Updated: Feb 9, 2019
A few years ago I decided to start limiting my dairy intake, which for a corn-fed Midwesterner like myself, seemed like a pretty daunting task. But the more I learned about how our bodies respond to diary, and more importantly how I felt not having dairy, I decided to start cutting it out of my diet. It's taken me many years to be in a place where I don't crave dairy, and am okay not putting cheese on everything I eat, so be patient with yourself if you're thinking of going dairy free.
About 70% of the world's population suffers from lactose intolerance, which can be in widely varying degrees and depends on genetics, among other things. In most cases, this is undiagnosed in those that only suffer from a mild irritation to lactose. Loosely described, lactose intolerance happens when lactose is not absorbed in the small intestine causing bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and in extreme cases, nausea and vomiting.
Even if you don't notice symptoms, there could be a lactose irritation occurring, so I encourage you to do a little 7-day dairy free challenge and see how you feel at the end of the week! I know for myself when I've not eaten dairy for awhile I'm much less bloated and have more energy.
As part of my transition away from dairy, in particular, milk, I started drinking almond milk. I used to purchased Blue Diamond Vanilla Almond Milk, which is pretty good, mostly because there is a lot of sugar in it which I didn't find out until I did my first 21-Day Sugar Detox. Slowly I transitioned to a sugar-free, plain version of almond milk, then I learned about carrageenan, which is used in many processed foods to thicken and emulsify.
Carrageenan is another inflammatory food, and because of the significant amount of it found in processed foods, can cause stomach issues and lead to more serious diseases like heart disease and cancer. In the last few years, there have been many brands that promote they are carrageenan free, soy free, etc on their labels. These are two of my favorite store bought almond milk sans the bad stuff: Califia Farms, and MALK.
However, homemade almond milk is 10x better than store bought, and is so much better for you because of the limited ingredients! I make fresh almond milk about once a week, sometimes twice a week, depending on what I'm using it in.
Creamy, Homemade Vanilla Almond Milk
1 - 2 cups of raw almonds (soaked overnight)
Double the amount of water to almonds (if you can swing filtered water, do it)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 medjool dates, pitted (omit for 21-Day Sugar Detox)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
Soak in a 1-2 cups of almonds overnight, sometimes I forget and it becomes two nights, which is totally fine.
Drain almonds and place in blender. Add enough water to cover double the amount of almonds you have in the blender, combine the rest of the ingredients. Blend on high for 1-minute.
Grab a large bowl and your nut milk bag and pour the blended mixture into the bag. Tightly grip the top of the bag (close it, depending on the bag you have) and gently squeeze until there are only a few dribbles here and there. Note, I have tried cheese cloth and it was a total disaster, so get the $9 nut bag!
Pour into a container and enjoy for up to 5-6 days!
This recipe doesn't require you use exact measurements, so play around and see what you like. I tend to add more vanilla and cinnamon than what I have listed here because I like a rich flavor! You can also add cacao powder to make delicious chocolate almond milk, just take out or lessen the amount of vanilla you use. Items from this recipe: