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Go Nuts!

“Almond Milk, The Natural Alternative To Dairy!”

(Article Reprint, Raw-Riffic Happenings! Issue 8/15/09, e-Newsletter)

If you are like me, milk does not do your body good. Being lactose intolerant, cow’s milk is out of the question for me. Sad, but true, milk causes diarrhea, abdominal discomfort and bloating. This is because lactose intolerance means the inability to digest the sugar in cow’s milk. Not being able to drink milk means that a person can’t enjoy milk-by products such as cheese, yogurt, cream or butter – or can they? Actually they can, if these things are made from another source – like NUTS!

Nut milk, specifically almond milk, has been used for centuries. During the Middle Ages almond milk was the preferred drink as it is high in protein content, and able to keep better than dairy milk during a time that refrigeration was not an option.Almond milk could be made as needed, and in the quantities needed. The dry almonds were easily stored and did not require cold temperatures to keep fresh.Almond milk was known in both the Islamic world and Christendom as a suitable drink for consumption during Lent. This is because being a nut that is a seed of a fruit of a plant, makes almond milk a vegetable in composition.

Historically, almond milk was called amygdalate, and was consumed over a region that stretched from the Middle East to East Asia. The Chinese introduced and reintroduced dairy milk with little success. Creating nut and legume milk was more popular and common amongst Asia and Europe for several hundred years until about the end of the 18th century. So you could easily say that nut milk came before cow’s milk. Nut milk has and is a great alternative to dairy milk for vegetarians and vegans alike. It is actually preferred over soy milk (which many people have a low tolerance for). That’s why it is a staple amongst the raw food community.

Almond milk is unquestionably nutritious with little to no saturated fat, and no lactose. Cow’s milk, however, is very high in fat, in addition to being indigestible for most. Almonds are a rich source of B vitamins, E, and minerals – including zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, copper and iron. “It’s great Brain food!” It has been associated with lowering the risk of heart attack due to its high levels of unsaturated fat. Almond milk is a rich source of protein (1oz of almonds is equal to 12% of the daily protein requirement) and omega fatty acids too. It is truly a power food!

Obviously almond milk is a much more nutritious and safe beverage to pour over cereal, use in smoothies and shakes, make ice cream, and cheeses – “Yes, nut cheeses!” Almond milk is with-out-a-doubt the best alternative to any dairy product! (Please note, anyone with a peanut allergy should verify no almond allergy exists prior to using almonds as an alternative to milk).

Where can I find almond or nut milk?

Well, more and more grocery stores and super markets both natural and mass, are carrying a variety of almond nut milks. These commercially made almond milk products are often enriched with vitamins, and come in plain, vanilla, or chocolate flavors. However, commercially made almond milk is not nearly as nutritious as almond milk that is made fresh and raw. One must be careful when using these commercially made products as they are usually made produced with additives and sweeteners. This is because it is very difficult to keep products made from fresh dairy, soy or nut in a grocery store environment for long periods of time. They have to be processed and slightly pasteurized to avoid spoilage. Therefore, the commercially made almond product will not be as nutritious or safe as fresh rawalmond milk – so make your own!

How do you make almond milk, or any kind of nut milk for that matter?

Making the nut milk is super easy. The standard recipe is usually for making almond milk, but can be applied to most nut milks. Almond milk is usually the preferred choice for several reasons, it’s less expensive than other nuts, it’s the least acidic nut, and should cause no problems, it’s the closest in taste to dairy milk, making it a great alternative, and it’s readily available at most grocery stores and supermarkets. “Now let’s make some almond milk.”

Almond Milk 101:

A good rule of thumb is to use 1 cup of almonds (or nuts) to 4-5 cups of purified water. It’s best to use raw almonds (as raw as you can find obviously – meaning not roasted, or salted). Although some prefer to blanch the almonds first, it is not necessary. However, it is advised to soak the nuts for at least 4 hours or more. I prefer to soak the nuts over night. This helps to release the enzymes making the nuts even more nutritious and easier to digest, as well as making the nut milk much creamier, since the nuts will break down better in the blender. You can sweeten the milk too, by adding a 1 or 2 pitted dates per cup of almonds, or a drizzle of raw agave nectar, or a few drops of stevia. I usually use the dates, with a little non-alcoholic, organic vanilla extract.

Another good “additive” to use, but not necessary is lecithin granules. I use a little more than half a teaspoon to a cup of nuts in my milk. It makes a very creamy, smooth milk base. Plus it helps keep the composition of the milk whole (doesn’t separate as easily). This milk with or without the flavorings will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 days in an airtight container. I recommend using a mason jar – it’s better for your health.

All ingredients are placed in a blender. Although a high-speed blender is preferred it is not necessary. I for one still do not own these powerful appliances (although one day I will), and have had great success using my standard blender. Blend the ingredients on high until the mixture looks well combine, and smooth. You can change the consistency by using more or less water. The final product should look like milk. Next, you will need to strain the milk. Or, you can drink it as is, getting all the benefits of the almond.

Straining the milk: To strain the milk, use a nylon or silk mesh bag, also called a “nut or sprout bag” sold in health food stores or you can use muslin or tights. Cheesecloth could work, but can become very messy and cumbersome. I usually place the nut bag in a big bowl, so I can squeeze the milk out of the bag into the bowl. It’s kind of like milking a cow – fun and easy. Once all the milk has been strained out of the bag, pour the milk into a container. The remaining pulp can be used to make raw crackers or snacks, or it can be used for compost, or just toss it. The almond milk is now ready to enjoy!

Here are a couple of nut milk recipes to try on your own. Enjoy!

Raw Almond Milk
1 cup raw almonds (soaked for 8 hours)
2-3 pitted dates
½ tsp. non-alcoholic, organic vanilla extract
1 tsp. lecithin granules
4-5 cups purified water

Chocolate Raw Cashew Milk
1 to 1 ½ cups raw cashews (soaked 2-4 hours)
2-3T raw cacao or raw carob powder
1T raw coconut butter (optional)
3-4 pitted dates
½ tsp. non-alcoholic, organic vanilla extract
1 tsp. lecithin granules
4-5 cups purified water

Article written by Debbie Marsh, Raw-Riffic Food. All rights reserved 2009©

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