Why did I wait so long to try this? Homemade Almond Milk!

I’ve been using almond milk for years.  It’s a tasty, healthy, low calorie substitute for cow’s milk with 30 calories per cup and a ton of Vitamin E.  As with all foods, the less packaging and processing that takes place the more whole and nutrient dense the food it.  It is very convenient to buy almond milk at the store; however in order for it to have a 2month shelf life, ingredients  other than almonds and water MUST be added.  See the photo below.  This brand is very good because it’s non-GMO, unsweetened etc.  However,  It contains:

  • Sunflower lecithin: an emulsifier that gives the milk a creamy smooth texture.
  • Gellan and locust bean gums that are thickening agents that prevent the milk form separating.
  • Natural flavor that could literally be anything!

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How nice would be be to drink almond milk that contains only two ingredients: raw almonds and water!  The only tool you may not have lying around is a cheese cloth.  I bought some at Bed Bath and Beyond months ago and finally decided to use one today.

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The process was so easy and actually kind of fun and the taste of the fresh unaltered milk was worth the 15 minutes spent.  Here is what I used and the steps:

2 cups raw almonds

4 cups water

1/2 a cheese cloth (They are quite large so I cut one in half.  This way you can get more uses out of one)

A good blender (I use a Vitamix)

A strainer/sieve

  1. Soak the almonds overnight or for at least 8 hours.  This softens them and makes them easier to digest.
  2. Rinse almonds and toss soaking water.
  3. Place 4 cups water and almonds in the blender and blend for 2 minutes on high speed.
  4. Place strainer/sieve over a large bowl and lay cheese cloth over strainer.
  5. Pour just enough of the blended mixture into the cloth to fill the size of the strainer.
  6. Gather up the sides of the cloth and gently squeeze the liquid through.  The strainer will catch any almond meal that may seep through the cloth.  (This is the fun part.  It’s like milking the almonds.  If you have young ones, I bet they will like doing this too.)
  7. Repeat step 6 until all of the mixture has been pouched through the strainer.  It makes about 32 ounces.
  8. In another post I’ll have some ideas for what you can go with the meal.  I will freeze until I figure out how best to use it.

Below: squeezing the milk from the blended mixture.

 

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Almond meal: Freeze and use in other recipes later:

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Finished product! Yummy.  You can add vanilla to flavor it and some stevia if you want it a bit sweet.

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Warning!! You may be eating U.F.O.s Read more to find out

First off, I’ll explain U.F.O.

Unidentifiable- Unable to be recognized or described.  For eg. azodicarbonamide.

Food-like- Edible substances or chemicals that are not whole or real foods and are probably harmful to health.

Options- Because you have the choice to educate yourself, read food labels and make informed decisions about what you consume.

Why do you want to avoid UFOs?

When you eat chemical laden foods full of preservatives and artificial flavors and colors, your body does not recognize these as nourishing substances and is unable to assimilate them to provide energy,  develop cells and other biological functions.  These UFOs stress the kidneys because the kidneys have to work extra hard to process and eliminate them.  Many of the UFOs remain undigested in the colon and can cause a variety of negative reactions in the body such as brain fog, lethargy, bloating and weight gain.  You may also end up eating even more because they usually do not ease hunger and some of these substance are as addictive as illegal drugs.

How you can avoid UFOs:  Here are two simple steps.  They may not be easy depending on your current food choices but they are simple.

  • Eat foods that do not come packaged such as fresh fruits and vegetables and foods that are the only ingredient in their package such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, seeds and nuts.
  • Select packaged foods that have a maximum of 8 ingredients….. that you recognize and can pronounce.

I’ll talk a bit more about the second point.  When reading food labels we have been conditioned to focus on calories and grams of fat, carbs and protein.  This information is helpful to a degree.  Start looking at the actual ingredient list too.  I’ll argue that this information is way more important to read and understand.  Some of you may know to limit or avoid foods that have sugar as one of the first three ingredients listed because the most abundant ingredients are listed first.  Manufacturers have gotten clever.  What some now do (especially on foods that are marketed as healthy) is use multiple sweeteners such as cane sugar, dextrose, maltose, corn syrup, sucrose, fructose etc. in one product.  Collectively ‘sugar’ is the top one or two ingredients but individually, each form of sugar used in a smaller percentage so these ingredients appear in the middle or end of the list and then the consumer thinks, ‘this is healthy and low in sugar’ Don’t be fooled!  Which of the photos below are real food and which ingredient lists contain UFOs?

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It’s not about being perfect.  Try to at least be aware and avoid UFOs and added sugar when you can and to make progress each day and week towards eating whole and real food.

If you’re up for a challenge avoid or significantly limit UFOs for at least five consecutive days and take note of what differences you experience in the way you feel and look.  I’d love to read your comments.   Let me know how it went.

 

Hello Bikram yoga, bye bye weights

Can practicing yoga provide the strength, muscle tone and health benefits that lifting weights does?  In my experience the answer is NO!   Bikram yoga provides these benefits in a different way and so much more.   Please note that obviously, lifting weights is very beneficial for strength, muscle tone, improving bone density and other things.

Yoga is about breathing, proper alignment and being still which creates strength and flexibility.  Many inflexible people think they cannot attempt yoga.  Please know this is absolutely not the case.   Regular practice builds one’s strength.  The strength it takes to hold a posture creates flexibility.  That is when you are able to express a ‘deeper’ version of the posture.

I lifted weights for many years.  Not only did I dislike it because I found it boring and monotonous, I also saw little to no physical results.  (I am aware that many people lift weight and get results.)  I have been practicing Bikram yoga for just over two years, since Feb 2012.  Within weeks I began to see changes in my muscle tone, strength and flexibility.  The muscles yoga develops are longer and leaner than the bulkier muscle that results from lifting heavy weights.    The weight of your own body and gravity create the resistance.  You can see not only the progression of my standing bow posture below (top and bottom left), but also the difference in my muscle tone.  The photo on the right shows a back bend.  When I first began I could only hang my head back, nothing else!  ( I was not even thinking about getting a photo of that back then.)

There are also numerous other physical and mental benefits of the yoga.  By practicing in a heated room, the practitioner sweats A LOT!  This rids the body of environmental and ingested toxins.  I quickly noticed my skin was clearer and those mysterious upper arm and thigh mini bumps vanished.  (These can also be due to a lack of vitamin A.)  The yoga teaches you to be in the present moment.  You must think about each posture to make sure you are executing it to the best of your ability.  There are no distractions of a TV or music.  I believe this helps strengthen your ability to focus outside the hot room and to practice patience and tolerance too.    Even though we do the same sequence of 26 postures in each class, I don’t get bored because each class feels different and there is always a deeper expression of the posture we are trying to reach.  Bikram yoga may not appeal to everyone, but it CAN help everyone and I can’t imagine life without it now.  The physical benefits are fantastic but there is so much more.

P.S. I also teach five spin classes per week and follow a whole foods plant based diet.  Some practitioners do yoga as their only physical practice.  Most yogis compliment the results of their practice by following healthy diets and lifestyles.  I mention this because in order to be balanced and healthy what you eat is always a critical factor.Image

Why do we eat bad food just because it tastes good?

Dumb question right?  Obviously because it tastes good.  Well here’s what I’ve been thinking.  It’s human nature to avoid things that harm us.  It’s also in our nature to do things that give us pleasure.  Unhealthy foods do both.  Many people know fast food, junk food, soda etc are bad for them but yet they consume them regularly.  Many of the harmful effects of unhealthy foods are delayed and they don’t manifest until later in life in the forms of chronic degenerative diseases.   However, there are many immediate negative effects like heartburn, bloating, feeling sluggish and weight gain to name a few.   Many people are willing to accept these outcomes because they really want to eat these foods.  Then they compound the problem by taking medicine to relieve the effects.  Others convince themselves that if they exercise enough that will offset the bad eating.  Maybe you can burn some of the excess calories but all the crap is still in your body.

Laws, culture and social norms prevent us from doing other harmful things that some people may enjoy if they could.  For example excessive speeding, underage drinking and taking something that doesn’t belong to us.  Some of us do these things anyway if we think we won’t get caught or there won’t be any consequences.   Some of us don’t do them because we fear getting caught.  Others have a level of integrity that will prevent them from doing these things even if they know they would not get caught.

Unfortunately there are not enough laws to deter us from eating unhealthy foods so its our prerogative to eat what we want.   Our western culture also makes you a weirdo if you eat healthy regularly.  (Speaking from experience.)This post is not referring to those who do not know any better. (That’s a whole other story.)  This is about people who know the consequences but do it anyway because the instant gratification of the taste is so irresistible.  We usually can’t escape the negative effects of an extremely unhealthy diet.  When people suffer from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity, not only is their quality of life drastically different but it is also a financial hardship on them and their loved ones and a very emotionally trying thing to cope with.  So is it really worth it?  Can we not lead happy lives without great tasting unhealthy food.  There are so many delicious healthy foods to eat.  Some may need to allow their taste buds to adjust to tasting the real flavors of food instead of artificial ones of the flavor of straight  grease, salt and sugar.  Or maybe there is some other way to find happiness outside of food.   Are we filling voids in relationships, career, hobbies or spirituality with french fries and donuts?Image