Beyond the Cow: Milk Alternatives for the Dairy Free.

Beyond the Cow: Milk Alternatives for the Dairy Free.

Did you know it’s estimated that as much as 70 percent of the world’s population can’t properly digest dairy?

Our bodies are all different and the reasons why we may not be capable of digesting dairy are varied. It could be because we aren’t producing enough lactase to break down the sugars in lactose, or it could be caused by a difficulty with one of the many proteins found in cow’s milk. A doctor may be able to give you a definitive answer, though we can typically tell when a food doesn’t agree with us and once that determination is made, that’s pretty much all you need to know.

To deal with this unfortunate but very real dairy intolerance, many people have luck with unprocessed milk and dairy products made from pasture-raised cows. Unlike processed dairy, this kind still has good bacteria that may help break down lactose. It’s definitely a route worth exploring and a good means of supporting our local dairy farms. Kefir is another option. It’s a cultured milk that’s rich in probiotics but low in lactose. It’s also a bit like liquid yogurt, in a good way.

The popularity of plant-based, dairy-free milk alternatives, however, is on the rise and is expected to continue growing in the coming years. Suddenly, all kinds of unexpected ingredients are being turned into a milk-like beverages. Flax, hemp, oat, rice and other foods are now popular possibilities for replacing milk when you can’t do dairy. While this is a challenge for the sustainability of our dairy farmers, and many would prefer we don’t even call these milk alternatives “milk,” the data proves that many people are considering their options.

But where to begin? Which milk alternative is right for you? Plant-based milks each have their own attributes, each brand has its own set of ingredients, and most have added vitamins, not unlike many of the processed varieties of cow’s milk. There are sweetened and unsweetened, flavored and unflavored, conventional and organic varieties. It’s a little overwhelming.

This month we have two kinds of these milks on sale – oat and hemp – both from Pacific Foods. These particular milks happen to be shelf stable and found in our grocery department, however, you’ll also find refrigerated options.

Here’s a quick run down on a few plant milks:

Oat Milk

Oat milk is a little sweeter tasting than some of the other milks out there, even without an added sweetener. It reminds me, in a good way, of the milk left at the bottom of the cereal bowl. Oat milk is typically made by soaking oats in water, blending them together and straining. Pacific’s oat milk is organic, unsweetened and contains a full serving of grains. Oat milks tend to thicken up well when heated and make a good choice for puddings and gravies.

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds that are soaked and ground with water. Like hemp seeds themselves, hemp milk is a good source of plant nutrition and Omega essential amino acids. Pacific’s hemp milk is sweetened with brown rice syrup and they say it will work well in baking as well as create light and fluffy pancakes. Expect a nutty taste.

Coconut Milk

A common choice these days, especially in Paleo diets, coconut milk comes in both cartons and cans. The cartons tend to offer a thinner consistency, while the cans contain more of the coconut cream. Which you choose to buy may depend on your use. The thicker milk in the cans lends well to cooking, especially in curries and soups.

Almond Milk

Almond milk has a subtle flavor that won’t overwhelm your cereal bowl or cup of coffee. It’s made by soaking almonds in water, blending and straining, much like many other plant milks. However, almond milk has faced some scrutiny over the years. One, for the amount of water that it takes to grow almonds and the amount of almonds that go into producing this beverage. It is a bit resource heavy. Also, as I was surprised to find, for a milk made from nuts, there is little to no protein.

Homemade almond milk is worth the while, though. Many people rave about the superior taste compared to store bought. Check out our simple recipe for making your own.

Want to see all of the great sales we’re offering this month, including several other breakfast staples? Check out our monthly sales flyer.

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