I was about 5 when I started getting sick a lot– The doctor determined that it was an allergy to dairy, (not to be confused with a Lactose intolerance). My parents used to give me one glass of milk with dinner every night and a lot started to change since we found out that dairy was not so good for my sinuses. I went through getting my calcium through other foods- ingesting calcium tablets, vitamins, avoiding milk altogether, to being really excited a few years back when dairy substitutes, like Soy Milk started appearing on the market. I tried them all, different flavors, original, unsweetened, vanilla, chocolate, low fat. I’d even ventured to try the dairy substitutes in other countries.
However, being Japanese I was aware of articles about soy being very bad for men and women, especially if it wasn’t taken in moderation. Soy was in my diet, not just from the “milk” but edamame, soy sauce, tofu, miso and other products. There are hormones in the soy beans, aka estrogen which could eventually cause cancer. That and 94% of soy produced in the US being GMO. So, that was out. Just when I had found a pretty good milk-like substance for my cereal and other baking needs. I had already tried many rice milk alternatives only to be turned off by the chalky texture, and overly sweetened versions I found in the local supermarket. My taste buds unfortunately could not be fooled by this.
Not only was I allergic to milk, but studies showed that milk was harmful to all humans, for a few reasons. But hey, let’s not forget that the market has now been inundated with dairy free products and I have tried most of them! Almond Cheese. Almond Yogurt. Soy Cheese. Soy Ice Cream. Coconut Ice Cream. Almond Dream Ice Cream. Although nothing comes close to replacing real cheese, a careful reading of the ingredients on these items can be very disappointing. Many of the DAIRY FREE cheeses still contained CASEIN. Casein is the major protein in milk. It is a common additive because it works as a food binder. Molecularly, Casein is very similar to gluten, and may trigger an allergy type response in the body, even in those who are not technically allergic to milk. These cows milk products also raise cholesterol in comparison to soy products which is obviously not healthy either, but its even more strange when the cows protein is still in the substitute product.
Welcome Almond milk! My latest find a few years ago, because my mom discovered that it tasted better than soy, and was actually better for you. Almond milk has less calories, less sugar, less fat, MORE Vitamin D, A, E, and Calcium. What is important is getting -organic- unsweetened Almond milk. Nuts are pretty heavily treated with pesticides which is why organic is the way to go. BUT WAIT: The almond milk trend does have one downfall. A carcinogen hiding in many dairy substitutes: a binding agent extracted from Pacific kelp. Kelp which is now radiated and in our food.
Last but not least: the Coconut Craze! Coconuts and coconut oil in general has been hot on the health scene this year with recipes for lotions to smoothies exploding on Pinterest. Thankfully I do enjoy coconut, but with many foods utilizing coconut oil, I find that I taste an overall noticeable coco-nutty flavor, rather than just say the item itself, ie: a coconut chocolate chip cookie vs. just the cookie. I don’t see much way around this, but I also believe moderation is key as it is with all items.
*Tip* Many dairy free milk brands use natural/artificial flavors and starches to simulate the taste and consistency of “traditional milk.” Be sure to shop for products with minimal ingredients. Something I always do is look for items with the short ingredients list, and [natural] ingredients that I recognize!