Milk Alternatives

What dairy free milk is the best?

When we break it down, into its simplest form, cow milk provides a source of fat, protein, calcium, and vitamin D.   It does have a pretty good profile of available nutrients in its raw state but any dairy you buy from a store is pasteurized and homogenized, giving it a longer shelf life at the expense of valuable nutrients. The pasteurization process kills the live (beneficial) enzymes in milk and denatures (breaks down) the proteins. In doing so, the vitamin content is reduced, and the “live and active” beneficial bacteria is destroyed.  Truth be told, many people should not consume dairy whether it is raw or pasteurized, as they are allergic to the milk proteins. Additionally, if you’re insulin resistant, you would likely be better off avoiding raw and pasteurized milk, as it contains the dairy sugar lactose, which can worsen insulin/leptin resistance. A common myth in North America is that we need milk for its ‘calcium content’.  This marketing tactic has most of us convinced, but in truth, it doesn’t contain much available calcium and the calcium it does have is put to shame by many vegetables, nuts and fish like salmon or sardines- by comparison. Plus milk is high in phosphorus, which inhibits calcium absorption.
Pasteurized cow’s milk is the number one allergic food in the United States. It has been associated with a number of symptoms and illnesses.
Here is a snap shot of a few of the alternative milks out there: 
Rice milk is made from soaking and blending brown rice with water.  It is low fat, low protein (both aren’t favourable as we need fat and protein).  The nutritional value is very small (except from its fortified ingredients).   It’s often a choice for allergy sensitive families, despite the fact that it causes an insulin spike much higher than regular milk, as rice is a grain, and a high glycemic one at that.
Soy milk has about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk and some iron, but little calcium unless fortified. Soybean crops are often heavily treated with pesticides, and the majority of them are GMO; a huge red flag.  Soy milk is made with soybeans, water and a host of other gums, starches and fillers. As with any other unfermented soy, it contains high levels of estrogen and is therefore unhealthy, so I highly discourage use of soy milk.   For more info on the adverse effects of soy have a look here:  http://www.reproduction-online.org/content/early/2012/01/05/REP-11-0369.long
Almond Milk: Homemade Nut milks are created by grounding nuts, straining, then liquifying the final product  and adding in a few flavour enhancers (cinnamon or vanilla, maple syrup or dates and a pinch of sea salt).  Its a great way to enjoy the versatility of cow’s milk without the dairy proteins involved (which are often the cause of allergenic reactions.  Almonds offer calcium, vitamin D and vitamin E.  Its super simple to make; you just need a nut milk bag  and a blender (and nuts and water, of course!)  Just be sure to use raw, organic almonds for the best, nutrient dense almond milk.  Commercial bought nut milks can often have a host of fillers which offer no nutritional value, often at the expense of the product overall.  Its very difficult to know how many almonds go into these beverages (as they’re quite expensive).   If you go for the store bought version, look for unsweetened, and one without carrageenan (an additive associated with leaky gut and inflammation.)

Almond Milk Recipe

Yields: 1000 mL

Ingredients:

1 cup almonds
4 cups water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1 tsp raw cacao powder (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Soak, 1 cup of raw almonds overnight in water.
  2. Add 4 cups of water to blender along with the soaked almonds.
  3. Puree/liquify for 2-3 minutes until well blended.
  4. Using a nut bag or a fine strainer, allow the liquid to pass through the strainer. Press out as much liquid as you can.
  5. Stores for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Notes:

  • Save the almond pulp for toppings on salads or desserts, or in smoothies or baking.
  • For vanilla almond milk, add 1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract.
  • For chocolate almond milk, add 1 tsp raw cacao powder and 1 date or 1-3 drops stevia.
Hemp Milk: It is a good source of natural protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamin E. Hemp milk is high in omega fats, and lactose-gluten-free. It is also well tolerated for people with soy, dairy, or tree-nut allergies.  Its super simple to make~ add hemp hearts and water to your blender and blend!  Voila!  it does have a short fridge life; so enjoy within 3 days.
Coconut Milk: This is, in my opinion, the best alternative out there to milk. Though coconuts don’t actually have milk in them, but rather a high-electrolyte juice (called coconut water commercially) that is great for replenishing electrolytes after illness. Coconut milk is made from a blend of coconut fats and fibers in water. The healthy saturated fats and medium chain fatty acids are present in coconut milk (though in smaller amounts than coconut oil). It is a good choice for adults and kids because it contains good amounts of fat, and with a vegetable and meat meal, will provide more calcium than regular milk.  Home-made coconut milk trumps anything you’ll find in the store (mostly because of the processing, additives and sugars) Recipe: Blend 1 cup of unsweetened dried shredded coconut (sulphite free) with 3 cups of hot water for 2 minutes. You can strain it through a cheesecloth or drink it as is!
So there you have it.  The low down on milk, and alternatives!
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