Today I would like to talk about milk. And not just the kind the comes from a cow, but soy milk and almond milk too.
You may remember that I touched upon milk in my recent blog, MyPlate Gets a Makeover, so I wanted to expand on this topic a bit. The most recent guidelines from the USDA suggest consuming 2-3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy each day. According to Walter Willett, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, dairy is not essential to a healthy diet…
Sure, milk has calcium. But does that mean 2-3 servings a day means strong bones? Well, there actually isn’t much evidence to support that milk consumption reduces fractures. And, in Asian counties where the population doesn’t consume much milk there is a low rate of fractures. So while it’s true that calcium is essential for strong bones, there are plenty of alternative calcium sources: leafy greens (collard, spinach), beans, veggies, fortified soy milk (more on that to come) and even calcium supplements. And if you want to argue that milk is a great source of potassium, there are other ways to meet that requirement as well: tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, bananas, etc.
It is also important to note there are a couple of risks associated with milk, including prostate cancer and ovarian cancer with 3+ servings each day.
That brings me to a popular milk substitute, soy milk. Is soy milk really a better alternative? I’ll leave that to you to decide.
What is soy? According to Wikipedia, the soybean is a species of legume native to East Asia and is widely grown for its edible bean. You should be familiar with some of its non-fermented food uses, like soy milk and tofu, and some of its fermented food uses like soy sauce and tempeh. Something you may not know is that soybeans actually have to be cooked; raw soybeans are toxic to humans.
An interesting article I read today, What You Need to Know About Soy by Katrine van Wyk, went over some of the problems with this legume:
- Aluminum – in the whole processing process (for lack of a better term) the soy is exposed to aluminum, which can affect the products we buy. I’ll pass on the aluminum, thanks.
- Environmental Impact – think: deforestation, pesticides…no bueno!
- Anti-Nutrients & Thyroid Imbalance – non-fermented products can slow digestion, and there is evidence to show that moderate soy consumption can lead to thyroid disorders.
- Breast Cancer Risk – as with lots of nutrition information, there are conflicting studies on soy and breast cancer; soy bean oil is high in omega 6 (known to increase breast cancer risk), so be careful.
- Male Fertility & Health – sorry guys, think: estrogen.
Try to stick with organic and fermented soy products when possible, and keep in mind that the soy milk and tofu you pick up at the store are non-fermented.
One last alternative I wanted to mention, before I get into what I made for dinner tonight, is almond milk. Almond milk has no cholesterol or lactose, and is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. I have yet to attempt to make it on my own, but plan to try. Don’t worry – of course I’ll be blogging all about it! In the meantime, here’s a recipe from Vitamix for almond milk if you’re feeling inspired – almond milk recipe. And yes, it’s that easy!
Knowledge is Power
Hopefully I didn’t scare anyone. Drinking milk everyday? Soy milk everyday? Try and mix it up a bit! You might actually enjoy it. Everything in moderation.
Now for a quick dinner recap since I thoroughly enjoy sharing my kitchen experiences with you all. One of our guest speakers at IIN is Andrea Beaman, a Natural Foods Chef, author, and television host dedicated to alternative healing and green, sustainable living. I was perusing her website, and found a recipe – Kamut Pasta with Summer Pesto. I didn’t necessarily feel like finding Kamut (knew the grocery store I typically frequent wouldn’t have it), but I had some whole wheat pasta at home and figured it would do the trick. All I needed to grab at the store was some garlic, pine nuts and reggiano cheese. This may shock you, so I hope you’re sitting down for this: My grocery store (yes, the one that never carries everything I need), did not have pine nuts. I ended up finding some though – not one, not two, but three bodegas later… I hope at some point soon I stop complaining about this aforementioned grocery store, and manage to do all my shopping at Whole Foods. But, I’m not quite there yet, so until then…
I’m not a huge fan of pesto, but I must say I would have enjoyed this much more if I didn’t double the garlic. Sometimes too much of a good thing isn’t so good… I used four cloves vs the two the recipe called for. Yes, that’s right, four.
Definitely give it a try, especially if you are a fan of pesto. Just remember: always cook your pasta “al dente” (you digest it more slowly) and go easy on the garlic; don’t say I didn’t warn you!
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