Failsafe beverages: decaf? and milk alternatives

Since starting the Failsafe diet, I have been facing the terrible gap left in my life by the absence of teas (black, green, roasted barley, herbal etc.) and struggle to find hot beverages to satisfy me. Unfortunately, teas are dried plant products which are high in salicylates.

Decaffeinated coffee is acceptable on the Failsafe diet, but I am not a coffee drinker (I quite like the taste but dislike the sour aftertaste, and it’s only palatable with lots of milk & sugar which are both things I’d rather not have). In any case, some decaffeination methods involve chemical solvents such as methylene chloride and ethyl acetate. According to Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, ‘Some of the organic solvents used … have been suspected of being health hazards even in the tiny traces left in the beans (around 1 part per million). The commonest, methylene chloride, is now thought to be safe.’ (p. 447). Well any Failsafer or food-conscious individual would certainly have their alarm bells ringing at statements like ‘now thought to be safe’!

Seems to me that unless you can verify that the decaf product has used the ‘Swiss’ method (only water as a solvent and charcoal filters to remove the caffeine, or the ‘supercritical’ (i.e. highly-pressurised) carbon dioxide method, then perhaps decaf is not a good beverage option either. Incidentally, decaf does contain a small amount of caffeine: 2-5 mg per cup as compared to 60-180mg for ordinary brewed coffee (Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, p.447).

The recent hot beverage alternative I’ve been making is oat/rice/soy milk with carob. I love oat and rice milk anyway, and carob is sweeter than cocoa powder, so this mock-hot-chocolate beverage tastes quite rich & sweet. Non-dairy alternatives are better because cow’s milk produces phlegm, especially if one drank a whole mug of it!

Although oat, rice and soy milks are often mentioned in the same breath as dairy milk alternatives, nutritionally they are quite different. While dairy is a protein food, grain drinks are primarily carbohydrates. Soy also has a higher proportion of protein compared to oat and rice.

I haven’t tried making oat and rice milks at home (next project :)!), but I suspect they might taste very different from the packaged commercials ones. Certainly I found a huge variation in packaged soy milks – from the sweetened Asian varieties, to the many health-food brands from the west, to the bare bones homemade version. Vita brand’s Pure Soya Bean Extract is the closest to homemade in taste, no preservatives and is the cheapest commercial unsweetened soya milk :).

Do check the labels of all milk alternatives on the ‘health-food’ shelf in the supermarket, I realised that many of them contain a lot of additives and flavourings, including carrageenan, which has been linked to cancer. It’s on the Failsafe list of additives to avoid.


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