‘Superfood’ is such a nutritional buzzword right now but what does it really mean? And do these foods really live up their hype? The word ‘superfood’ isn’t actually a nutritional term used by dieticians or nutritional scientists, but rather just a marketing term. According to Cancer Research UK (a well reputed research and awareness charity) states that ‘superfood’ is truly just a marketing tool with little scientific basis often promoting health-benefits due to an unusually high concentration of anti-oxidants, vitamins, or other nutrients.
Contrary to the opinion of William Davis’ “Wheat Belly” book not everyone will experience the glorious stomach settling benefits when they remove gluten from their diet. I, unfortunately, am living proof of this. My boyfriend’s doctor suggested he eliminate gluten and dairy from his diet for the anti-inflammatory and immune strengthening effects, so to be supportive (and to make things easier at home, meal prep wise) I opted to go gluten and dairy free also. The first few months were fine, my body didn’t seem to even register that a change had been made. I didn’t really eat a lot of bread or cereals so I didn’t miss them and my body didn’t miss them either. But then about 3 or 4 months in I started feeling crampy and bloated by the evening. Some nights were quite painful, actually.
Naturally, I started researching to find out if this was common and what to do about it.
There’s a fair variety of non-dairy milks available in the market. The five milks that I’ll be comparing are soy milk, hemp seed milk, almond milk, oat milk and rice milk. But which one to choose? Which one’s best?
Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.
Soy Milk: It’s protein content is comparable to that of cows milk, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should jump on the soy band wagon. For more information on soy, see my previous post. Allergies to soy are quite common, so this also might not be the milk alternative for you. However, if you aren’t allergic and you drink it in moderation this is one of the best milk alternatives out there. A lot of the brands are fortified now, giving it the full benefit of traditional cows milk but without it being an animal product or having lactose in it. It has also been proven to lower cholesterol.
Hemp Milk: Rich in omega fatty acids, this milk alternative is a little bit more heart healthy than soy milk, but not by much. Protein wise it is definitely lacking. Again, it depends what you’re looking for.
Almond Milk: If calories are a concern then almond milk is your best bet. It has the lowest caloric content, but along with that is the lowest protein and other beneficial nutrients. However, it does really well as a skim milk replacement in baking, and is the closest in taste to cows milk that I have tried.
Oat Milk: As this milk is produced from a grain it has a higher sugar (carbohydrate) and caloric content than the other milks. Yet its moderate protein and high fibre content may make this milk appealing to some. This one can upset a gluten intolerance, so those of you out there with this concern be wary.
Rice Milk: This one is the milk that you are the least likely to be allergic to. That’s where the benefits stop, unfortunately. The protein and nutrient content is quite low, where as the sugar and caloric content is quite high.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up and have a few different milks available in your fridge. If you need a little extra protein that day, pick soy or hemp. If you’ve already had a few servings of soy in your diet, maybe opt for almond milk. Mix it up, experiment, and you’ll find the right one for your needs.
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Fat. It’s one of those nutritional words that has such negative connotations attached to it regardless of the fact that it is essential to our diet. Granted it’s not in the quantities regularly consumed by the average person, but it is necessary just the same. Although actual requirements for the two essential fatty acids are low, but there are some advantages to consuming fat-rich foods as long as they are the right kind of fats.
Even if you don’t choose to avoid or eliminate animal products from your diet, soy foods may still find their way into your every day nutrition. Tofu, soymilk, miso and tempeh are all building blocks of some Asian cuisine and I’m sure almost everyone has heard of Tofurkey or some other kind of meat substitute. There are also some excellent alternatives for sour cream, cheese and butter that are made from soybeans. But how safe is soy really?
The chemical PFOA (perflourooctanoic acid) is a chemical found in Teflon and other non-stick pans is found in 95% of our bloodstreams and it binds to tissues indefinitely and is considered a likely human carcinogen. Although health officials insist that chemical exposure through cookware is minimal at best, Health Canada does recognize that “non-stick coatings are a risk if they are heated to temperatures greater than 350 degrees Celsius or 650 degrees Fahrenheit.” Surely my pot or pan on the stove doesn’t get that hot, does it? A study conducted in 2003 by the Environmental Working Group showed that a pan placed on a burner on the highest setting (like when you’re trying to boil water fast) heated up to about 720 degrees Fahrenheit in just five minutes.
Vitamin B12 is a somewhat controversial topic among people who do not eat animal products. Some say it is possible to get vitamin B12 naturally from plant foods, other say supplements are required. But if you talk to anyone who has actually studied nutrition, especially Registered Dieticians who specialize is non-animal product or vegan diets the answer is simple: B12 is impossible to get from non-fortified plant based food.