Dairy-free diets are on the rise, and luckily the choice of cow’s milk alternatives is now better than ever. Whether you’re lactose intolerant, have a dairy allergy, follow a vegan diet or simply want to try the tasty selection of plant-based milks on offer, we’ve got you covered. Read on for the nutrients contained in different nut milks and how they could benefit your health along with suggestions on the best way to use them.
How are nut milks made?
So-called nut “milk” is a dairy substitute that can be made from different types of nuts. First of all, the nuts are often toasted after their shells are removed. After soaking in water, they are crushed into a paste and blended with water. The liquid that is strained from this mixture is the nut milk. In some cases, flavouring, thickeners, sugar or salt are added.
What are the different types of nut milk?
With its delicate nutty flavour and a light yet creamy texture, unsweetened almond milk has less calories than skimmed cow’s milk. However, most almond milk has less protein than dairy milk. It contains vitamin E which helps to maintain the skin and eyes as well as supporting the immune system. Most varieties are also fortified with calcium and other nutrients like vitamin D.
How to use: Its subtle taste can be used in sweet and savoury recipes, and a splash of unsweetened almond milk makes a lovely addition to coffee. Ideal for use in baking, desserts or smoothies it makes tasty cakes, biscuits and even rice pudding.
You may be used to grabbing a handful of these flavoursome nuts as a snack, but cashew nuts also make a rich alternative to milk. With a less nutty flavour than other nut milks, it is made from nuts rich in minerals like zinc and selenium, which play important roles in immune system function and reproduction. On average, 100ml of cashew milk provides almost 1g of protein and around 30 calories.
How to use:Use it along with whole cashew nuts to add its distinct flavour to curries. Alternatively, pour it over cereal, blend it into shakes and smoothies or why not use it to make a delicious homemade dairy-free ice cream?
Often confused with coconut water, which is naturally found inside green coconuts, coconut milk is made from pressed coconut flesh that has been combined with water. It has a rich, creamy consistency that is similar to whole cow’s milk and a noticeably coconut flavour. The milk is a good source of several vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C, Iron and Selenium. Coconut milk is high in calories and saturated fats called medium-chain triglycerides, which evidence suggests may benefit weight loss and metabolism.
How to use: Although coconut milk can be used in baking, why not start the day with a hearty bowl of porridge made with coconut milk? A study of 60 men found that coconut milk porridge lowered “bad” LDL cholesterol whilst raising “good” HDL cholesterol. Of course, coconut milk is also commonly used to thicken up sauces and add a lovely flavour to curries.
Low in saturated fat, most hazelnut milk drinks are fortified with minerals like calcium for added nutrients. Hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E, and research has shown that diets rich in these nuts could help improve cholesterol levels.
How to use: The milk has a strong, distinctive taste that can be enjoyed on its own or as a wonderful addition to hot chocolate or coffee. Great in baking and desserts, use it in place of dairy milk in chocolate cake recipes.
As well as providing a different flavour in hot drinks or cooking, there are plenty of health reasons to explore the variety of dairy-free nut milk alternatives.