This awesome post was written by Alina Islam, a wonderful Certified Nutritional Practitioner from Toronto, Canada. She is a writer, speaker and nutritional consultant. You can read more of her work at AlinaIslam.com or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Whenever I make almond milk, I’m reminded of the horrified look on our housemaid’s face while visiting Pakistan last summer. I had rejected a carton of cow’s milk at breakfast and told her I was going to make my own milk using almonds instead.
She then proceeded to shake her head and give me a “foreign girls be crazy” look. I don’t blame her. It’s not everyday you see someone squeeze the “milk” out of almonds using a cheesecloth.
I switched over to almond milk around six years ago during university. An avid milk drinker since I was a child, I never gave it a second thought until I came across a book called, Skinny B*tch (no judgment people, I was an early-20-something with unflattering baby fat).
In a nutshell, what the book taught me and what I learned years later at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition, is that we don’t really need milk in our diet. In fact, we’re the only species that continues to drink milk after being weaned, that too of another species. And if you ever do catch a Holistic Nutritionist drinking milk, it would be raw, organic whole milk. Unfortunately, the kind that isn’t available in Canada.
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The word “raw” means unpasteurized and not homogenized— essentially, it hasn’t been heated and you won’t find cream sitting on top of the milk either. This heating process destroys beneficial enzymes like lactase that we need to digest lactose, the main sugar in milk. Not only does milk no longer have these enzymes, the majority of us stop producing lactase in our body between the ages of 2-5.
Ever wonder why so many people are “lactose intolerant”? I personally found that after I removed milk from my diet, my bouts of indigestion, bloating and gassiness decreased and I had less acne breakouts as well (gut and skin health is connected).
Lactose intolerance aside, here are the other reasons I decided to give up milk:
- Non-organic dairy farmers use antibiotics and rGBH (bovine growth hormone) to increase milk production. rGBH also raises insulin-growth-factor, which is associated with higher breast cancer risk.
- Pretty much all fat is removed from store-bought milk. Without fat, you can’t absorb fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E and K.
- I came across lots of research supporting the claim that cows’ milk does not improve bone health, and in a few cases there was also link between milk consumption and a higher risk of fractures. This link is also a good starting point to check out the studies I’m referring to.
So…moo? Yeah, not so much. I was skeptical about almond milk at first, but I easily transitioned over within a few months. (This is coming from someone who voluntarily drank two glasses of milk a day growing up). It tastes good and it’s still a great source of calcium without any of the adverse effects of cow’s milk.
If you’re buying store-bought, unsweetened almond milk is best. But, I prefer to make my own when I can, not only because it tastes better but because I get to avoid preservatives like carrageenan, which has been linked to scary-sounding things like gastrointestinal disturbances.
All you need for the recipe below is a good blender, some almonds and a nut milk bag (I bought mine for $12 at The Big Carrot). If you’re outside of Canada and don’t have access to one, you can use a regular strainer as well, you’ll just have to put in a little extra effort to squeeze the milk out!
Homemade Almond Milk
Makes: approximately 1 litre
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 4 cup filtered water
- Optional: 1-2 dates, 1 tsp. honey, vanilla, cinnamon
- Soak almonds in lukewarm water overnight or 3-4 hours, at least
- Drain soaking water
- Add almonds, 4 cups water and any optional items to blender
- Blend for a few minutes, until smooth and frothy
- Use a nut milk bag or cheesecloth to strain the milk over a big bowl
- You will be left with pulp in the bag (save for baking project or throw out), and almond milk in the bowl
- Refrigerate and serve cold. Keeps for up to 3-4 days.
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