June is National Dairy Month, but it is not without controversy. To many, drinking milk might seem as natural as drinking water, and milk products are as popular as ever, including cheese, yogurt and ice cream. But to others, dairy milk is undigestible, political, and/or environmentally unsustainable.
For anyone with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, digesting dairy is not an option. There are a variety of plant-based milks available on the market: almond milk, soymilk, coconut milk and rice milk have been around for years. More recently, they were joined by oat, pea, hemp, macadamia and peanut milk. What makes them unique is how different they are from dairy and from each other. For more on this, head over to my more lengthy essay on milk and milk substitutes: Dairy Month.
For political background, I recommend you read Marion Nestle: Food Politics.
As for the environment, dairy cattle contribute to both air and water pollution. Their impact on air, via methane gas production, is lower than rice agriculture but higher than other plant-based milks and goat rearing (in case you want to enjoy goat milk or cheese instead of cow’s, it is a viable option). Dairy cattle also contribute to air and water pollution via their waste products. That said, small scale dairy farmers are staring to change feed composition and employ biodigester technologies to mitigate environmental impact (more here).
Remember, this blog’s intention is to stay close to 100 words (although this week it is longer) so feel free to send me questions or check out my links for additional information.
Just One Thing to do: Limit dairy milk and products to 2/day while exploring plant-based options.
A friend asked me recently to compare the newest plant-based burgers on the market: Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger. I’m so glad she asked because I’ve been meaning to look more closely at these foods, as they offer a great alternative to beef burgers. As I’ve discussed in previous blogs, beef is the least environmentally protein source in our current diets, and I’m always looking for more sustainable options.
Both the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger need less water to produce than beef, and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions! They are also both similar in protein content to beef patties, and similar in calories. They are a more healthful choice than beef, though, because they provide fiber and contain no cholesterol. Unfortunately, they do contain more sodium than restaurant burgers such as Burger King and McDonald’s beef patties, but likely have similar sodium to those beef patties cooked at home.
Of the two, which is better? The Impossible Burger is made from soy, which takes more land and water to produce than the pea, mung bean, and rice protein contained in the Beyond Burger. I personally believe we already consume too much soy, as it is added in some form to most of the foods we eat, and we do not eat enough of the beautiful pulse (another good blog here).
While both are a good substitute for beef, the Beyond Burger gets my vote as the more sustainable and healthful option of the two.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy a Beyond Burger as a sustainable, healthful alternative to beef burgers.
After my last blog about iced tea, several readers emailed me to ask about composting their used tea bags or loose-leaf tea. This is a great idea!
Composting tea is an easy way to make your diet and your garden a little more sustainable. You will add less waste to landfills; it might seem like a trivial amount but imagine if everyone did it every week. You will also be providing organic matter to your garden, meaning better moisture control and oxygen, reducing the need for chemicals. Best of all, they attract earthworms.
If you use loose-leaf tea, just add the leaves to your compost bin after brewing. If you use tea bags, check to see if they are biodegradable; that is, make sure they are compostable. If they contain polypropylene, they will not compost. You can still add them to your compost bin and take out the bags later if you’d like, or you can streamline the process by opening the little bag and taking out the tea leaves to compost.
It is also fine to add the tea leaves directly to your soil. This is what I do. Just loosen the soil around your plants and dig in the tea leaves, turning over the soil gently. If there is caffeine present, it will not hurt the plants.
Need tips for composting? Read more here.
Want to compost coffee grounds? That’s great, too. Read more here.
Just One Thing to do: Save your used tea leaves and coffee grounds, then add them to your compost bin or soil.
If you are like me and most of my readers, you enjoy iced tea throughout the spring and summer. It’s refreshing and open to many variations, so we seldom get bored. Best of all, it can be good for us. Most teas contain antioxidants, those wonderful substances that protect your cells from damage, helping to prevent cancer, improve heart health, and fight the effects of aging. Find more information here.
Black, green, white and oolong teas all come from the camellia senesis plant and contain varying amounts of antioxidants. Some have caffeine while some do not, so check labels to determine which is best for you. Herbal teas, on the other hand, do not typically contain caffeine and are not technically teas, as they come from an array of flowers, leaves and spices. They are also known to contain antioxidants, and often help with anxiety, insomnia, and upset stomach. They have been associated with improved immunity, memory, and arthritis pain but research is limited. Enjoy these teas for their flavors and just be sure to check the safety of each if you have allergies or are pregnant.
Iced tea can be very hydrating, always an important consideration as the outside temperature climbs. If you are accustomed to caffeine intake, the tea will not dehydrate you. If you typically do not take in caffeine, stick to herbal and decaffeinated teas. My favorites are cinnamon tea and mint tea; I brew a cup at night then refrigerate to enjoy the next day over ice.
When is tea not so healthful? When it has added sugar and other sweeteners. Some bottled and restaurant teas have as much sugar as soda! Try brewing your own then mixing in a small amount of sugar or honey to lightly sweeten, or drink it unsweetened. I like my tea unsweetened so I can enjoy the full natural flavor.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy iced tea unsweetened or with a small amount of sugar or honey.