protein and is high in carbs. We save it for a treat… There’s a mexican drink, Horchada, which is basically rice milk with sugar and cinnamon. (Yes, we have Rice Dream here in California). Oat milk didn’t do it for me the first time I tried it, but it’s been a number of months, so maybe it’s time to revisit that. I haven’t seen quinoa milk. That sounds really interesting. We’re loving this quinoa recipe for breakfast.

  9. I’ve been addicted to casomorphins for several decades now. I often whine that I wish I could stop eating foods containing caseines but way too often I just make up lame excuses like “the dairy companies & the govt are conspiring to keep me addicted.” lol I guess if I had a little bit of self-control, I wouldn’t be writing in this blog about how hard it is to put down that glass of milk.

    You are now aware you want to eat ice cream. See! lol

    Here’s a tip… just don’t buy it! Huzzah! Can’t eat it if it’s not in the kitchen! lol So obvious. So obvious.

    Mmmm kale-flavored ice cream does sound good though doesn’t it? lol

    Or a kaleshake. Or like… some EVOO sauteed kale steamed in braggs aminos drizzled w/ hot cheddar cheese and like a spoonful of yeshi sprinkled on! DANK!

    LOL It’s tough. I still lack a disciprin. But only because that’s what I choose. You know ya know. 😉

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