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By Jessica Miller

Nut milk, tell me more

Many people do not drink dairy due to food intolerances, dietary preferences and taste. Soy milk is an alternative first sold commercially in the United States in 1917, per Soya’s website. Almond milk was a common drink during the medieval times, per It has been on the market for decades in health food stores but began appearing in grocery stores several years ago. In 2014, it was the top-selling plant-based milk in the country, according to an article in the Boston Globe.

In recent years, more nut varieties have been used for milk. Nut milks are great alternatives to dairy and also a nutritious choice for those who want to eat a more plant-based diet. A 2013 article in the Permanente Journal advised physicians to encourage patients to focus on plant-based diets as preventive medicine.

Nut milk versus other dairy alternatives
Soy milk has lost some popularity as a milk alternative due to the fear of genetically modified soybeans; compounds found in soy may increase breast cancer risk and cause infertility. Too much soy can complicate thyroid issues. Rice milk is another dairy alternative whose popularity is low due to its being high in carbohydrates and low in nutrition. Coconut milk is gaining acclaim among dairy-free milk enthusiasts but it contains saturated fat while almond milk does not.

Uses for nut milk
Nut milk can replace dairy in your favorite recipes. It can also be enjoyed as a beverage. Eat a bowl of cereal with nut milk or add it to oatmeal for breakfast. It can also be used to make waffles and pancakes. Replace dairy with nut milk in baked goods, soups, sauces and salad dressings.

Types of nut milk available
There are refrigerated and shelf-stable versions of nut milk available in most grocery stores. Most brands state they should be used within seven days after opening. Almond milk was the first and is the most common nut milk available commercially. In recent years, cashew, walnut, macadamia, hazelnut and pistachio milk have become available at health-food and many grocery stores. Hemp seed milk is also available commercially. There are sweetened and unsweetened versions. They also come in flavors such as vanilla and chocolate.

Make your own nut milk
Nut milk is simple to make at home. In addition to the ones found commercially, other nuts such as pecans and Brazil nuts can be made into milk. Hemp, sunflower and pumpkin seeds can also be made into milk.

There are many recipes for nut milk. The basic recipe is to soak one cup of nuts overnight, then drain and rinse them. Combine nuts with two cups of water in a high-powered blender. More water can be used depending on your preference. For extra nutrients, protein and fiber, drink the resulting milk unfiltered. You may also choose to strain the milk using a mesh nut bag or cheese cloth. Flavor or sweeten it after filtering by adding vanilla, cocoa powder, cinnamon, maple syrup, dates or honey and blend it in a clean blender. Homemade nut milk is best if used in two to three days. If you decide to strain it, the remaining fiber can be used to make gluten-free crackers, added to muffins, cakes, cookies, pancakes or waffles and used in vegan cheese.

Commercial versus homemade nut milk
Commercial nut milk has several ingredients including preservatives and carrageenan to keep it smooth and creamy. Carrageenan is a seaweed extract that causes inflammation. According to a 2013 article in the Chicago Tribune, researcher Dr. Joanne Tobacman has been studying the harmful effects of it for over a decade and petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug administration to discontinue its use in food products in 2008. When making nut milk at home, you are in control of the ingredients. It can be made with water and nuts without any added ingredients. Although it is not quite as convenient, it may be a healthier option.

Make your choice
Whole milk contains more calcium and protein than store-bought unsweetened almond milk but also contains more fat and sugars. Commercial almond milk only contains one gram of protein per serving compared to the eight grams offered by whole milk. It also has less fat and calories than whole milk. Making nut milk at home and drinking it unfiltered will give you all the nutrients of eating nuts in the form of milk. If nutrition is your main priority, eating a handful of nuts may be a better option. A serving of almonds, 23 nuts, will give you six grams of protein along with healthy fiber.

If dairy milk is not an option for you, the nutrition and diversity of nut milk for cereals and various recipes make them a great choice. Eat your favorite cereal with walnut milk. Use chocolate almond milk to make a vegan ice cream. Add cashew milk to a banana smoothie.

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