Have you ever wondered if nut milks are good for you? I’ve spent a lot of time testing out different nuts and their unique properties. Today, I’m going to share what I’ve learned so that you can figure out which nut milk is right for you. Many of us are looking for alternatives to dairy. If you ask me, it’s a pretty easy move if you’ve already made the leap away from dairy for health or ethical reasons. But if you’re still struggling with lactose intolerance or some other form of dairy intolerance, this post is for you. I’ll explore some of the most common nut milks, and help you make an informed choice between the popular options.
Are Nut Milks Good For You?
Cow’s milk is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide. It is one of the few beverages that can help a young calf develop into a mature cow. What if I, however, told you that drinking cow’s milk isn’t the healthiest option for your body? Although the dairy sector may disagree, there are other options. And when it comes to beverages, these options are a much better (and healthier) option. Because they are nut milks, that is!
What Are Nut Milks?
You can use nut milks in your morning latte or smoothie because they are made from nuts that have been soaked in water and blended into a creamy beverage. Numerous varieties of nut milk are available in grocery stores, but they frequently have additives and preservatives that make them unsuitable for people with dietary restrictions. However, you can make your own nut milk at home using a blender, a nut milk bag, your preferred nuts, and water.
Nut milk has a lot of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids and is a great source of fiber. Beyond its health advantages, nut milk is more environmentally friendly than dairy milk. Commercial production of nut milk has a lower environmental impact than that of traditional cow milk, which generates more greenhouse gas emissions than any other plant- or nut-based milk on the market.
Types Of Nut Milks
There are many nut-based milks you can try, including the following, whether you have dietary restrictions or are simply looking for alternatives to conventional cow’s milk:
- Almond milk: Almond milk is a dairy-free milk used as an alternative to cow’s milk and other non-dairy milks such as soy milk, cashew milk, and oat milk. For vegans and others with dietary restrictions, almond milk is a great option for everything from smoothies to cereals, as a coffee creamer, and even in ice cream. Almond milk contains two ingredients: raw almonds and freshwater. You can buy it from a store or make your own almond milk at home using a blender, cheesecloth, almonds, and water. Homemade almond milk has a nuttier, more almond-y flavor than store-bought versions.
- Cashew milk: Cashew milk is a dairy-free alternative milk made from soaked cashews blended with water, then strained. Cashew milk has a creamy, sweet flavor like cow’s milk and other non-dairy milks. Store-bought almond milk may contain added sugars and preservatives. However, you can control the sugar content by making cashew milk from the comfort of your own home.
- Macadamia milk: You can make macadamia milk by blending soaked macadamia nuts with water. Macadamia milk has a rich, smooth texture and almost fruity flavor, and serves as a creamy substitute for cow’s milk. Since macadamia trees are difficult to grow, the nuts are rarer than other types of nuts, making them more expensive. Macadamia milk is a great option for baking or as a standalone beverage.
- Walnut milk: Walnut milk is a non-dairy milk made by blending soaked walnuts and water together, and straining the resulting liquid for a smooth beverage. Walnuts are a source of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber.
- Hazelnut milk: Hazelnut milk is a non-dairy milk alternative made from soaked hazelnuts blended with fresh water. Less common than almond milk or cashew milk, hazelnut milk has a creamy consistency and pleasant hazelnut flavor that pairs well with chocolate and coffee.
- Coconut milk: Coconut milk is an opaque, white liquid extracted from the meat of a mature coconut, and is a staple in tropical cuisines and vegan baking. Coconut milk is made by blending shredded coconut with water, then straining through a nut milk bag. While coconut water is extracted from young, green coconuts, you can only make coconut milk from the mature flesh of a brown coconut.
- Pistachio milk: Pistachio milk is a tasty, green vegan milk derived from soaked and blended pistachios. Draining the mixture through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag can result in a smoother texture. You can use pistachio milk to make gelato or ice cream for a delicious, dairy-free treat.
- Peanut milk: Although peanuts are technically legumes, peanut milk is becoming a more popular dairy-free milk option. Peanut milk is made by soaking peanuts in water and blending the mixture until it reaches a smooth consistency. Serve peanut milk cold.
Why You Should Be Making Your Own Nut Milk
When I was a child in the 1970s, a glass of ice-cold milk only meant one thing: whole milk from a nearby cow, poured from a glass jar that the milkman had brought to our house. Nobody had even heard of nut milk back then, much less thought about making it at home.
Thanks to an increase in health-conscious eating, alternative, plant-based “milks” are now widely available. Nut milks are beneficial for anybody who wants to eat more plant-based, anti-inflammatory foods, not just those who are lactose intolerant.
Why Choose A Dairy-Free Milk?
Nut milk is delicious and healthy, which is enough justification to include it in your diet. Almond, cashew, hazelnut, and pecan milks, for instance, are full of antioxidants like vitamin E and offer a supply of mono- and poly-unsaturated fats that are good for the brain.
Decreased consumption of cow’s milk has positive health effects as well. First off, some people may experience inflammation due to the type of protein in cow’s milk, which can result in gastrointestinal issues among other things. A condition known as lactose intolerance causes some adults to no longer be able to digest the lactose in cow’s milk, which prompts them to look for other milks.
The kind of saturated fats we want to minimize for a diet that promotes brain function are notably found in whole milk. Including a small amount of saturated fat in your diet can help you absorb important fat-soluble vitamins D, E, A, and K. However, consuming too much saturated fat has been linked to a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Three out of four research in this study of the key studies on the relationship between saturated and trans fat consumption and the risk of dementia found evidence for this association.
Plenty of brain-friendly lipids are present in a diet that promotes brain function, such as the Mediterranean diet or its close relative the MIND diet. In fact, these mono- and polyunsaturated fats—which are primarily found in nuts, salmon, and olive oil—make up 40% of these longevity diets for a healthy heart and brain. However, they contain relatively little saturated fat, such as that found in whole milk, butter, and some cheeses. Less than 10% of the fat you consume should be saturated fats. Additionally, whenever feasible, trans fats (such those in fast food) should be avoided.
Note on Brain Health: Nut milk is rich in essential minerals like magnesium, copper, and vitamins E and B6 that are absent from cow’s milk, as well as brain-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Homemade vs. Processed Nut Milk
While the convenience of processed nut milks cannot be denied, the ratio of nuts to other ingredients is not optimum. To receive the same amount of nutrients as a handful of almonds, you would really need to consume a whole half-gallon of almond milk. (For instance, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk contains only 2% almonds and 98% water in addition to flavorings and chemicals.) On the other hand, my homemade almond milk still contains 10 to 20% almonds per cup after filtering.
The creamy, milk-like texture of processed nut milk is a result of the thickeners, stabilizers, and emulsifiers that are used in its production. Carrageenan, a seaweed extract used as one of these emulsifiers, has been demonstrated in animal experiments to cause intestinal inflammation. Human studies are inconsistent; some report worsening of ailments like irritable bowel syndrome, while others show no issues at all. Although there isn’t a strong agreement among scientists on how these substances affect the gut, they are highly processed, so I advise avoiding them.
I make my own nut milk without the use of stabilizers. As a result, some separation after chilling in the fridge is expected. Simply give it a quick shake to thoroughly combine it once again.
Processed, store-bought nut milks are frequently flavored and sweetened, and an 8-ounce cup of these products can include up to 14 grams of extra sugar. That much sugar is more than any one person should eat in a day! According to current American Heart Association recommendations, women should limit their daily sugar intake to 25 grams (6 teaspoons), while men should limit their intake to 36 grams (9 teaspoons).
The bottom line for brain health is that you can regulate the milk’s sugar content, if any, by creating nut milk from scratch. I like to use pitted dates or another whole-food source of sugar to sweeten my nut milks. Dates are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and a little bit goes a long way. For instance, one medium-sized date can sweeten a quart of almond milk.
Nuts Are Good For The Heart, Too
Consuming nuts has long been linked to lower blood cholesterol levels and a decreased risk of heart disease. A consistent 30 percent to 50 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction (also known as a heart attack), sudden cardiac death, or cardiovascular disease has been linked to eating nuts several times per week, according to several of the largest cohort studies, including the Adventist Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, and the Nurses’ Health Study.
The FDA actually permits the claim, “Eating a diet that contains one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease,” to be placed on select nuts and goods manufactured with them. This is most likely caused by the powerful antioxidant effect that nuts have on blood vessels, which maintains them elastic and malleable. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are less likely to develop in the future when blood arteries are healthy.
How To Make Nut Milk
You’ll be astonished at how simple it is if you’ve never made nut milk at home. Even the satisfaction of drinking authentic nut milk can surprise you. High quality nuts, a few basic tools, and some time to soak the nuts are all you need to produce nut milk at home.
A bowl for soaking
A high-power blender
A nut milk bag, or a clean, thin kitchen towel or cheesecloth
First, Soak 1½ Cups Nuts
Almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts, which have hard shells, need at least 8 hours to soften before they may be blended with milk. To produce milk that is creamier, a 12-hour soak is even preferable. Pecans and cashews, which are softer nuts, just require a quick soak or none at all.
Cooking school tip: The milk will be creamier the longer the nuts soak. Additionally, use warm water to shorten the time spent soaking.
Then, Drain And Rinse The Nuts
After soaking, drain the water and throw it away. In a colander, thoroughly rinse the nuts. Put the nuts in the blender. Ideal is a strong blender like a Vitamix or Magic Bullet.
Lacking a strong blender? No issue. Use pecans or other softer nuts to make milk. Your blender won’t have to work very hard to turn them into creamy milk. Additionally, depending on your blender, they can totally breakdown without the need for filtering.
Next, Add Flavorings And Blend Into Nut Milk
Add 4 cups water, salt, and any flavors or sweeteners you choose to the nuts (see list below). Almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios take five minutes to blend on high speed, compared to two to three minutes for cashews and pecans. You want the mixture to be smooth and foamy, like milk.
Plain And Simple Or Slightly Sweetened
12 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt should be added to plain, unsweetened almond milk. Add two pitted Medjool dates, one teaspoon of raw honey, or one teaspoon of pure maple syrup for sweetness. There are countless options for flavoring milk. Listed here are some of my favorites:
- Vanilla Nut Milk: Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla + 1 pitted Medjool date.
- Chocolate Nut Milk: Add 2 teaspoons of natural cocoa powder + 1 teaspoon maple syrup. Try this with hazelnuts for a nostalgic nod to the flavors of Nutella.
- Cinnamon Nut Milk: Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon + 1 teaspoon honey.
- Turmeric-Spiced Milk: Add 1 teaspoon ground turmeric or 2 teaspoons freshly grated turmeric + 1 teaspoon honey.
- Berry Nut Milk: Add 1/2 cup of berries.
- Toasted Maple Pecan Milk: Toast pecans in the oven (350ºF for 7-10 minutes), cool, and use to make nut milk. Add 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup.
Finally, Strain Your Nut Milk
To separate the milk from the sediments that the nut skins have left behind, most nut milks must be strained. (With pecan and cashew milk, you can typically omit this step if you have a strong blender.) The simplest technique to strain the milk’s solids out is with a nut milk bag. They are reusable and are available online or at kitchen supply stores. Pour the milk into the nut milk bag after draping it over a big bowl. Pour the milk into the dish while letting the bag drip through it. Squeeze the bag with your hands to collect every last drop.
Cooking School Tip: You can alternatively strain nut milk using a colander and a piece of cheesecloth or a very thin kitchen towel. Pour the nut milk on top, then fold the four corners together to form a pouch. Pour the entire amount of almond milk into the bowl.
What About The Pulp?
Leftover almond pulp can be used as an almond meal or flour for baking cookies, bars, granola, and more. Place the pulp on a baking sheet, turn the oven to the lowest setting, and let it dry for typically six hours. Pulse the dried meal in a food processor a few times to achieve a finer texture. For up to a month, keep in an airtight container. Check out this post from Almond Cow for recipes and comprehensive instructions on how to use almond pulp.
Last But Not Least: Enjoy Your Nut Milk!
Pour over porridge or cereal, consume straight up (cold is best), or use in cooking as you would any other sort of milk. These recipes for Pumpkin Polenta, White Chicken Chili with Hatch Chiles and Black Beans, and my Vanilla Almond Milk all use homemade nut milk as a secret ingredient.