Following the article on Veganuary, I thought about the dietary changes a non vegan would need to do when trying the vegan diet for the first time. The most common non vegan ingredients in our diet are dairy products such as milk and eggs. Many classic recipes for baked goods have eggs and dairy. Also, comfort dishes like macaroni cheese or a creamy mushroom soup.
When I was a child, I was given cow’s milk, it was widely and frequently promoted as being the best nourishing source for calcium and protein for children. I think many of us have had those comforting moments in our childhood of dunking our favourite biscuits in a cool glass of milk or a bowl of cereal with a good helping of milk.
We were advised to have daily helpings of milk, yoghurt or cheese to provide our bodies with the necessary calcium, protein, and vitamins. Over time, as we develop a habit of consuming dairy products daily, perhaps we do not question whether it is the best nutritional option.
That was then, now we are more informed about Cow’s milk and that there are plenty of plant alternatives that provide better nourishment and a higher natural source of calcium, protein, vitamins and fibre.
Full fat dairy products such as Cow’s milk contain a high level of saturated fat which can raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. High cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease and eventually as fat deposits grow in the arteries, blood flow is more and more restricted and this can lead to the risk of stroke.
Milk is a substance in which the mammal produces for weaning their offspring. Human milk has the properties appropriate for human babies to help rapid brain development and gradual physical development. Whereas Cows produce milk rich in properties that help their calf to rapidly bulk up physically within a year. Each species has their milk to suit the development of their offspring.
In the world there is 250 billion litres of milk and 65% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. Lactose is the sugar found in milk, the enzyme lactase is produced in the body to break down the lactose in milk and therefore helps the body to digest milk. Up to about 5 years old we can produce this enzyme to help us digest the milk. After this period, we reach the end of the weaning stage and develop into adolescents and then adults and our ability to produce the enzyme lactase reduces or even disappears. Therefore, we are unable to digest cow’s milk.
We need calcium and protein but rather than getting it from cow’s milk we can find other alternatives. Did you know that plants contain a higher level of calcium compared to cow’s milk? For example, there is 28% calcium in a portion of 225g cow’s milk, whereas Coconut milk has 35% and Almond milk 30%.
To produce 1 litre of cow’s milk 8.95 m2 land is required compared to 1 litre of oat milk which uses 0.76 m2 of land according to ourworldindata.org statistics from 2013. And for 1 litre of Oat milk, 48 litres of fresh water is used whereas 628 litres of freshwater is required in the production of 1 litre of Cow’s milk.
So it seems we could help lessen the impact on our environment when we switch to alternative milk.
Let’s take a look at some milk alternatives and how to make plant milk.
We can make milk from nuts, grains, beans and seeds. The most commonly used are almond and cashew nuts, oat and rice grains, Soya beans and Peas, and for seeds we can use sesame, hemp and Chia.
To make an alternative milk, you have to make sure that your ingredients are raw, fresh and unseasoned. The first step is to soak the ingredients in water overnight or at least 12 hours. This helps to yield more saturated and creamier milk, when soaked it produces less pulp and yields more liquid.
The importance of soaking activates the enzymes in the plant to break down cell walls making it more digestible and more nutritious. The next step is to blend your soaked nuts or grains in a ratio of 4:1 ie 4 parts water to 1 part nut or grains. You can also mix different grains, nuts and seeds, I often see recipes where rice milk is added.
When blending, try to blend for at least one minute to ensure that the milk is well extracted, the more you blend, the finer and thicker the milk will be. Next you will need to filter the deposits. You can use a fine colander or even better, try to use a nut bag which is a textile bag made of material like muslin. The more you filter the deposits the finer and smoother your milk will be.
To finish, you can add salt and agave syrup (or your choice of sugar) to your taste. Some recipes suggest other flavourings such as maple, vanilla or lavender but take care not to over season your milk. I prefer to taste the plant milk close to its natural flavour.
Et voila ! You made plant milk. Remember to store it well, in an airtight container and put it in a cool place or in the fridge.
Check out these presenters on YouTube :
NutritionRefined - Petra is a trained nutritionist and she gives advice in all aspects of sustaining a healthy lifestyle. She shows us how she makes alternative milks then she’ll test, discuss and compare them.
Mind over Munch - Alyssia is energetic in her presentation as she shows us vegan milk recipes in a few quick and fun steps.
Pick Up Limes - Sadia is currently in the Netherlands and has some beautiful Latte recipes for our milk alternatives.
Ela Gale - Based in New Zealand, Ela has some interesting talks about how we can exchange animal products with vegan alternatives.