Even if you are not totally into clean eating, chances are high you may still be searching for the best and most nutritious plant-based dairy milk alternatives. After all, not only is cow’s milk the most common food allergy, but a whopping seventy-five percent of the world’s adult population also happen to be lactose intolerant.
If you have our Clean Cuisine book then you already know we are not big fans of consuming dairy for a number of health reasons. And we most definitely do not buy into the whole “Milk Does a Body Good” campaign. So, finding delicious and nutritious plant-based milk alternatives is very important to us.
Not All Plant Based Milk Alternatives are Equal
When it comes to plant-based milk, we realize almond milk is still the rage. But, if you look closely at what is actually in commercial almond milk you’ll see it’s not much. The almond-milk industry is basically selling consumers a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds. Not only is commercial almond milk a great big rip-off, it’s also lacking any real nutrition and it definitely lacks the voluptuous consistency of full fat cow’s milk (which we have to admit, we really do like.) Homemade almond milk, on the other hand, can be incredibly nutritious (that’s because it actually contains a hefty amount of almonds!) and very rich, creamy and delicious. The downside is that you have to make it yourself, which can be time-consuming, especially since the almonds need to soak for hours before you can use them. As good as it is though, even homemade almond milk is not the necessarily the most nutritious option.
We aren’t into rice or oat milks either because like almond milk, both rice and oat milks are very watered down and super low in nutrition.
New to the scene of plant-based milk alternatives is coconut milk, but unless you are buying it straight from the non-refrigerated can (the one that just has coconut milk and a wee bitty bit of guar gum in it), then you are getting a whole lot of unnecessary additives and not a whole lot of nutrition. You are also getting a distinctively coconut flavor, which may or may not work with the food you are pairing it with. Take a look at the ingredient list in the popular So Delicious brand of refrigerated coconut milk. We are not loving the list of ingredients. And that’s the unsweetened version too!
Our Absolute Favorite Plant Based Milk Alternative…
#1 HEMP MILK
This leads us to our absolute favorite plant based milk, which happens to be the least well-known, although I’m not sure why? Popularity aside, our favorite plant based milk is unsweetened hemp milk. Hemp milk’s lack of popularity may be unjustly tarnished by the fact that it is made from the same plant (Cannabis sativa L) used to make marijuana. The seeds or “nuts” are used for making oil, protein powder and now, milk. But, the seeds and products made from them do not contain any THC delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of marijuana. So don’t worry, drinking hemp milk won’t get you high!
Here are the top 8 reasons we love hemp milk so very much.
1. Hemp milk is made from “superfood” hemp seeds. Although they are a teeny tiny seed, hemp seed benefits really are tremendous and they are a highly anti-inflammatory food. Of all the plant based milk alternatives that exist, hemp milk is the most anti-inflammatory.
2. Hemp milk has an optimal (and highly anti-inflammatory) ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat.
3. Hemp milk contains more essential fatty acids (EFA’s) than any other plant milk.
4. Hemp milk also contains a very special “superfat” called GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) that is very difficult to get from typical food sources. GLA not only helps reduce inflammation but also supports a healthy metabolism, nourishes hair, skin and nails and even helps regulate hormones.
5. Hemp milk has a neutral flavor and a very rich and creamy texture, which makes it perfect for baking and cooking purposes.
6. Hemp milk is especially good for those with allergies and can almost always be tolerated by those who may be allergic to tree nuts, dairy or soy.
7. Without having to be enriched with synthetic nutrients, hemp milk naturally contains magnesium, phytosterols, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus and vitamin E.
8. Hemp milk is very easy to digest.
If you can set aside 5 minutes to make your own hemp milk (see recipe below) you can reap significantly more nutritional benefits than what you would get from store-bought brands. That’s because store-bought hemp milk is filtered to some degree, and the protein gets filtered out when the manufacturers strain the solid residue.
However, if you make your own hemp milk in athen you don’t have to strain it and all the good stuff remains Homemade hemp milk will keep in a mason jar for 3 to 4 days stored in the refrigerator.
But if you aren’t up for making your own hemp milk, trust me, I totally get it. Next best thing is to look for an unsweetened brand made without carrageenan. Our favorite brand is Pacific Foods unsweetened Hemp Milk.
By the way, carrageenan is an additive used in many different commercial plant based milks, but it is definitely not a “clean” substance. In addition to having zero nutritional benefits, carrageenan has been shown to contribute to inflammation, especially for those with inflammatory bowel disease.
However, unless you make your own plant based milk you will always find extra unnecessary ingredients in the commercial options. Not all of the additives in commercial plant based milks are bad, but some are definitely less desirable than others (such as added sugars, synthetic vitamins, etc.) And really, making your own hemp milk could not be any easier. Here’s how below, but please note you definitely need to shake well before using as the particles will separate within an hour or two.Print
- 1/2 cup hemp seeds
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1/16 teaspoon unrefined sea salt (plus more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and process until smooth and creamy. Store in a mason jar (or other glass jar with a tight fitting lid) in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. BE SURE TO SHAKE WELL BEFORE USING!
#2 HOMEMADE CASHEW MILK + #3: HOMEMADE WALNUT MILK
After hemp milk, our next favorite plant based milk alternatives include homemade cashew milk and homemade walnut milk. We emphasize homemade because to date the commercial options of cashew milk are all loaded with unnecessary ingredients and we have not yet been able to find a commercially produced walnut milk for sale.
Just like homemade hemp milk, both homemade cashew and walnut milk will keep for about 3 days if stored in a mason jar in the refrigerator. Both are also rich, creamy and perfect for baking and cooking purposes.