(Stay Warm and Gently Spiced)
Facing the dairy section of your closest big grocery store, you may see a bewildering array of soothing creamy milk these days. There’s classic cow’s milk in a variety of fat to no-fat forms. There could be goat’s milk. Now some places there’s also plant-based almond milk, coconut–cashew, oat, rice, soy, even macadamia milk (hold on to your wallet). What most of these have in common is soothing creamy milk texture. Yet the nourishment in different milks can vary greatly.
Now it the time to explore options
Cold weather is an excellent time to enjoy warm, spiced grounding milks from the Ayurvedic perspective. For the person with a cow dairy allergy, a lactose sensitivity, or for those who find animal milks congesting, plant-based milks can be a strong option. Almond milk in particular builds ojas, strength and immunity, much as warm well-spiced cow’s milk does. Plant-based milks offer healthy fat in low doses, relaxing magnesium, and small amounts of fiber. Yet an appalling number of them in your average big box store have astounding amounts of cane sugar. Sugar impairs immunity. At this point, we need as strong an immune response as we can muster. Also many plant milks contain various gums, like carrageenan. These are tolerated well by many, yet aggravate the digestive tracts of some.
What to look for in soothing creamy milk, plant-based
Look for “plain” “unsweetened” on the plant milk label. There are some fine companies out there offering tasty soothing creamy milk with a short simple list of ingredients, such as organic nuts, water, pinch of salt. Malk, Pacific Organic, New Barn, and Three Trees all have unsweetened gum-free products. If you want to add a little sweetness, you can, with raw honey, stevia, coconut sugar, or organic agave. Honey in particular carries the nourishment of the milk deep into the tissues.
Some of us need more protein than others
Another thing to consider is the protein content per one cup serving. If you’re pregnant, a growing teenager, or have growing children you’re feeding, protein is an important builder of tissue. Cow’s, goat’s, and soy milk all run 7 – 8 grams of protein per cup, while almond milk has only 1 gram. In the middle there’s oat and hemp milk, with 3 – 4 grams per cup. Rice milk, often popular among kids, has a paltry amount of protein, 0. 7 grams per cup, and higher amounts of both natural and added sweeteners.
You want to make your own soothing creamy milk?
If you’re in lockdown or your local store has run out of soothing creamy milk, consider making it yourself. All you need is ¼ cup of raw seeds or nuts, some water, and a pinch of salt. Plus a blender.
Put the seeds/nuts, one quart of water, and salt in a clean glass container like a Mason jar; let them soak overnight. (If you’re the more spontaneous type or in a hurry, you can boil the water, pour it over the nuts or seeds and salt, and cut the soak time to 30 minutes.) Strain the nuts or seeds and discard the water (to reduce the phytate content of your milk). Put everything in the blender with a fresh 3 ½ cups of water and blend until smooth. Soothing creamy milk, ready to use instantly. You can add a pinch of ground cardamom for pizazz if you like.
I enjoy raw pumpkin seed milk. It’s affordable and tridoshic (as is sunflower seed milk) and both have notable amounts of zinc, a trace mineral that supports immunity and healthy blood sugar metabolism. If you can find raw hemp seeds, they also make a tasty higher-protein plant milk than most, rich in Omega 3s.
Soothing creamy milk, preparation, and the doshas
Dairy has gotten a bad name in some health circles more through its methods of preparation and mode of consumption than through its innate qualities. If you warm it up and spice it appropriately, cow’s milk is highly regarded for calming both Vata and Pitta. Its cool heaviness can unbalance Kapha. Goat’s milk is more astringent and less mucus-forming than cow’s milk; it can be used in small amounts by Kapha, and suits Pitta well. Vata usually does better without goat’s milk. Sheep’s milk calms Pitta and Kapha, not so much Vata. Buffalo milk was recommended by the sages for its excellent ability to induce sleep! It is soothing to Pitta and Vata, and increases Kapha.
Sunflower, pumpkin, and hemp seed milks are well-tolerated by all doshas. Warm heavy sesame seed milk is better for Vata than Pitta or Kapha. Nut milks are a little heavier and oiler, fine for Vata, yet to be used in moderation by Pitta and Kapha. Coconut milk is the soothing cooling exception for Pitta. Now it’s time to play.
How to play with your fresh soothing creamy milk
Here’s one of my favorite ways to drink warm milk this season:
SPICY NOT CHOCOLATE
Time: 10 – 15 minutes
Makes 1 or more cups
1 cup milk of your choice per person
Add per cup:
1 heaping Tablespoon organic carob powder/
¼ teaspoon each: cinnamon and cardamom
1/8 teaspoon each: nutmeg and pippali
The tiniest pinch of mineral salt (omit if using dairy)
½ teaspoon shankhapushpi (an exotic optional that is nerve supportive)
½ – 1 teaspoon almond extract
Sweetener to taste
Bring the milk to steam in a pot. Put all the other ingredients except the sweetener directly in your cup. Add a little bit of the warm milk to your cup, stir into a paste. Add the rest of the steamy milk plus sweetener. If you’re using honey, let the drink sit a minute to cool before stirring it in. Mix well. Enjoy in a leisurely manner.
Effects: calms all doshas.
Supports: digestion, nerves, cleanses fat
Used with permission from Morningstar and Lynn, Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda (2017)
Amadea Morningstar, MA, RPE, RYT is an Ayurvedic and Polarity Therapy educator. Currently Amadea works at a distance from Santa Fe, NM with established clients in Western nutrition, Ayurvedic nutrition and herbalism, Marma therapy, and nature-based self-care. She is not taking new clients through next April.
Holiday 2 for 1 special! Buy one Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda exclusively on our website and get one free, through the end of this year, with recipes for turmeric golden milk, decaff chai, and many other creamy drinks.
Resource: Read more about milk from an Ayurvedic perspective in The Ayurvedic Cookbook, by Morningstar & Desai, pp. 260 -261.