I feel so lucky to be living in what I like to refer to as the “special diet era.” Twenty-five years ago those with food allergies were viewed as… for lack of a better word… freaks, and a healthy diet was defined almost exclusively as fat-free. Today, enough people live with food allergies and intolerances (not that this is a good thing) to sway the entire food industry. New labeling laws, special manufacturing processes, and wonderful alternatives have emerged. In the nutrition arena, we now have good fats (Omega 3, plant based) and bad fats (ie trans fats), and all natural foodists are gaining a strong voice in the vote for health, with great encouragement from the vegan community.
Recently I had the pleasure of trialing a new product that seems to embody every aspect of this food culture, Hempmilk™ by Living Harvest Conscious Nutrition. Sure, soymilk and rice “milk” arrived on the scene first, dazzling the lactose intolerant with their versatile capabilities. However, this new seed based milk alternative takes it up a few notches.
Unlike many milk alternative producers, Living Harvest has gone the extra ten (or twenty) miles to create a truly allergy-friendly product. Their Hempmilk is completely free of milk, wheat/gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, and soy (not even a touch of lecithin), and considered safe for individuals with these food allergies.
This may seem like enough, but the folks at Living Harvest couldn’t stop there. They fortified their “milk” with essential vitamins and minerals, including 46% of your daily requirement for calcium, and 25% for Vitamin D (take that milk!). It is a completely vegan product, yet boasts a fair bit of protein with all 10 essential amino acids. And do you remember that “good fat” I spoke of? That’s right, Hempmilk contains 700 mg of Omega-3’s and 2600 mg of Omega-6 with GLA. I really don’t know the benefits of GLA, but it sure sounds impressive! If you need any more encouragement to consume chocolate, the two flavored varieties boast even more of these Omega’s.
You are probably wondering what this magical food could possibly be made of? Quite simply, it is shelled hemp seeds, brown rice syrup (for sweetness), xanthan gum (for thickening), and filtered water.
Hempmilk obviously sounds impressive, but once I had finally finished reading the label, it was time to see how this stuff tastes! With each of the three available flavors at my disposal, I set out a formal taste test.
As someone who typically purchases unsweetened milk alternatives, I was a bit startled by the obviously sweetened flavor of the Original flavored Hempmilk. Once I settled into the fact that the more indulgent taste was intended, I found it quite pleasant. It reached my tongue with the smooth creaminess I was anticipating…yet, as someone with a preference for all things “hearty,” I found the aftertaste a bit flat and watery. Obviously I was the only one who noted this, as my husband and nieces loved it. None of who follow any special diet whatsoever. Their application of choice was cereal, though no one turned down the Hempmilk, berry smoothies I whipped up. I preferred it in the smoothie, where the additional sweetener complimented and the creamy texture was beneficial.
I have seen Hempmilk described as “nutty” on many occasions. As someone who consumes quite a bit of Almond Milk, “nutty” wouldn’t be my description. The flavor was much milder than my Almond Milk. It had a hint of uniqueness, which is quite frankly difficult to describe. I can only guess that it was the flavor of the hemp seed itself.
Though it has a similar amount of fat (3g) to soymilk, the consistency seemed a bit thinner. Unfortunately, I ran out of the Original before I could test it in recipes, it went quickly in our house. However, I can safely say it should work very well in place of milk (1:1) in most bread and dessert recipes. The sweet flavor would cause me to hesitate on savory applications.
I actually didn’t find the Vanilla flavor to be very different from the Original. It exuded a wonderful vanilla scent that struck me as quite natural, yet the flavor was somewhat sedated, to my liking. As with the Original, the creamy beige color of this “milk” was easy to pass by the kids.
Though I have never been one to sit and drink a glass of milk (of any sort), when I took a sip of the Vanilla Hempmilk, I had to go back for another, and another, and another… It was so light and refreshing. The sweetness, which seemed to compare to the Original, perfectly matched the natural vanilla. Unfortunately, my added flavor enjoyment came with a small nutrition price tag. I vowed to only use it modestly or in desserts when I spotted the 18g of sugar per serving.
Once my husband discovered this chocolate “milk” it was all over. He adored drinking the Chocolate Hempmilk by the glassful when his afternoon energy waned. It should be noted that he is a recovered (until now) chocolate milk addict. I must confess, like the Vanilla, it was very light and refreshing. There was no pronounced scent, nor did I feel overwhelmed by the chocolate. Yet, it was a delicious beverage when my post-workout thirst, hunger, and need for quick sugar set in.
I liked that the Hempmilk was not chalky with cocoa powder as many products tend to be. Though it was obviously “chocolate milk,” it didn’t taste overly sweet. With such a calm taste profile, imagine my surprise when I laid eyes on the 24g of sugar per serving. True, this is similar to regular chocolate milk, but an indulgence in my book nonetheless.
Honestly, I couldn’t think of a more perfect treat for little ones or big kids (a.k.a. husbands). This will surely put smiles on everyone’s face, and a little health in their diet to boot!
My Extra Notes & Tips
- These should be shaken very well prior to pouring. The “milk” tends to separate dramatically from the filtered water within this beverage, but can easily be coagulated with a good shake up.
- This is an excellent product for kids, particularly those with food allergies and intolerances. The lighter, more refreshing taste will likely appeal to more sensitive taste buds, and the high level of fortification will receive many parental nods of approval. Also, the brightly colored boxes are eye-catching. I spotted one pint-sized shopping cart rider who quickly laser-sited the red, purple, and blue Hempmilk packages among a dizzying array of milk alternatives.
Where to Purchase: This stuff is quickly making headway throughout North America. Both Wild Oats and Whole Foods have stocked it on their milk alternative shelves. See the Living Harvest Website for a U.S. / Canada Store Locator. Of course, if you can’t find it in stores, feel free to order direct from Living Harvest. As to be expected, Hempmilk is pricier than its rice and soy cousins ($3.99 retail at my local Wild Oats), but well worth it for many.