The cartons and bottles are as common on store shelves as the 1 and 2% - “alternative milk” has become one of the darlings of the food and beverage world, and not just with vegans and the lactose-free eaters. Ranging in flavours from plain and unsweetened to “candy cane” or “mocha”, you can find these drinks made from almonds, cashews, rice, quinoa and even hemp as well as the more “traditional” soybean – but why are they so popular, and can you enjoy them without hindering a detox or juice cleanse regimen like regular dairy does?
The answer is a bit convoluted, since there are many types of detoxification programs and different goals for every individual. In the case of food-based cleanses, small amounts of these alternatives (no more than 8 oz / 250 mL daily) can usually be consumed without blocking up the elimination pathways. Liquid-only cleanses (or juice fasts), typically deeper and more intensive than their solid counterparts, actually should include 16-20 oz / 500-625 mL) of one of these non-dairy drinks for a small amount of protein and fat that is otherwise missing from the protocol. The one substitute to stay away from on any cleanse, however, is “rice milk”, which both lacks the natural protein and minerals and is high in simple carbohydrates which feed pathogenic bacteria and fungi. Whatever choice you opt for as a detoxing consumer, it needs to be as pure and unprocessed as possible, without colourings, flavourings, gums, and definitely without refined (or any) added sweeteners. While a cup of plain cashew or almond milk may not seem as “good” as your usual glass of 2%, rest assured that they are just as delicious and creamy, with more complex flavour and no cholesterol. You might just find yourself buying a carton or two a month even after you complete your detox.
The absolute best choices you can make for a high-protein, low-sugar supplement are unsweetened, unflavoured soy, and pure “nut milks”. Because quality non-GMO, organic (and otherwise unadulterated) soy milks are few and far between, and making them is a fairly complicated process, pure “nut” milks are a good “go-to” option. Unlike their bean counterparts, pure almond or cashew milk is made from raw nuts, cutting down on the processing and maintaining all the amino acids, enzymes, minerals and vitamins that can be inactivated or lost by cooking. Raw nuts are also unlikely to be victims of pesticide toxicity, as they come from tall trees and are generally encased in a hard, removable shell. Almonds are famous for their vitamin E and calcium content, while cashews are high in magnesium and vitamin K. Both nuts are fantastic sources of the “feel good” amino acid tryptophan – shown to give you the feeling of being full and happy for hours after consumption and enhancing sleep. Like any food or drink consumed on a detox plan, more benefits of the drink will be available to you the fresher it is.
You don’t have to give up the creamy taste of milk on a detox – you just have to change the source! The new flavours, richer textures and host of nutrients will make you feel great all over, and it’s an addition to keep in mind for any diet.
I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.
Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!