Food for thought with Kat | Milk masquerades | arts and culture

Every time we turn around, a new food is milked. From nuts and seeds to grains and legumes, you name it, it probably comes in “processed” form. Even Cuban cafes in Key West, where I vacationed last week, now offer almond milk, a sellout I hadn’t expected in the southernmost city.

Lactose intolerance and dairy sensitivities have driven us to find substitutes to add to our coffee, tea and cereal. Many of us have found that we simply feel better without dairy and have sought alternatives in the form of soy, oat, almond, cashew, hemp and coconut milks, to name a few. to name a few, but are they healthy for us?

Imitation milkWhen it comes to conventional milk, a cow’s udder is pretty self-explanatory, but how do you milk oats? Soybeans, oats and other alternative sources become unrecognizable once they are “processed” and most of them would be unpalatable by our standards without the addition of additional sweeteners and flavorings. Food companies know we’d turn our noses up if these milk alternatives separate, as they’re likely to do naturally, so they’ve added emulsifiers and improved their texture to prevent that. In addition to emulsifiers, like gums and oils that prevent separation and make them smooth, minerals like calcium are added to fortify them.

All of these milks or “mylks” as they are sometimes called, are nothing new. One of the oldest alternatives to cow’s milk, or human milk for that matter, is soy milk. Soy milk has been around for nearly two thousand years and although it played a limited role in traditional Chinese diets, it was usually sweetened before consumption.

Ode to oat milkA bit newer to the world of dairy alternatives, oat milk has taken it by storm. Although oats are almost a complete protein, oat milk is quite viscous and, like its counterparts, also separates. To solve this problem, companies have turned to ever-popular gums like guar, gellan, or xanthan gum. A mainstream oat milk recipe calls for “low erucic acid” to thicken its product. Simply put, low erucic acid isn’t pure enough to even be called canola oil and has been linked to heart problems in animal studies. (The FDA limits the fatty acid profile of canola oil to two percent erucic acid. Low erucic acid is too high in – you guessed it – erucic acid to be called canola) .

Derived from rapeseed (which happens to be very toxic to humans), canola seeds are usually genetically modified to tolerate higher levels of pesticides and are treated with solvents when harvesting the oil. To make matters worse, canola oil is inflammatory…yum, exactly what I want in my coffee. Many of us seek out dairy alternatives to avoid lactose or to address chronic health issues and gut imbalances. Why, then, are these dairy alternatives filled with things that are considered “gut irritants” at the very least?

Emulsifiers are just one of the problems with some dairy alternatives. In addition to playing on our love for smooth, velvety textures, food companies serve our palettes with a plethora of flavors that tantalize our taste buds. As pumpkin spice season is upon us, these flavors are simply chemicals dancing on our taste buds and leaving imprints on our brains.

Assess exasperationLooking at all the additives in plant milks can make you throw up your hands in exasperation. That’s exactly what Lauren Abelin did when she was desperate for plant-based milk for her toddler son. First-time mom, Lauren had just moved to Hawaii a few months before she was born and dreamed of being a salt-of-the-earth mom – breastfeeding her son exclusively at first, then continuing to do so while implementing solid foods. . However, as her motherhood progressed, she realized that her son had a milk and soy allergy. “I took dairy and soy out of my diet, which wasn’t hard because I had done that before when dealing with my chronic health issue, and it helped,” Abelin recalls. . “But when I stopped producing enough milk to just breastfeed him, it was difficult because he was hungry. It wasn’t part of my plan and I felt like I had failed.

Lauren and her husband, Alex, scoured the grocery store aisles for alternatives for their son. They found little solace in the formulas, as everything contained dairy or soy. “It was infuriating that there were only soy and cow’s milk infant formulas on the market,” says Abelin. “[There was] nothing without soy [and] herbal that I could feed my baby. The couple went home to concoct their own solution. Enter Kiki milk.

Creating a healthy alternative with the help of nutritionists and doctors, Lauren finally found something she was comfortable feeding her son and decided she wanted to share with the world, but ran into it. to other dilemmas. “When you scale a product, it has to be accurate,” she says. “You have to have precise measurements to make it consistent every time.” She interviewed food scientists to analyze the breakdown of her product and received a lot of advice she hadn’t expected. “They told me many times to use the gummies and emulsifiers. They said it would be easier, it would be cheaper. And I said I didn’t care if it was cheaper or easier, that’s not the point. These food scientists argued that her customers wouldn’t like a product that separates. “They’ll be fine,” she counters. “They can shake it !”

Balanced specifically for growing children, Kiki Milk uses natural whole plant ingredients like oats, pumpkin seeds, coconut, hemp seeds, currants and seaweed (a natural source of calcium). It contains real flavors (like antioxidant-rich cocoa beans). Although expensive, the product is tested for residual pesticides like glyphosate, the weed killer used prodigiously in corn and other products, which has been found to be carcinogenic. Lauren learned so much during this endeavor and throughout our 45 minutes together, I learned too. When asked if there is competition in this space, she replies that she would love to! More competitive brands mean more options for healthy milk alternatives. His response seems to echo a resounding “Bring it on!”

Take away foodCow’s milk no longer has to be the gold standard. It can irritate our gut as much as anything and is inflammatory. There are healthy alternatives if we experience sensitivities to conventional dairy products. Fast, easy and convenient has become the new gold standard and with that comes hidden fare in the form of additives, chemicals, colorings and flavorings: things that make our foods deliciously addictive and make us crave. that smooth and sexy texture.

If we can’t directly control the ingredients of the things we eat, look for clean labels and small, simple ingredient lists. Finding alternatives that work for you is important and doable. Believe it or not, there are milks that only contain the milking ingredient and a little water…and they taste great! Just shake it and you’re in business. Maybe the food companies don’t want to strain our arms with all the jerking we’d have to do to keep the milks from separating, but a little arm workout never hurts.

(No Pumpkin Spice) Coconut Curry Soup

Ingredients

• 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

• 1 large onion, diced

• 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

• 1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 1½ pounds)

• 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 1½ pounds)

• 2 bay leaves

• ½ teaspoon of nutmeg

• ½ teaspoon of ginger

• 2 tablespoons curry powder

• Salt and pepper (to taste)

• ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional for desired spice)

• 3 to 4 cups of chicken broth, depending on the desired consistency

• 3/4 can whole coconut milk (use creamy part first, then part milk, until desired consistency is achieved)

• Sage (for garnish)

• Pumpkin seeds (for garnish)

• Greek yogurt (optional, for garnish)

Method

Put the olive oil in a large saucepan and heat.

Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent.

Add pumpkin, squash and bay leaves.

Add the spices, stirring while adding the chicken broth.

Cook the mixture for about 25 to 30 minutes or until tender.

Remove from heat and let cool.

Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.

Add the coconut milk and return to the heat, stirring until you get the desired consistency.

Garnish with pumpkin seeds, sage (oven-roasted to make it delicious) and a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

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