Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Make Your Own Raw, Fortified Almond Milk - Can You Get Enough Calcium From A Raw Food Diet?


Soaked almonds being blended in a VitaMix.

Strain through a fine, mesh strainer.

Almond pulp after straining.



Nutritious Almond Milk - No Need to Run Out to the Store!
How convenient not to have to run out to the store to buy milk! All you need is a few almonds and a VitaMix or other high speed blender and you have fresh nut milk. If you want truly "raw" almond milk, you will have to buy the almonds at a farmer's market or directly from the grower as most almonds you get at the supermarket are blanched. For those of you who consume cow's milk, give nut milk a try. It's less mucous forming which is especially important during allergy or cold and flu season. It's also a good alternative for those who are lactose intolerant.

Calcium and the Raw Food Vegan Diet
In my doctoral research I concluded that adequate calcium is difficult, but not impossible, to get from a strict raw food diet. If you have a fairly alkaline diet and avoid foods that bind calcium, you may not need as much calcium as others who don't.
There is a lot of misinformation about calcium, thanks to the dairy industry and their large marketing budget. The two things they want you to believe are: one, you need lots of it and two, the best way to get it is with dairy products.
How Much do we Need?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. It is important for bone and tooth development as well as muscle contractions and nerve transmissions. In 1989, the National Academy of Science recommended 800 mg of calcium for adults over 25. In 1994, the NIH raised this amount to 1,000 mg for premenopausal women 25-50 and 1,500 mg for postmenopausal women not taking estrogen drugs. That's a lot of calcium. Do we all really need that much? Well, that depends. Like many nutritional guidelines, I do not believe that "one size fits all". I do believe that the amount of calcium you need depends on your overall diet. Some foods cause the body to deplete calcium and others bind usable calcium reducing its bio-availability. If you eat a diet rich in these foods, you may need to take as much as the NIH recommends.
Calcium Detractors
Oxalic acid foods such as spinach, chard, beet greens, cocoa, turnip and mustard greens can bind with calcium. But before you stop eating these healthful, nutrient rich foods, consider the opinion of Dr. Norman Walker. According to Dr. Walker, famous for his raw juice therapies, oxalic acid, when found in raw foods and in its "organic" state, is beneficial and essential to good health. It is only when these foods are cooked that oxalic acid combines with calcium and destroys its nutritional benefit and forms painful "inorganic" crystals in the kidneys. Although I could not verify his theory, Dr. Walker lived until 99 so I feel he's a pretty credible source. According to him, oxalic acid from raw food may not reduce your amount of calcium.
Phytates, found in nuts, beans and grains, are another detractor and can bind calcium, zinc, iron and other minerals. According to Paul Pitchford, the author of "Healing with Whole Foods", soaking and sprouting these foods will reduce phytic acid and make calcium and other minerals more bio-available. Raw foodists and others who do not soak and sprout nuts, beans and grains will have reduced bio-availability of the calcium they consume and will therefore require higher amounts. Many raw food recipes, however, call for the soaking and rinsing of these high phytate foods so if you are diligent about this, it should not be a problem.
Acid forming foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pasteurized dairy, sugar, coffee, alcohol, pasta and some beans, nuts and seeds cause the body to draw calcium from the bones to neutralize the acid. Raw foodists avoid meat and dairy but consume quite a few grains, nuts and seeds, some of which are acidic. Dr. Gabriel Cousens, in his book, "Conscious Eating", states that sprouting of all nuts, seeds, beans and grains cause them to become more alkaline. This would certainly reduce the amount of calcium the body needs to use to neutralize acidic foods. Given the difficulty of getting adequate calcium with a raw food diet, it is very important for raw foodists to soak and sprout acidic nuts, seeds, beans and grains. Here's one website listing alkaline and acidic foods .
Milk, Does It "Do a Body Good?"
Because of their acidic nature, I believe that dairy foods may not be the best source of calcium despite the popular slogan, "milk, it does a body good!". In 1986, Hedsted's study (as sited in Campbell and Campbell's book, "The China Study"), reported that the rate of hip fractures is higher in countries where the consumption of cow's milk is high where those countries with the lowest consumption of cow's milk have the lowest incidence of hip fractures. He sited that the U.S. drinks the most cow milk and has the most hip fractures! On the other hand, there have been several studies that have shown a positive link between the consumption of fruit and vegetables and bone health which may be attributed to their alkalizing nature.
To Summarize
Raw food vegans who soak and sprout all acidic nuts, seeds, beans and grains and eat lots of alkaline fruits and vegetables may not require as high an amount of calcium as those who eat foods with the above mentioned detractors. With that said, it is still difficult to get even half the recommended requirement of calcium on a raw food diet. Two tablespoons of raw tahini provides 126 mg of calcium and a cup of kale only provides 90.5 mg, and these are two of the most calcium dense raw vegan foods. Although I don't personally aim for the standard RDA of calcium, I do supplement with a few hundred mg of calcium per day (see below).

Fortify Nut Milk with Calcium, Vitamin D and other Minerals
If you feel you are not getting adequate calcium, you may want to take calcium supplements. I always take magnesium with my calcium to make it more absorbable (either 50% to 100% as much magnesium as calcium depending on your needs). So when I make raw nut milk, or smoothies, I often throw in a complex of 250 mg of calcium citrate and 125 mg of magnesium citrate with some vitamin D per cup of liquid. If your calcium complex comes in a capsule, break open the capsule and empty the contents in the blender. If it is a hard pill, drop it in the blender with the water and let it sit for a few minutes to dissolve. Voila, you have your very own "fortified" milk.

Add a Few Brazil Nuts to get Selenium
A single brazil nut provides 137% of your daily requirement of selenium, a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals. I always keep brazil nuts on hand a drop one or two into my nut milks or smoothies.

Pour over Cereal, Use in a Smoothie or in a Chia Pudding Recipe
Serve nut milk with raw or baked granola or other cereals or as the base in any smoothie . You can also use it as a replacement for hemp milk in Chia Seed Pudding . Just add some vanilla to the almond milk and follow the rest of the recipe.

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Fortified Raw Almond Milk [makes 2 cups]
1/2 cup raw almonds soaked overnight
2 raw brazil nuts soaked overnight
2 cups filtered water
6 drops stevia (or more to taste)
Two 250 mg calcium citrate complex with 125 mg magnesium citrate (optional)

Rinse almonds and brazil nuts and put in a VitaMix or other high speed blender with filtered water, stevia and calcium supplement. If calcium is in a capsule, break open and put contents in the blender. If it is in pill form, drop it in the water and let it sit for a few minutes until it starts to dissolve. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes until the nuts are fully processed and the mixture is white, like milk. Strain nut milk once or twice in a fine, mesh strainer. For a purer milk, put a few layers of cheesecloth over the strainer. Save the residue to make raw crackers or cookies.

Since the amount of residue is dependent on your blender, I cannot provide exact nutritional information on the resulting milk. But 1/4 cup of almonds provide nearly half the RDA of vitamin E and 21% of the RDA of vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Adequate amounts of both of these vitamins are difficult to achieve on a raw food diet so drink raw almond milk, it really does a body good!

5 comments:

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Ken D Berry MD said...

Very nice tutorial. Almond mild had saved me from chronic heartburn and bloating.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

I also suffered for years with bloating and acid reflux. Removing dairy from my diet worked for me too!

Michele said...

do you do something with the pulp?

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

You can always use pulp, whether it be from almond milk or carrot juice, to make raw crackers, cooked nut burgers or you can bake it into banana bread. Although most of the nutrients are in the juice that has been extracted, the pulp provides dietary fiber.