Are Plant-Based Milks the Future of Dairy?

Photo by a_namenko for Getty Images

Long before 2016, when fifth-generation dairyman Henry Schwartz decided to shut down Elmhurst Dairy in Jamaica, Queens, he saw the writing on the wall. Dairy consumption was declining and profit margins were increasingly squeezed, making it nearly impossible to turn a profit. Schwartz had kept the company, which his family had run since 1925, chugging along well past its life as a viable business. But the time had come, and in August 2016, he closed the doors of the last functioning dairy plant in New York City limits.

Then, a proverbial door opened. Through business connections, Schwartz was introduced to Cheryl Mitchell — a food scientist who has spent decades of her professional life focused on nondairy milks — those made from nuts, seeds, and grains. Her patents were instrumental in founding the modern-day alternative milk industry, and now she had a new method that she thought could revolutionize the field. Schwartz owned another business, Steuben Foods, that produces aseptic paperboard packaging — the kind used to package things like soups, juices, and the wide array of alternative milks found in the grocery store aisle. All of a sudden, a new path forward appeared.

Schwartz, now 86, no longer gives media interviews. But Elmhurst’s vice president of marketing, Peter Truby, recalled a conference call where Schwartz said, “milk runs through my veins.” The thought of pivoting his family’s long-standing dairy legacy toward a plant-based product was almost unimaginable. But as he got to know the alternative milk industry (and taste Mitchell’s products), he made up his mind. “I remember he came to the plant in November of 2016 and saw the milk coming out for the first time,” Mitchell recalled. “And he said to me, ‘I want to sell it.’”

Today, Elmhurst Dairy is simply Elmhurst — a new company producing milk and creamers made from almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, oats, and hemp. Its products, which are remarkably milk-like in creaminess and flavor, are in 6,000 stores across America and shipped all over the country via its website.

“Elmhurst was around as a dairy plant for close to 95 years,” Truby told me. “Now, it has a chance to be around for another 100.”

Schwartz’s path of personal and professional evolution is remarkable. And it is just one of many stories in the modern alternative milk industry, which, according to Truby, currently makes up 13 percent of total sales in the dairy market (and growing). These milks have long been consumed by vegans and lactose-intolerant consumers. And they are increasingly favored by people not looking to fully give up dairy products, but seeking out ways to cut back for ethical, environmental, or health reasons.

Every six months or so, there seems to be a new darling of the industry. For decades, the story was mostly about soy (think Edensoy, Pacific, and Silk) and rice milks. Then came the almond milk craze at the turn of the 21st century, followed closely by coconut milk. More recently, Oatly captured the hearts of the nation’s nondairy lovers, and suddenly grocery stores couldn’t keep the Swedish oat milk company’s products in stock. (Sales of oat milk rose a staggering 425 percent between 2017 and 2018.) There are even milks made from flaxseeds, macadamias, and, advisably or not, bananas and yellow peas. Some scientists have turned their attention instead to lab-produced milks which aim to mimic the microbial structure (and therefore taste and texture) of dairy — but without the cow.

Plant-based milk companies — like Elmhurst in New York, Califia Farms in California, and Good Karma Foods in Colorado — understand that coffee shops are important gateways for introducing new customers to their products. So in addition to analogues for regular cow milk, many companies are also developing special “barista blends” designed to make froth thick and billowy enough to produce latte art and yet, the modern alternative milk industry has more to do with packaging than plants. People have been making beverages from grains, legumes, and seeds for thousands of years. According to the “History of Soymilk” by nondairy disciples William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, soy milk (doujiang) — always homemade and often served warm for breakfast — was in wide use in China by the mid-17th century, though likely originated earlier. And the creamy fermented rice beverage amazake (the barely alcoholic cousin to sake) has been brewed in Japan since at least the 6th century.

Photo by Elmhurst Dairy

A handful of manufacturers in China, Japan, and the United States began bottling and selling plant-based (primarily soy) milks in the early 20th century. But it wasn’t until the late 1960s that aseptic paperboard packaging was created, allowing companies to offer shelf-stable products that could last without refrigeration for six months or longer. This development was a boon for the fledgling alternative milk industry because it took the pressure off of immediately selling these products — which most American consumers were either unfamiliar with or skeptical about — before they spoiled.

Mitchell has been there since nearly the beginning. In the 1970s, a health food advocate and restaurateur named Robert Nissenbaum approached Mitchell for advice. He had been serving housemade amazake to customers at his Sunshine Inn restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri, and was receiving enthusiastic feedback. As Mitchell recalls, “He came to us and said, ‘I’d like to get it in a package. Can we manufacture it so it can be on the regular shelf instead of the refrigerator case?’” The short answer turned out to be yes, and with Mitchell’s expertise, Nissenbaum went on to found industry giants Rice Dream and Imagine Foods.

The success of these early companies helped to bring alternative milks to the mainstream, or at least closer to it. But Mitchell was not satisfied. The dominant process for “milking” the rice, which typically began with grinding the grain to make a flour or paste, removed a lot of its inherent nutritive aspects — things like fiber, protein, and antioxidant oils. The result was a milk that was thin (“It did not have the richness or milk-like opacity that customers expected,” Mitchell said) and not particularly nutrient-dense.

To compensate, they added many of these qualities back in, using safflower oil, carrageenan, and calcium carbonate. “I still feel guilty about it,” Mitchell said. The technique worked so well for Rice Dream that other companies began to mimic their methods. Consumers went crazy for these “healthy” alternatives to dairy, but there was ultimately no nutritional value. As Mitchell put it, “You are basically paying for water, gums, and a couple of nuts or grains.”

Over the last two decades, Mitchell paid a form of professional penance by devoting her work to maximizing the nutrient value of nondairy milks.

“I spent a lot of my own money on research because no one else was doing it,” she said. Her efforts paid off in a new patent called HydroRelease, which uses very high water pressure to slough off layers of whatever ingredient is being milked. Some plant based milks, particularly almond milk, have gotten a bad reputation for their environmentally unfriendly water usage. Mitchell’s technology, however, mitigates this impact by recycling the water used during HydroRelease. “Once we start spraying, it is the same water over and over again, so the milk gets more and more concentrated.”

The process also “releases each of the macro- and micro-ingredients — the natural lecithins, the oils, the binders,” Mitchell said. These components can then be recombined and emulsified into a creamy, nutritious, functional, and frothable milk. There is no need to add gums or anything extra (many of Elmhurst’s products contain only two ingredients, one of which is water) — it is all there in the plants.

Of course, with so much competition crowding the field, the bottom line for Elmhurst — or any nondairy milk — is, how do they taste? Flavor has been a concern of the industry for years. In the 1960s, write Shurtleff and Aoyagi, Cornell University scientists isolated the enzyme lipoxygenase as “responsible for the ‘beany’ flavor in soy milk,” and developed processes to help remove it.

Still, during the two years I spent as a vegan in college during the early 2000s, I tried and failed to convince myself that I — a born-and-bred, dairy-guzzling Midwesterner — really enjoyed Silk and Edensoy with cereal, or leaving curdled flecks on the surface of my coffee. I never worked my way up to drinking straight glasses of the stuff. It definitely wasn’t milk and, more importantly, it wasn’t very good.

But while nothing quite compares in flavor or texture to cow dairy, the field of options has improved tremendously. Today, my family’s fridge, like many other fridges, is multi-milked. Despite my lifelong love affair with dairy, my kids’ digestive systems seem to tolerate it less well. So there’s dairy half-and-half for coffee, and a rotation of cashew and oat milks (often from Elmhurst) for cereal, smoothies, and cooking. And I have come to enjoy the nutty, chai-like quality of So Delicious’ cashew milk ice cream nearly as much as regular dairy vanilla.

Mitchell has never been fully vegan herself. (One of her daughters is, however, and her other daughter eats meat but cannot handle dairy.) But despite being a flexitarian, she, like Schwartz, believes the future lies in plant-based milks — particularly ones that hold on to their natural nutritive qualities. And she is excited by their growing epicurean potential.

As it turns out, when the milks retain their proteins and fiber, they just work better in culinary applications. “You can make an amazingly convincing nondairy bechamel because the building blocks are there,” Mitchell said. “There is so much more we can develop using these ingredients. I’m happy to provide the tools to take us to the next generation.”

Written by: Leah Koenig.

Originally posted on: Heated

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Plant-based Ground Beef

Here’s a great alternative to ground beef. Let me introduce you to Beyond Beef. A Plant-based version of real beef. All the ingredients are made from plants. It’s also soy-free and gluten-free. As you can see, it’s Non-GMO Project Verified, which basically means this product was not made with any genetically modified organisms. The ingredients are pure, just as Mother Nature intended them to be.

Take a look at the ingredients below. There are no meat byproducts, soy, or artificial preservatives.

INGREDIENTS:

Water, Pea Protein Isolate*, Expeller-pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Rice Protein, Natural Flavors, Cocoa Butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Apple Extract, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Sunflower Lecithin, Pomegranate Fruite Powder, Beet Juice Extract (For Color).

All plants ingredients! Where can you buy this and many other plant-based foods? Whole Foods Market! Plus, it’s just in time for the July 4th holiday. Get your grills out and grill up some plant-based burgers or make the family a nice meatless meatball and spaghetti dinner. They won’t know the difference.

Be safe and healthy, and have a Happy 4th of July.

Dr. Campbell’s recommendations for Dietary Guidelines

 

Submitted to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on April 30, 2015.

In 1980, the first report by the Dietary Guidelines (DG) Advisory Committee was authored by two friends of mine, the late Harvard School of Public Health Professor Mark Hegsted PhD (representing the McGovern Committee and the USDA) and Allan Forbes MD, formerly FDA Chief of Nutrition. I have remained keenly interested in the 5-year reports ever since.

Unfortunately, I have gradually lost much of my early enthusiasm for this advisory committee. During the past 35 years, I have seen little if any progress toward a better understanding of diet, nutrition and health. This is regrettable because these reports serve as guidelines for health education, government school lunch, WIC (women, infants and children), and other important public programs. I do not see how this report is any more progressive or insightful than its predecessors. Previous reports have included new words and phrases which unfortunately did not lead to any real change.  Click here to continue reading original article. 

Why Consume More Plants?

  

Weight control
Weight gain is generally correlated with high daily calorie intake, and eating a small amount of nutrient-dense foods full of dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain foods typically provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories, compared to other types of foods. Putting more of these kinds of plants on the plate makes it easier to manage appetite and maintain body weight.

High dietary fiber
Only plant foods contain fiber. Dietary fiber is a complex form of carbohydrate. Several decades of studies have confirmed the health benefits of eating a fiber-rich diet. Specifically, diets rich in foods containing fiber — such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and improve regularity. A healthy elimination system allows bodies to get rid of toxins. Beans and legumes contain more dietary fiber than almost any other food, so they are an integral and versatile part of a balanced diet. The dietary fiber in legumes is both soluble — which is especially useful in helping control cholesterol levels to lower heart disease risk — and insoluble — which improves regularity. Beans are also filling, so they help promote weight management by satisfying hunger.

Chronic disease management
Consuming a diet featuring more plants is good for your health —today and tomorrow. Complex carbohydrates are easy to digest, and the antioxidants in plants help strengthen your body’s immune system. Dramatic results have occurred with the adoption of a more plant-based diet. Many people with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and various autoimmune diseases have been able to alleviate their symptoms by eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and consuming fewer solid and added fats, added sugars, and refined grains.

In a recent study, scientists finds that plant-based diets, without counting calories, leads to greater weight loss. The only way to succeed in a plant-based diet is to cut certain foods out of your diet.  Sounds easy right?  Well, everything in moderation, I like to say. Giving up cold turkey may be harder for some people.  

Resource: Nutrition StudiesPlant-Based Diet & Obesity Study 

Fresh Bowls of Fruits

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Starting the day off with a fresh bowl of fruit sets the tone for my day. It energizes me and makes me feel full. Having a fruit bowl also reminds me of a hot summer day especially, during these winter snowy days we’ve been having here in New York City. These bowls really brightens up my mornings. I couldn’t tell you when was the last time I had a bacon egg and cheese on a toasted bagel for breakfast. For the past three years my morning breakfasts have been much healthier and much more nutritious.

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A healthy breakfast should contain fruits or vegetables, nuts for added protein and sometimes a whole grain bread or oats. This type of combination of fiber, protein, and a small amount of fat will help provide the nutrients you need to carry you through the day. But for me, a fruit bowl does that same thing.

I can get really creative with my fruit bowls. Depending on what’s in season, I add in one or two citrus fruits, some berries, melons, bananas, apples and even some nuts. Fruit provides vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and potassium.

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If you notice in all of these picture, I mostly included orange and red colored fruits. Well, according to the International Carotenoid Society, these colors are known to be essential for plant growth and photosynthesis, and are a main dietary source of vitamin A in humans. They are thought to be associated with reduced risk of several chronic health disorders including some forms of cancer, heart disease and eye degeneration. Lycopene is a carotenoid, a natural color pigment that contributes to the red color of tomatoe and various other fruits and vegetables. The yellow/red fruits and vegetables contain mostly hydrocarbon carotenoids (carotenes). The common yellow ones are apricot, cantaloupe, carrot, pumpkin, and sweet potato that are the primary sources of beta-carotene and beta-carotene and several other hydrocarbon carotenoids.

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In part, the beneficial effects of carotenoids are thought to be due to their role as antioxidants. Antioxidants supports cellular activities by fighting off other chemicals known as free radicals.

Consider adding the following orange/red hue fruits and vegetables to your diet for more antioxidants.
Apricots, carrots, oranges, papaya, peaches, pumpkins, cantaloupe, sweet potato, winter squash, tangerines, nectarines, mangoes and butternut squash.
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Cruciferous Vegetables

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Cruciferous vegetables—cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli rabe—contain a powerful range of disease fighters. One particular hero, sulforaphane, may increase enzymes that lower the incidence of colon and lung cancers.

A study published in the August 2003 issue of the International Journal of Cancer suggests that eating lots of cruciferous vegetables may provide a significant survival advantage for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. One of the most aggressive cancers, ovarian cancer claims the lives of 14,000 American women each year.

Try this recipe: Red cabbage, carrots, vegan mayo and almond slices.

Vegan Red Cabbage Slaw

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Ingredients

1 organic small red cabbage
3 organic carrots
5 organic radishes
1 cup organic almond slices
2 tablespoon vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon
2 tablespoon organic olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of organic ground cardamom
1 tablespoon organic maple syrup
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions
Step 1
Quarter cabbage, and discard core. Shred cabbage and carrots. Slice radishes thinly. Transfer to a large bowl.

Step 2
In a small bowl, stir together mayo, lemon juice, olive oil, maple syrup, and ground cardamom. Season with salt and pepper. Now, pour mixture in with cabbage, and toss to combine. Just before serving, sprinkle cabbage with the almond slices.

EAT A VEGAN MEAL

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Each year, the average American consumes 175 pounds of meat and poultry, almost double the global average. Eating less red meat may do you a favor: It can lower your risk of cancer and heart disease. “Learn to love big heaps of vegetables,” says Mark Bittman New York Times food columnist and author of VB6.

To achieve that feeling, Bittman says to try meatless proteins, such as lentils, edamame, garbanzo beans and tofu. He also recommends roasting six sweet potatoes. “The more you cook and have stuff around, the less you’ll depend on junk.”

He’s right! Once you prepare your meals ahead of time, the less likely you will make bad food choices. I think salads are super easy. Every weekend I spend over $70 dollars on organic vegetables and fruits. Apples alone I spend about $10 dollars. Between me and my three children, we go through apples quickly. Salads are great for lunch and dinner. They’re easy to make and can be very filling. Just pile on the fruits and vegetables and don’t forget your plant-based protein. You can’t go wrong!

Here’s one of my favorite recipes with garbanzo beans:

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Ingredients:
1 bunch of kale
1 Tbsp of olive oil
3 chopped garlics
1 chopped onion
1 cup chopped cranberries
2 cups garbanzo beans
1 red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Directions:
Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped onions, garlic and red peppers. Cook until onions are slightly translucent. Add kale, garbanzo beans and cranberries then, sauté for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and peppers. Toss in almonds.

Yield 4 servings

The idea here is to eat more plants, especially leaves. Plants are a great source of vital nutrients, enzymes, antioxidants, and minerals. And eat as many different kinds of plants as possible. They all have different antioxidants and so help the body eliminate different kinds of toxins.

Sources:
January 2014 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
Kale food facts: High Vitamin K and Anti-Cancer properties
Plant-Based Research

Why can too much protein be a problem?

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that the average American male consumes 102 grams of protein per day, while the average female eats about 70 grams. That’s almost twice the daily recommended intake established by the Food and Nutrition Board.

For starters, meat is a major source of protein in the American diet, and animal foods high in protein are often high in saturated fat. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), foods high in saturated fat can increase risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s recommended daily protein intake chart:
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Additionally, people who have a problem processing excess protein may be at risk for kidney and liver disorders and osteoporosis. The AHA does not recommend high-protein diets for weight loss, stating that high-protein diets can “restrict healthful foods that provide essential nutrients and don’t provide the variety of foods needed to adequately meet nutritional needs.”

The CDC recommends choosing healthier protein-rich foods instead of red and processed meats because it may reduce heart disease.

According to a study reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Eating more fresh red meat, processed red meat and high-fat dairy carried an increased risk of heart disease in the study. Women who had two servings per day of red meat compared to those who had half a serving per day had a 30 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.

“Our study shows that making substitutes for red meat or minimizing the amount of red meat in the diet has important health benefits,” said Adam M. Bernstein, M.D., Sc.D., the study’s first author and post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

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So what are the best protein sources?
While animal proteins usually contain all of the essential amino acids forming complete proteins, eating a varied, plant-based diet can also meet all of your protein needs. Green leafy vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits are a few among the plethora of other plant foods that provide many health benefits.

There are countless scientific studies that have helped a lot in spreading the awareness about the advantages of shifting to plant based diets. More and more Americans today know the importance of a balanced, healthy diet and are shifting to a diet rich in plants and vegetables.

If you are strictly a meat eater but plan to add more fruits and vegetables in your diet, the best way is to start slowly. One serving per day or less and gradually increase the quantity as you get used to it.

Plant-based proteins also don’t have any saturated fat, and are usually lower in calories.

Resources:
Article: Jessica Jones, MS, RD
Protein Fact Sheet
To read more about protein click here