Milk. A delicate balance of protein, fat, and energy, good for your bones, the perfect accompaniment to chocolate. But for those who cannot, or choose not to, drink milk, its goodness can be difficult to replicate. As a person with minor lactose intolerance and an athletic lifestyle, I have been on the never-ending quest for the perfect replacement for this modern-day staple. Ideally, it should be tasty, nutritious, and provide plenty of protein to help my muscles recover from a tough work-out. Easy, right? Not so fast. In an ever growing market of milk substitutes, this decision can be more confusing than ever.
To suit my own needs and tastes, I whittled my options down to 4 contenders, ruling out hemp milk, oat milk, goat milk, among others for my own personal reasons. Here are my experiences with each of the finalists…
Soy milk. My first instinct was to replace all of my milk with soy milk, mainly for its high protein content. It is probably one of the most widespread of the milk substitutes, well-stocked in every corner coffee shop nowadays. Unfortunately, there is more controversy to soy milk than meets the eye. Most soy beans are genetically-modified, loaded with toxins from pesticides, and their phytoestrogens may or may not also cause undesirable hormone distribution. So after years of blindly drinking soy milk, I decided I could do better.
Coconut milk. Moving on, coconut milk sounded appealing, but I am not crazy about the coconut milk beverages that have become popular as they are full of preservatives and inessential ingredients. So I did a little research and found a reputable organic company with basic ingredients and BPA-free cans. The results? Coconut milk is delicious! It is excellent for adding into coffee or as a healthier replacement for cream in cooking and baking. Unfortunately, it was just too oily to replace good ol’ cow milk for my taste and lacked the protein I oh so fervently desired.
Raw milk. With my list steadily shrinking, I considered raw milk. I don’t want to get involved in the fierce debate over raw milk, but I like it. It is chock-full of nutrients and enzymes, which normally are destroyed during pasteurization, that make lactose easier to digest. Plus, it tastes rich, creamy, and simply lovely. It is not, however, a viable option for me because I found it difficult to consistently get a hold of in my area.
Almond milk. Dejected, I looked to almond milk. I had my first experience with almond milk recently at a local coffee shop. I asked for a latte and whether they could substitute a lactose-free milk. The woman told me that they had both soy and almond milk, so, feeling adventurous, I delved into the unknown! Moments later, she delivered me an enticing almond milk latte with a light dusting of cinnamon atop its thickly-foamed crest. But how did it taste? Heavenly. Slightly nutty, but still creamy. It seemed as though I had found perfection at last!
After some research, I found that homemade almond milk could be more nutritious and delicious than store-bought. Brimming with curiosity, I soaked 1 cup of almonds in water for 8-12 hours (overnight), and drained and rinsed them well the next morning. They were a bit easier to chew, slightly sweeter, and the soaking process actually allows your body to absorb more nutrients from the nut, which is a huge plus. I then processed the almonds in a blender with about 3 cups of water (use more or less to achieve desired consistency). What resulted was a promising milky liquid. I tasted it, and decided it needed a little boost. I added a pinch each of salt and cinnamon, a teaspoon of raw honey, and a capful of good vanilla extract. Voila! Ambrosia of the gods! When I sipped it I could swear that I heard cherubs rejoicing in the distance with an operatic “Hallelujah”!
“But weren’t you looking for protein?” Well, yes. If you have a good blender, all of the protein and nutrition from the almonds will get pulverized into the frothy liquid. In my case, I like to keep a little of the unprocessed almond pulp (great for baking) and stir it into the finished product. It may be a little more grainy, but it is delicious, nutritious, and entirely satisfying. For me, homemade almond milk (or any nut milk, for that matter) has filled the dairy void in my life. What kind of milks do you prefer?