Cow-less Milk

Photo by: Tasty Yummies

Milk alternatives are on the up and up, and with them, our health. Here is a cool rundown of the main milk alternatives (almond, coconut, hemp, rice, and soy) and their pros and cons by dietitian Eliza Zied.

Personally, I like protein-rich unsweetened soy milk in my cereal and vanilla almond milk in my latte, and my kids down vanilla and chocolate versions of both like they’re going out of style. As for “too much soy”, up to 25 grams a day of soy protein is incredibly heart-healthy and wildly cancer-preventative. One cup of soymilk has 7 grams of soy protein. And if you’re wanting to replace buttermilk in a recipe, you must mix 1 cup soymilk with 1 Tbsp lemon juice until it curdles. Since protein is necessary for the desired curdling, it won’t happen with the lower protein milk alternatives.

While slightly harder to find (go to a health food store or Whole Foods Market), other great dairy alternatives include oat milk and hazelnut milk as well as multigrain milks. Oat milk is higher in calories (130 per cup of the Original variety), but moderate in protein (4 grams per cup) and fiber (2 grams per cup), and higher in sugar (19 grams per cup of the Original variety). Hazelnut milk has 110 calories, 2 grams protein, and 14 grams sugar per cup of the Original variety. And if you’re feeling extra daring, you can make your own non-dairy milks, which is far easier than trying to make your own dairy milk. Here’s a great step-by-step for homemade almond milk. Cheers to health and cheers to life!

Other whens and hows with dairy alternatives?

Nut Allergies: Why the Rise, and Can They Be Prevented?

Allergy-Free Seedy Energy Bars in SkinnyDish!

Happy Saturday! Now let’s talk about nut allergies. Seems like every other kid these days is allergic to peanuts and/or tree nuts. How come only that one crazy kid with the perma bed-head had a peanut allergy when I went to elementary school? Lets first start with some definitions:

  • Tree Nuts: almondscashews, filberts/hazelnutsmacadamia nutspecansBrazil nutspine nuts (pignolia nuts), pistachios, and walnuts.
  • Peanuts: Peanuts are actually a legume, although most people who are allergic to tree nuts are also allergic to peanuts and vice versa.
  • Seeds: While sesame seeds are common and potential allergens, sunflower and pumpkin seeds very rarely cause an allergic reaction. Use sunflower seed butter and pumpkin seeds as nutritious alternatives when tree nut, peanut, or sesame seed allergies are present.

Why are nut allergies so common now?
According to WebMD, Peanut allergies more than tripled from 1997 to 2008:

  • o.6% of kids had allergies to peanuts in 1997
  • 2.1% of kids had allergies to peanuts in 2008
  • 1.3% of adults today have peanut allergies

Theory #1: The Hygiene Hypothesis
Perhaps too much hand sanitizer, too many antibiotics, and all the “clean living” which is preventing natural infections is dumbing down our immune systems, and diminishing its ability to deal with harmless proteins like those in peanuts, tree nuts, animal dander, and pollen.

So… do kids who grow up on farms have fewer allergies? Actually yes! Believe it or not, city living is much cleaner than farm life. Youngsters who grow up on farms are 30-50% less likely to develop allergies and asthma compared their urban cousins. Despite city pollution and grime, rural households have more “good germs” found in bacteria-laden mattresses and microbe-laced bedrooms helping kids develop resistance to allergies and asthma. Much of this was confirmed in a study in the New England Journal of Medicine published in February comparing bacteria and microbes in rural, urban, and suburban households. The greater the number of microbes (farmhouse), the lower the incidence of allergies and asthma.

Theory #2: The Modern Way Nuts Are Processed
Most nuts these days are roasted. Back in the day, blanching, boiling, and raw consumption of nuts was more common. Dry-roasting at high temperatures appears to degrade the carcinogenic aflatoxins found in peanuts, which is something we DO want to do. However, roasting peanuts changes the sugar and makes the protein more stable to digestion, and easier for the immune system to attack thus making them more allergenic. Interestingly, Asians predominantly eat boiled peanuts, and peanut allergies are much less common among Asian populations.

Are nut and other allergies preventable?
Possibly. Here are the best strategies for decreasing the odds of allergies in your mini-me, especially if allergies run in the family:

  • Consider a move to a rural area during pregnancy and the early years of your child’s life.
  • Snag a dander-laden pet or two during pregnancy and your baby’s infancy (if you yourself aren’t allergic).
  • Spend lots of time outdoors during your child’s early years, exposing them to a wealth of trees, grass, bushes, and flowers.
  • As a mom, do everything in your power to breastfeed or obtain breastmilk from a donor, especially for the first 4 months. This builds up the infant’s immune system.
  • If nut allergies run in the family, research is tending to favor moderate and RAW nut consumption during pregnancy. There’s no guarantee, but this is worth a shot.
  • And this just in!! Pregnant women consuming greater quantities of omega-3 fatty acids (found in walnuts, flaxseed oil, and supplements) cause the growing baby’s gut to become more permeable therefore enabling bacteria and new substances to pass through the lining of the gut and triggering the baby’s immune response and the production of antibodies. End result: a better functioning immune system and less likelihood of allergies.

And finally, and interesting tidbit about…. Almond Extract. Thankfully, the best way to flavor your cookies and frosting does not actually come from almonds. Even “pure almond extract” is made from peach or apricot pits. So almond-allergic folks can taste almonds without the allergic reaction!

Other thoughts on nut allergies or ways to prevent/ deal with them?