Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dairy Debate plus Nut or Seed Milk Recipe

 Whether or not to drink milk is a topic that tends to get people riled up.  For one reason or another the issue really stirs up people's emotions so I'm just gonna let you know what I eat and why.  Everyone is different so I'm not gonna make any recommendation for anyone else on dairy.

 At this point in my life, I'm not too passionate either way about dairy.  I think it's possible to be supremely healthy with or without dairy.  I don't have a strict label for the way I eat.  I try to not to define my diet because it is constantly evolving and I don't want to get locked into a dogmatic mindset of foods that are "allowed" or "forbidden."  That's simply not for me.  But a good rule of thumb I try to stick to is to choose whole foods.  And animal milk, in its true form, is a whole food.

Before you get carried away though, you should know that I'm picky about what dairy I'll eat.  Real milk is raw, unpasteurized, and non-homogenized.  It also comes from cows that are able to graze in grassy pastures.  Unfortunately, this milk is hard to find if you do not know a dairy farmer.  In fact, in the U.S. unpasteurized milk can only be sold as "pet food."

 The milk you find in stores often comes from cows living in cramped stalls, fed corn, soy and who-knows-what, and that are given hormones to keep them constantly able to produce milk.  Antibiotics are also given to these cows rather than allowing them to get healthy naturally before milking.  Yuck.  Some researchers will argue that the actual nutrient contents are the same no matter that the cows' lives are like or what they are fed.  While the macronutrients may be similar, a sick or stressed cow is not going to produce the same product as a happy healthy cow.  Experts also claim that the amount of antibiotics that are found in milk are negligible, but I don't want to drink ANY drugs in my milk.  For more info on the subject check out this New York Times article:

 Another concern with milk is the homogenization process.  The fats in milk naturally separate and form a creamy fat layer on top.  Homogenization is a process used to prevent separation to make the consistency of milk smooth and uniform by breaking down fat globules.  This can help improve shelf life, leaving you with less fresh milk.  Again, yuck.  For this reason only buy organic grass-fed non-homogenized whole milks.  It is harder to find but it tastes so much better and I feel more comfortable knowing what is in my milk.  Better yet, I'd choose some raw milk from a local farmer if I can find it.

 You may be thinking to yourself, why in the world would she choose whole milk when every doctor and nutritionist keeps saying choose low-fat dairy.  The simplest answer is that I believe choosing foods as close to their whole natural state as possible is best.  Whole milk is a whole food.  Skim and 2% are not.  I choose to trust nature's wisdom on this matter.  The vitamins in milk are fat soluble so when the milk is skimmed off, it is harder for your body to to digest and assimilate all of the nutritional goodness. Milk is fatty for a reason and I'd rather have the real thing and just drink less of it.

 For many people milk can be hard to digest.  It is one of the most common food sensitivities.  If this is true for you, it is best to avoid dairy.  Some people find that they are more able to digest goat's milk as it is more similar to human milk than cow's milk is.  Another bonus of goat's milk is that the fat molecules are smaller naturally so it is not typically homogenized.  I eat goat milk butter sometimes and it is so good!

 If you choose not to eat dairy, people will certainly ask you where you get your calcium.  Cows eat a vegan diet so where do they get their calcium from?  Grass!  Leafy greens are one of the best sources of calcium and they don't have the downsides of dairy.

 For replacing milk in your diet I would recommend nut or seed based "milks."There are many options available at grocery stores but I prefer to make my own.  Making your own "milks" is easy and keeps you in charge of the ingredients.  Read the labels on your nut, soy, or seed milks.  You may be surprised to see how many ingredients are in there.  I'd much rather have fresh raw nut/seed milks I make myself.

 My favorite milk alternative is hemp milk.  It is the easiest to make because hemp seeds do not require hours of soaking before blending.  I'm not great at planning ahead so this is a major plus.  Hemp is also a protein powerhouse which milks are not.

This recipe is a basic guideline for nut/seed milks but can be tweaked to your liking.  Experiment with different nuts, adding spices, or adding sweeteners.  Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom are especially nice.  Pistachio makes a great milk and has a slightly green color that I like.  Play around with it and have fun!

Basic Nut or Seed Milk

Supplies: Blender and nut bag, fine mesh strainer, or cheesecloth


1/2 cup nut or seeds (soaked for 4-8 hours)
1 1/2 cup water (Some people like more water.  I like it creamy so I recommend starting with this and adding more if you like.)
1 tbsp sweetener (This is optional-try honey, maple syrup, agave, stevia...)
1/2 tsp spice (This is also optional-try cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom)

Soaking will soften the nuts making them blend much more easily.  It can also make them easier to digest.  Nuts have an enzyme that keeps them from sprouting until they are watered.  When you soak nuts, this enzyme disappears and allows for better nutrient absorption.

1. Soak and rinse nuts.

2. Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.

3. Pour through a fine mesh strainer.  If you don't have one you can use cheesecloth.  You can also buy nut-milk bags but I find a mesh strainer works fine for me.

4. Drink immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

I apologize for the lengthy post but there are a lot of considerations when it comes to dairy milk and I wanted to address them all.  Your brain may be swimming in this deluge of information, so if I've overwhelmed you, just remember Michael Pollan's simple advice: "Eat food.  Mostly Plants.  Not too much." That advice never fails.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks SO much for this, Chelsea! Lots of great info here to help foodies find the right milk for them :)