Nut milks have become an increasingly popular alternative to cow’s milk. These include anything from almond to oat, coconut, cashew, hazelnut, and macadamia milks. Nut milks are often the preferred choice for those who are lactose intolerant, have a dairy allergy or sensitivity, are looking to avoid animal products, or are striving to be healthier. But, are they really the healthier choice?
Regardless of why you may choose to consume alternative milks, it is important to remember that the quality of them varies - as does the quality of all processed foods. Depending on the brand, the ingredients list may include fillers, additives, preservatives, texture modifying agents, and other questionable ingredients.
As always, read the ingredients list before purchasing. When it comes to nut milks, the general rule of thumb is the simpler, the better. Try to choose a nut milk that has a shorter shelf life and that only includes the whole nut of choice, filtered water, and (optional) “clean” add-ins like vanilla extract, dates, sea salt, and/or cinnamon.
If a product does not require refrigeration or it has an expiry date beyond three to five days after opening, you can assume that there are certain ingredients added to help extend the shelf-life. Products that need to be consumed more quickly are generally fresher and have a less exhaustive ingredients list.
Avoid nut milks that include any of the following:
Gums such as locust bean, gellan, xanthan, and guar. These are thickening and/or emulsifying agents
Carrageenan, a type of gum derived from seaweeds. This is a thickening agent and emulsifier
Vitamin and mineral blends
This list is not exhaustive. Please note that some of these ingredients are not necessarily unhealthy or unsafe, however, they can cause digestive disturbance or other concerns, particularly when consumed daily or quite frequently.
These same principles can extend to other alternative dairy products like coconut yogurts, cashew dips, and non-dairy “cheese”. If you are questioning one or more of the ingredients, perhaps consider going without, exploring other brands, or try making your own at home.
Here is a quick and easy home-made alternative milk recipe that my family and I come back to again and again. Once you taste homemade, you will never go back!
1 cup almonds, cashews, unsweetened shredded coconut, or a mix. Organic is ideal
4 cups filtered water
2-4 dates (optional). Organic is ideal
Pinch of sea salt (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Soak nuts overnight, or for at least 4 hours
Strain and rinse
In a high powered blender, combine the nuts, filtered water, and optional ingredients
Blend on high for 4 minutes
Strain the mixture through 2-4 layers of cheesecloth. Or, using the nut milk bag, squeeze the milk into a large bowl
Pour into your jar and store in the fridge for 3-4 days
Makes approximately 750mL - 1L
Tip: halve the recipe or freeze half in an airtight glass container and defrost as needed if you won’t consume all of the milk before its expiry.