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How to make your own nut or seed milk

Jul 12, 2018
By Karyn Forsyth Duggan
Fresh nutritional drink macro shot

From soy to almond to coconut to rice to hempseed, non-dairy alternatives to milk are sprouting up everywhere these days. In fact, sales of plant-based milks sales grew 61 percent from 2012 to 2017.

With new options appearing in stores regularly, this trend shows no sign of slowing down. But did you know it’s easy to make your own nut and seed milk — customized to your tastes and preferences? (Hello, organic cashew milk with a pinch of Himalayan salt, very lightly sweetened with dates!) I’ll tell you how to do it below, but first let’s dive into some common questions.

Why should I drink nut milk?

Avoiding dairy isn’t just for vegans. Here are some other reasons to opt for alternative milks:

Lactose intolerance. This occurs when the small intestine doesn’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase to fully digest the sugar in milk (lactose). It can cause diarrhea, gas, and bloating when you eat or drink dairy. About 65% of people have a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. Lactose intolerance is especially common among people of East Asian descent, with nearly 90% of adults affected in these communities. It’s also very common among people of Italian, Greek, Jewish, Arab, West African, and Native American descent.

Allergies/sensitivities. Cow’s milk is a common food allergen and sensitivity. In fact, it’s one of the most common food allergies in children. And you don’t have to have gastrointestinal issues to have an allergy or sensitivity — some people only experience symptoms outside their gastrointestinal tract. These can include skin issues like hives and eczema, as well as nose, throat, and lung reactions like a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Inflammation. The science is inconclusive on this — some studies show dairy is linked to inflammation while others show just the opposite. However, in keeping with my personalized approach to nutrition, I recommend patients suffering from inflammatory conditions (often conditions that end in “itis” such as sinusitis, arthritis, and ulcerative colitis) consider experimenting with a trial elimination of dairy to see how they feel. Food sensitivity symptoms can take up to four days to manifest, so you need to completely eliminate dairy from your diet for at least four to five days to see if you have a sensitivity.

High cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Dairy has been linked to high cholesterol. And some research suggests dairy may be linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

While soy milk was the go-to alternative to cow’s milk for many years, it’s become less popular in recent years. In addition to being a common allergen, there have been some studies about potential health risks, including possible links to hypothyroidism and stimulating the growth of breast cancer cells. However, other studies refute these claims. There are also studies that highlight the health benefits of soy, including possibly lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and reducing some symptoms of menopause. In addition to these controversies, some people simply prefer the flavor of nut and seed milks.

Don’t I need milk for calcium?

Not necessarily. While plant-based milk alternatives don’t have the same nutrition profile as real milk, there are many other foods that contain calcium, including these five non-dairy sources of calcium (spoiler alert: Almonds make the list).

Why should I make my own nut milk?

Making your own nut milk is easy and gives you greater control over what you’re putting into your body. Many store-bought nut milks are quite sweet unless you buy an unsweetened version, and they typically contain other ingredients, like sunflower lecithin, gellan gum, and carageenan. Carageenan has been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation and cancer in mice, although more studies are needed to determine if there’s an impact on humans. When you make your own nut milk, you can put exactly what you want in it. Organic, non-GMO, unsweetened, date-sweetened — it’s up to you.

How to make nut or seed milk

You can use this recipe for any type of nut or seed you choose and customize with things like a dash of Himalayan salt, a date, vanilla, or cinnamon. I recommend making small batches and regularly changing up the nuts and seeds you use. A healthy diet is a diet in which you’re rotating through different healthy foods (according to what’s in season). 

  1. Soak nuts or seeds overnight in filtered water in a mason jar with the lid on in the fridge. Be sure they’re covered by at least 2 inches of water.
  2. Drain and rinse the nuts or seeds the next morning and put them in a blender. A Vitamix or other powerful blender works best.
  3. Add fresh filtered water in a 4:1 ratio (for example, 4 cups of water and 1 cup of nuts or seeds). You can also add any additional ingredients you’d like, such as a pinch of salt, sweetener, or vanilla.
  4. Blend well.
  5. Depending on the nuts or seeds you use, you may need to strain your milk through a nut milk bag. Place it over a large pitcher or other container and squeeze the liquid out.

Please note: You can keep homemade nut milk in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

Cashew milk variation

Yield: about 2 cups

This is a wonderful nut milk to start with because it doesn’t require a nut milk bag if you have powerful blender. It also works well in hot beverages. I enjoy it with my rooibos or roasted dandelion tea.

½ cup organic raw cashews
2 cups of filtered water
¼ date
Drop or two of vanilla essence
Pinch of Himalayan salt

Follow the general nut milk instructions above. If you have a powerful blender, you can skip step 5.

Almond milk variation

Yield: about 2 cups

½ cup organic raw almonds
2 cups of filtered water
¼ date
Drop or two of vanilla essence
Pinch of Himalayan salt

Follow the general nut milk instructions above. You’ll need to use a nut milk bag to strain this. The pulp can be saved and used in other recipes.

Feel free to experiment to get your milk just the way you like it.

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Karyn Forsyth Duggan

Personalized nutrition consultations are Karyn’s specialty. Her approach is based on her innate ability to meet her clients wherever they’re at. She has been in practice for 11 years: 2 years of private practice and, most recently, 9 years with One Medical. Karyn has completed all advanced practice modules with the Institute of Functional Medicine and can clarify optimum dietary and lifestyle approaches specific to your health status. As a certified natural chef, Karyn can cite recipes on the fly and provide menu plans and practical tips to ensure you’re truly enjoying making healthy food choices. She studied with behavior design guru Dr. B. J. Fogg to understand how best to facilitate behavior change — a vital tactic for clients who know exactly what they should do but have difficulty implementing their best intentions. Healthy shouldn’t be hard. Karyn makes it easy and convenient and works with clients remotely, so rather than having to get yourself to an appointment, she can "meet" you in your office or your kitchen — wherever you’re at and whatever’s easiest for you. For more information please visit karynforsythduggan.com and/or e-mail karyn@karynforsythduggan.com

The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, a national, modern primary care practice pairing 24/7 virtual care services with inviting and convenient in-person care at over 100 locations across the U.S. One Medical is on a mission to transform health care for all through a human-centered, technology-powered approach to caring for people at every stage of life.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. 1Life Healthcare, Inc. and the One Medical entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.