Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Demise of Dairy

I worked for a chiropractor in college who led and promoted a very nutritionally sound lifestyle. I thought he was nuts.  How and why would anyone deprive themselves of the greatest things in life- dairy and sugar?!  Although the explanation was simple and logical, to his dismay I continued to go next door to the ice cream shop for a chocolate malted milkshake every break.  Little did I know that I would be just as "nuts" as him one day.

Since I was 19, I have suffered from perpetual mucus- both nasal and in my throat (Don't visualize this; it's gross). Over the years it got worse and peaked while living in South America. I noticed I got it immediately after drinking the typical Chocolate Santafereno (sinfully delicious hot chocolate with mozzarella cheese at the bottom), which was a nightly ritual at my in-laws. It was usually served with cheese bread. =) Using every might of will power I had, I resisted the nightly temptation and was rewarded with fewer nasty visits to the sink.  However, the problem persisted by day to the point that formed a habit of locating all trash cans and bathrooms upon entering an indoor public place.  I became regular for me to walk away from conversations to hock a loogie around the corner because my throat was so blocked, I could no longer converse. And  when I was in a car, I always prayed for the next red light so I could do my business.

I had a hunch it was caused by dairy, but wasn't ready to deny myself my beloved cheese.  So I decided to start small.  Instead of regular milk in my tea, I would use almond or rice milk.  I often went for sorbet instead of ice cream.  

About a year ago, I attended a lecture given by RD Healing Nutritionist, Deirdre Earls.  She shared her testimony of turning to a healing diet (devoid of dairy) in desperation to avoid chemotherapy. Her disease cleared up after years of suffering and using medicine that did not work.  She even experienced other benefits from her new healing diet including allergy cures.
As I began to research and learn more about dairy and the adverse affects it causes, I became more determined to eliminate. As I researched and learned about alternative creamy satisfiers, I became more committed

I have eliminated dairy by about 80% (100% is sainthood) and rarely have to deal with mucus anymore. Not only that, but I have experienced unforeseen bonuses: My eczema has disappeared and so have my menstrual cramps.  The bonuses are enough alone to maintain this commitment. My dairy cravings are minimal thanks to satisfying substitutes that have done the trick. Fortunately dairy alternatives are becoming more readily available in most health food stores and even regular grocery stores these days, which makes life convenient.  When I have time though, I like to make my own dairy-free products, which are truly decadent treats with more fresh flavor and less preservatives.  Basically, I use rice and nuts to substitute everything.  Soy is also an option, but I don't like the flavor of soy as much and it's hard to find non genetically-modified soy products. Below is a list of some easy dairy replacement recipes.

Milk-----> Rice, Nut, Seed Milk 
Blend 1 cup soaked nuts, seeds or cooked rice with 3 cups water (4 for rice) and strain in cheesecloth. Add sweet spices for flavor and honey, agave nectar or maple syrup for sweetness.  Almond and rice milk mixed with cinnamon and agave make a deliciosa Horchata.

Cream-----> Nut cream
Follow the nut milk recipes, but use 1 cup nuts: 1/4 cup water (more or less for desired thickness). Cashew cream with agave nectar is the most incredible guilt-free creamy, sweet fruit spread.

Cheese-----> Nut cheese   
Process 1 cup nuts, 1/2 lemon's juice, salt, olive oil, 1 clove garlic, and herbs.  I had to stop and make this today after writing the recipe.  It's that good.  I used macadamia nuts with sage, parsley and chives (See above picture).  It took 5 minutes. Tomorrow I might attempt it a sweet version with strawberries and honey to spread on bagels.

Ice cream-----> Rice, Soy, Nut cream
The creamiest, most delicious, yet healthiest alternative to ice cream I have had (thanks Nikki!) is coconut milk based Purely Decadent.  The Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl is comparable to Ben & Jerry's, with an underlying hint of coconut. If you want to really delight your taste buds and impress your friends, Click here for delicious nut-based home made ice cream recipes.  

Even if you're not as "nuts" about nuts as me, I encourage you to try these dairy-free recipes anyways because you'll love them! And if you substitute them for dairy, you might just experience some health benefits.