Monday, July 28, 2008

Lost somewhere in the Milky Way.

My relationship with milk over the last few years seems to have curdled a little. Upon discovering that lactose can't really tolerate me, I began a search for the perfect milk. What ensued was a (Bon) Quixotic tale involving many mishaps, many watery smoothies and much tea that was tossed after a timorous first sip. Between my allergies, my repeated inquiries made to bewildered barristas about the milk they use, and my general fastidiousness, I know I have Bad Milk Karma. It's going to come back to haunt me. I am already entertaining scenarios where my newborns will turn their little noses up at my offered nipple and give me a wrinkly thumbs down for mouth feel, creaminess and flavour.

But all problems, are after all, opportunities. What I learned along the way is not just what brand and types of milk work for me and why, but also how to use them, and how often. When Rebecca wrote me the other day talking about how her allergy to milk lead her to the caramel nutty embrace of Bonsoy, I decided to write a piece that had already been forming in my mind. I don't just want to tell you about milk, I want to see if I can get you thinking about it as well.

We were all born drinking mothers milk, and my, what a long way we've come. There is full cream dairy, lite dairy, skim milk, soy milk, oat milk, rice milk, goats milk, sheeps milk and milk made from such nuts as cashew, almond, brazil and hazelnut. Given that milk is a product most of us use daily and in considerable amounts, it does well to give some thought as to what we are drinking, eating or licking.

The only milk from this line up which is highly suspect for everyone, categorically, is skim milk. You think a skim milk is healthier, right? Less calories, less fat, all those things that make you skip in your size ten (I wish) jeans. Uh-Uh. So Uh-Uh. Forget what you've heard about fat, even the saturated kind. Full cream dairy milk contains all the B vitamins (which are water soluble), but it also contains the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. I am going to save you the crash course in biology and tell you that if a vitamin is fat soluble, that means that it requires that fat be present for the body to be able to recognise, and thus, take in the vitamin. All Wholefoods, milk included, are a complete package. They contain not only the vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants we need, but they also contain them in the right combination and present in the mediums (such as fat or carbohyrate) that make them metabolize. Even if you're not lactose intolerant, your body will do a WhatThe...if you feed it skim milk, even if it's fortified. Most of the nutritional gold will simply be lost because the absence of the fat means that certain vitamins can't compute. David Pitchford in Healing With Whole Foods goes even further in the slap to skim, when he explicates the macrobiotic view point that foods like skim milk cause damage to the digestive system and can lead to such things as constipation. So, skim milk definitely sucks, it has very little nutritional integrity, and, if used long enough and in large enough amounts, it's not going to make a best friend of your intestines.

If you are happy with full cream milk and you want less calories, always order a smaller cup and drink half. Alternatively, if you're making a smoothie at home add a little water to the milk, you'll dilute the heaviness of it without actually changing the nutritional composition of what you're drinking. For beautiful bowls of cereal and porridge and even fruity whips like lassis, you can forget milk altogether and use a wonderfully rich organic yoghurt, loaded with protein and good bacteria, or stir in some apple juice or apple butter or poached fruit.
Asian (particularly Japanese) food philosophies, for which I have learned to have much respect, traditionally view milk as something not to be eaten after the age of 7. They believe it causes dampness in the body. If your diet is too dairy heavy, you could find yourself with alot of phlegm and a general sluggish disposition, acned and congested skin can result as well. I find I can't take milk at all, but a good quality cows yoghurt (one that is organic and does not contain milk solids or gelatin) is fine and never makes me feel icky, that said, dairy is a treat for me and not a staple. Pay attention to what it does in your body and find what works for you. Most people are not allergic to dairy as such, but rather to all the crap that's in it these days. Some people I know who have given cow the heave ho have never felt better in their lives, but that just might not be the case for you. Which ever milk you choose, try opting for better quality products and that will make a huge difference to taste if not to vitality.
Good goat's milk or cheese doesn't taste goaty. Most people who are lactose intolerant find that they can actually enjoy goats milk without having a digestive cow. Goats milk does contain lactose, but some speculate that it is the casein curd, which is both smaller and softer in the milk of goats than it is in cows that contributes to the relative digestibility of the product. It seems to leave most people with a lighter feeling than normal dairy does. Sheep's milk is supposed to be more digestible as well, I prefer sheep's yoghurt to sheep's milk, and goats yoghurt to sheeps. Sounding a bit Eee Iiiii Eee Ii Ohhhh, there, so let's leave the petting zoo and head East.

Soy milk, a sinner and a saint, is not necessarily the lactose free alternative to run to with open arms. Most commercial soy milk is awful, awful tasting and awful for you. I don't care if they sue me, but please, don't ever buy Vitasoy. It's the beaniest, vilest addition to tea and coffee, and it uses a soy isolate in its production. That simply means they use the outside of the bean to make the milk, and not the whole bean, usually because it's cheaper. This is a Western company that has no clue, or no desire, and certainly not much respect for the processes needed in order to develop soy into a healthy product with a full, flush taste. Soy milk like this wreaks havoc with hormonal balance in the body, especially in women, it's like a loaded gun to your ovarian cycle. Dodgy soy is not the only problem, so is overuse. Most people who like soy are a little soy crazy. They'll have tofu, soy yoghurt, soy cheese, soy ice cream, soy milk and all in careless amounts. Unfermented soy products work very differently in the body than fermented ones, such as miso or tempeh. Soy in its unfermented state is very disruptive for the energy of thyroid in the particular. The thyroid gland is associated with metabolism and heat in the body. A certain standout soy milk, which I will talk about later, addresses this quirk inherent in soy by tempering it with a recipe that balances out the nutritional effects. But that said, especially if you're a woman with some hormonal convolutions, soy is not something to be guzzled heedlessly.

Oat milk, another dairy free option, is nicer in porridge than in anything else I have tried. I used it for a few months but it was never a real favourite. Please, try it for yourself, if you are looking for dairy alternatives, this might be the one that works for you. It's slightly nutty/grainy in taste and is thicker than Rice milk for people who are very allergenic. Rice milk is okaaaay. A bit watery for my liking, even the best brand, Rice Dream, still doesn't do it for me. It's not the best milk to use in baking or smoothies or tea, it has too little a fat content, this translates into a general uncreaminess. I do know people who use it that are perfectly happy doing so, so don't discount the option. You can mix rice milk in with soy, goats or full cream dairy if you're looking to make either less heavy, in combination it's hardly noticeable. You can get fresh as opposed to shelf rice milk, try to seek this out if this is way you're going to go, if for no other reason than that it must be more vital if it has a use by date. Coconut milk is wonderful for cooking and baking, and for the occasional smoothie, if it's not too rich for you, the lauric acid, the major fatty acid in coconut, has attracted alot of scientific interest lately for the amazing health benefits it seems to possess.

Nut milks that are commercially available are quite lovely and sweet tasting, but every shelf brand I have tried has additives in them that i'd rather not be eating, they're also a little pricey at about $8 a carton. You can 'milk' nuts yourself, but lets be honest here, as bloody if. This is only really an option for people who are nuts about the taste.

Don't go all ADHD on me, i'm not quite done. We've talked sorts of milk, but we haven't really addressed the issue of quality. The type of milk you drink isn't nearly as important as what it contains and how it is made. Raw, unpasteurised dairy milk is so full of enzymes that it was used throughout the 50s and 60's as part of fasting regimes which were said to be excellent at reviving the body and goading it out of illness. Good organic or biodynamic milk is a must. This is one place where I want you to not make cost a priority. The commercial stuff has additives, preservatives, traces of antibiotics and, if you believe the filmakers of The Corporation: a nice dose of cow pus. The laws and the ethics that frame large scale dairy production are sadly lacking, you will not get a clean product when you buy the normal brands, some of us can get away with that, some of us just can't and don't even want to. Biodynamic or Organic milk is beautiful, creamy, lush, with a complete nutritional profile and is usually faintly reminiscent of vanilla in taste. If dairy is fine for you, than please try using a good milk in your cereal and in your coffee, it's only a couple of dollars or so more and with consistent use you are setting yourself up for a body that is vital and energized and which will encounter less problems in the long run. Or do it for the taste alone, it's so much sweeter than regular milk, you might even end up giving the sugar in your organic latte a skip.
Bonsoy is the bees knees of soy milk, no ifs buts or whats. It's the end product of a very Traditional, old and hallowed Japanese recipe which is heedful of macrobiotic notions of balance and harmony. Bonsoy contains organic soy beans, the beans, the whole beans, and a few other good things besides the bean like purified water and Jobs Tears, which, along with the malted cereal extract, do contain a little bit of gluten, but it's never really bothered me. It also contains, and you wouldn't believe it if you've ever tried it, a little seaweed called Kombu. Seaweed contains a great deal of iodine, something which speeds up the activity of the thyroid, when paired with the soy which slows down the thyroid, this product goes a good way toward ameliorating the negative effects of soy.

This is honestly the only soy milk I will drink. That said, I don't have it every day, maybe 3-5 times a week. Soy in its unfermented form does contain enzyme inhibitors, but the taste and the agreeableness of Bonsoy is a lovely addition to my diet in moderate amounts. If you're doing The Soy Thing, this is the only way to go. It tastes like a malted vanilla milkshake when you drink it plain, I have given it to people who've sworn they can't stand soy, and they have loved this. I am so enamored with this product that when we were traveling overseas I nearly got a little teary when I saw the bright yellow carton in a Barcelona health shop. It reminded me of shopping in Sydney, of home and my family and all the things I love. Bonsoy is great to bake with, unless you're going strictly gluten free, it's a full bodied soy that is a pale yellow, creamy colour as opposed to more crude forms of soy milk which are quite white and thin in appearance. Bonsoy, it's taken them centuries to perfect the recipe and me a few seconds to devour it.

Paris Creek Farm Make a beautiful organic, biodynamic milk, Rice Dream or Aussie Dream make the best rice milk, Jannei is a lovely goats milk, EcoMil make good nut milks, Spiral for coconut milk, PureHarvest do a nice oat milk and Bonsoy for soy.

You poor buggers, look at you! You came for an entertaining post and lots and lots of pretty, distracting pictures and all you got was a a scantily illustrated diatribe on the sins and virtues of milk. I am going to beg for your forgiveness by offering you a lovely, delicious and decidedly healthy recipe. I love what flax seed and flax oil do for my body, but I hate how they taste, this smoothie was my solution to getting a mostly daily dose of the good stuff (like omega 3, phytonutrients and fiber) while mixing in some probiotics and successfully hiding all the nasty tastes. If it's a little too cold for you to brave it in the current Sydney chill, save it for when you want to start fitting into your bikini, which, if you're a guy, I hope is never:

The BerryBananaFlax Thing (with or without Vanilla):
Bonsoy/goats/oat/good dairy/nut/rice milk (don't use much liquid for a thicker smoothie)
frozen/fresh raspberries (frozen makes gives a thicker consistency, Viking is a great brand)
frozen banana (freeze banana chopped in half in fridge, adds to the thickness if frozen)
1 tbspn of flax oil (stony creek is great)
1 tbspn flax seed (ditto)
1 tspn probiotics (Bioceuticals Symbiotique is great)
cinamon if you so please
Agave/honey/brown rice syrup (if you like it on the sweeter side, fruit is enough for me)
sometimes vanilla bean paste (vanilla pairs well with the sharpness of raspberry)
sometimes a dollop of creamy Marbrook Bush Honey Yoghurt
sometimes a little cold jasmine tea combined with milk which works great with berry flavours.

Whiz that little bad boy til it's a dreamy, thick, bright, blushing, Barbie pinkity pink, and drinkity drink: instant antioxidant, omega 3 rich rush to the brain with enough fiber to get you glowing (and going). Lured by the luscious colour of it, Danny saw me drinking some one day and wanted a sip, I warned him it had a taste he might not like, but he really liked it. It's a beautiful, nourishing and sustaining breakfast or afternoon pickyouup, in summer when I don't feel like eating much, this will do me grandly for lunch.

There's a wealth of options out there now, make sure you're milking them for all they're worth, just like me and my tragic little puns.


Thanks to Rebecca C for the email that got me going xx


Anonymous said...

hey amanda,

was (not-so) randomly wasting time on facebook and eventually found my way to your blog. two things.

one. you write beautifully.

two. who would have known that a little innocent detox diet started on a whim would have changed my life with the wonderfully nutty sensation that is bonsoy! in such fantastic packaging too! yes! another bonsoy fanatic! between you and i, i reckon we could easily catalogue those cafes in sydney that use bonsoy... me first. the wall cafe, surry hills. amazing soy flat whites.

and additionally, three. you probably have no idea who this nutter is.

amanda said...

youre the only charmaine ive ever met, of course i know you! how good is bonsoy. jesus. where is the wall in surry hills? i need an address, i have to try it. do you want to come for a bonsoy chai one day to gertrude and alice in bondi? it's the tea bonsoy was made for. it's so so good. i know 2 other bonsoy fanatics, if we all get really bored, we should start a facebook group x

e said...

we don't need to be bored to have a bonsoy facebook group!

Anonymous said...

the wall be at 80 campbell st, surry hills. my soy flat white intake has been ridiculous this week. seriously.

i'd love to come for a bonsoy chai at gertrude and alice! i have not ever been there. there are only 3 places (umm.. maybe 4) i will ever have soy chai in sydney so far, i'm pretty picky about it. admittedly, i am only certain that 2 of these places use bonsoy, but the chai at the other joints are surprisingly really, really, good.

oh my god. the bonsoy club. baaahahahaha.

amanda said...

you have to tell me your soy chai place, g + a is the only place i drink it at at the moment, they sell more chai than their campos coffee, does that give you any idea? we have to sort it soon. a piece on just chai would rock. will try and get to the wall soon. i think im seeing at cindys, so this is pointless.

amanda said...

oh, and by the way: