Nut and Seed Milks & The Benefits of Soaking
My new favorite thing to make is nut or seed milk. It's delicious and super healthy and can be used as the base for smoothies, or added to tea or oatmeal as you would milk. A nice treat is to blend in a banana and a little cinnamon and you have a sweet and creamy healthy “milkshake.” Yum!
I've made a sunflower seed and pumpkin seed milk combination, as well as almond milk. The recipes are really simple and only require a blender and a fine mesh strainer, or cheesecloth. For those of you who don’t drink milk, this is a nice alternative to buying packaged and processed soy, rice or almond milks. These packaged dairy alternatives often contain sugar and preservatives — even the brands that claim to be organic and all natural. Besides, the homemade milks are richer and much more delicious.
Nut and seed milks require you to soak the nuts and seeds which brings us to a little known but important step in getting the full nutritional benefits from these and other super foods.
The Benefits of Soaking
As I mentioned in my lentil soup recipe, legumes also require soaking, as do grains. The reason for this is that nuts, seeds, legumes and grains, while rich in nutrients and enzymes also contain phytic acid which inhibits the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc, they also contain enzyme inhibitors that work to block the absorption of minerals. In nature, phytic acid exists so that the seed or nut can protect itself until the proper conditions are met for it to sprout, grow and reproduce. In addition to blocking key minerals from being absorbed into the body, phytic acid can be a great strain on the human digestive system. Traditional peoples have soaked and sprouted seeds, nuts, legumes and grains for millennia in order to get the optimal nutritional benefits from these foods. Once soaked, the phytic acid is deactivated and released into the water and the enzymes and minerals in the food are more readily available for absorption into our bodies. For a well-researched and thorough website that discusses the importance of properly preparing grains, go to Grindstone Bakery. They are based in Sonoma, California and make delicious and healthful breads and other baked goods.
Soaking is an easy thing to do. The night before you plan on using your nuts, seeds, legumes or grains, place them in a bowl with filtered water, cover with a cloth towel and leave over night. When you are ready to use them simply drain and rinse well.
Pumpkin/Sunflower Seed Milk
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, soaked over night, drained and rinsed ¼ sunflower seeds, soaked over night, drained and rinsed 2 cups filtered water 1 tsp vanilla (optional) 1 tsp cinnamon or other spice (optional)
Place all ingredients in a blender with 1 cup filtered water and blend until well incorporated into the water. Strain the mixture and set the liquid aside. Put the seed or nut meal back in the blender with the second cup of water and repeat. Strain again. This generally makes around 2 to 3 cups of milk. You can freeze the meal and use it in baking recipes. The milk will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
This is the basic recipe that can be used with any seed or nut of your choice. The almond milk I made was delicious. Simply substitute almonds for the seeds in the recipe above.
Baked good recipes using the nut and seed meal soon to come!