Progesterone

A couple of weeks ago, a reader asked if I knew of any natural ways to raise progesterone levels in women. The reader had a baby about a year ago and thought her progesterone levels should have been higher by now, but she’s had a history of low levels in the past, which has caused a host of problems.

I did know a little about progesterone, but, oddly enough, because mine tends to run high and aggravates my heart arrhythmia. But, most of my knowledge was centered on the balance of progesterone and estrogen: when one goes up, the other goes down. So, I did a little research, and this is what I found.

As mentioned, estrogen and progesterone run opposite each other, so avoiding foods that increase estrogen will help keep your progesterone stable, or, theoretically, raise it if your estrogen is low enough. Don’t automatically think SOY, however. (Oh, poor soy!) There are a lot of foods with much higher levels of phytoestrogens – like flax! (Think of phytoestrogens as faux estrogen.) Flax is crazy high in phytoestrogens. Sesame is also pretty high in phytoestrogens, as are many other foods. If you have a family history of breast cancer, I definitely wouldn’t give up whole soy; I’d actually start start adding it to your diet if you haven’t  already. Regardless, I’d be cautious of added soy, which is essentially in all processed foods. Whole soy is a completely different ballgame. But, I’d strongly reconsider using flax, and I’d limit intake of sesame (hummus, multigrain breads, etc.) Chia and hemp are great for Omega 3’s and 9’s, if you’re worried about being deficient. (Keep in mind, however, supplementation of EFA’s is not necessary on a whole-foods, plant-based diet.)

Keeping cortisol low will also help keep progesterone balanced. Reducing cortisol levels can be achieved by reducing/eliminating stress (ha ha) and being cautious of super high intensity workouts for extended periods of time (over 45 minutes seems to be the prevailing opinion). Short spurts of intense exercise like those in HIIT workouts are good for cardio. Yoga is great for reducing stress and doesn’t tend to increase cortisol levels. Over time, your supposedly body gets used to the intensity of your workouts, and you can increase their duration.

Since progesterone and cortisol go hand in hand, having higher levels of cortisol is often an indicator of inflammation in the body. Fruits and vegetables, in general, are anti-inflammatory, so eat up! Blood sugars could also be running high with increased cortisol; allergies can flair up, and the list goes on. Balancing progesterone can help regulate blood pressure, too. (If you have trouble with PCOS and/or adrenal fatigue, your progesterone/cortisol/estrogen balances are likely out of sync.)

Luckily, there are foods and other natural ways of naturally increase progesterone/working on that progesterone/estrogen balance (and ultimately decreasing cortisol levels).

Vitamins: B6, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium can all contribute to increasing progesterone. While I don’t normally suggest supplements for any reason other than B12 for those on a completely plant-based diet, in this case, I suggest a B Complex vitamin supplement might be a decent idea. In general, I think supplements are a waste of money and can be dangerous. However, since all B vitamins are water soluble, you’ll pee off the excess. I would definitely go for the best brand of supplement you can afford. Money equals quality when it comes to supplements, unfortunately. Try to find a supplement that has Folate instead of Folic Acid. Folate is natural; folic acid is artificial and has been linked to a host of issues. There are natural, non-food ways to increase magnesium, too. Soaking in Epson salts can produce a slight increase. (Bonus: it’s great for sore muscles!) Magnesium oil can also give your levels a little boost, and it, too, is great for sore muscles.

Foods: Foods that increase B6, Vitamin C, zinc and magnesium include: whole grains, walnuts, beans, bananas, spinach, citrus fruits, watermelon, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, okra, raw nuts (almonds get a gold star) and cacao. (Woohoo for the chocolate!) There are some animals products that may also increase B6, zinc and magnesium, but they all come with hormones (artificial and naturally occurring) – and animal cruelty, which is not supported here. Eat those plants!

Things to avoid/do more: Try to avoid STRESS as much as possible. Sleep more. Move your body gently every day. Be social. Do things you enjoy. Drink more water. Drink more fresh juices and smoothies. Avoid dairy and other hormone laden items. Stay away from lavender and tea tree oil. I know I use of these oils often, but that’s not a great idea for those with low progesterone levels. Check lotions and other health and beauty products for lavender and tea tree oil; they’re seemingly everywhere!

As a side note, I would be leery of progesterone creams. For the most part, they’re bad news – even the “natural” ones. One of the biggest side effects of those creams is increased blood pressure, which can already be high from the progesterone/estrogen/cortisol imbalance.

Finally, remember it can take a long, long time for hormone levels to go back to “normal” after being pregnant and/or giving birth. Supposedly, natural births helps that process along quicker, as does breast feeding, but each body is different, and it make take more time for some than others. And, as a bright note on the horizon, estrogen levels naturally decrease with age, so progesterone has a tendency to naturally increase – especially around the onset of menopause. Personally, I’m seeing this shift (at nearly 40), and it’s not exactly a pleasant experience so far. However, for those with naturally low progesterone, this time of life may be a blessing. Something to look forward to!

Of course, as with any medical concern, please consult a medical practitioner. If you’re not happy with the results you’re receiving from allopathic medicine, consider a naturopathic physician and/or chiropractor who specializes in natural healing. Acupuncture, massage and aroma therapy, herbs and essentials oils are great supplements to professional medical treatments.

 

Recipe Review: Cauli-power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

As I breifly mentioned in my last post, I’ve made some changes to my diet, which include lowering my daily fat intake. So, when I saw Angela’s recipe for alfredo sauce made with cauliflower come through my in-box, I was all about it!

As luck would have it, Whole Foods had organic cauliflower on sale, so I picked up a couple of heads and Cauli-power Fettuccine Alfredo was moved to the top of the dinner menu.

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I’ve been using corn pasta, or a combo of corn and some other gluten-free grains, and I’ve been pretty happy with the outcome. The taste is good; the texture is good, and I don’t feel all vibratey after eating a big ol’ bowl of pasta like I do when I eat regular semolina pasta. So, for this recipe, I used the pasta I had in the pantry, which was a bag of rigatoncini. I figured that shape and style would work fine with this sauce because of the lines – and I was right. Woot!

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I was a little worried the sauce would come out watery because of my previous attempts at using cauliflower in sauces and soups. (Hello. How do people think mashed cauliflower tastes anything like my beloved mashed potatoes?!) But, surprise surprise, the sauce was super thick and creamy and delicious!

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I ended up adding a little extra nutritional yeast (because I always do), and I waited to add any salt until the individual servings. (I’m making a conscious effort to reduce my sodium intake.) I also skipped the sauteed onions (If you keep them in, please try sauteing them with water, not oil.) and just added granulated garlic and onion powder to the mix. And, I had plain soy milk open already, so I used that for the non-dairy milk. I think using a thicker non-dairy milk like soy or hemp is probably a good idea, although Angela used almond milk.

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I also added some broccoli to my dish. I just tossed in w/ the pasta as it cooked, and eight minutes later, they were both done. Yummy add for no extra work! (Well, except for the little bit of chopping required to get the broccoli florettes off their stems.)

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Other than those few tweaks, I followed the recipe exactly. I even  followed the suggested order of boiling the cauliflower first then making the sauce and letting it sit while I boiled the pasta and broccoli. After I drained the pasta/broccoli mix, I added it back to the hot pan on the still warm burner and poured in the sauce, stirred, and ate!

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I will definitely make this recipe again! One thing I will keep in mind, though, is the sauce really soaks into the pasta as it sits, so the next day, the pasta is a bit mushy, and the sauce is even more bland. I ground on a bit more salt and plowed through my next-day plate, but I kept wishing I’d added some fresh tomatoes or onions or something to brighten it up. (My husband thought adding a little bit of non-dairy milk might help revive things a bit, but I’d already eaten all of the left-overs before he suggested it. Ha!)

 

Product Review: Daiya Pizza

I tried Daiya pizza…and it was OK. I wouldn’t buy it again, considering it was $10, but It tasted OK.

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I kept reading about how awesome this product was, so when I saw it at my favorite Whole Foods last week, I went ahead and picked up the Fire Roasted Veggie variety.

The box was pretty big. It didn’t fit very well in my small freezer. Luckily, It wasn’t in there long, so that was only minimally annoying. The biggest problem I had with this product was the cooking instructions.

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500 degree…really?! The box says to cook the pizza either on a cookie sheet or on the oven rack at 500F for 20-24 minutes. Um…ok….that’s as high as my oven goes, and I was under the impression that was the broil option, and broiling is usually a pretty short process, so I was more than skeptical these directions were correct. Thankfully, I checked the pizza after 10 minutes, and the edges were already starting to burn. But, as is the case with really high heat, the center was barely warm. Not surprised.

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I went ahead and took the pizza out of the oven and let it sit on the cookie sheet for a few minutes to help disperse the heat towards the middle of the pizza. It tasted OK – warm in the middle but not crispy like the outside pieces. I topped half of the pizza with nutritional yeast. I also jazzed up the pizza with salt, pepper, dried oregano, basil and fennel.

The nutritional profile of the pizza isn’t great either, but it is Daiya – not exactly health food.

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My overall opinion is to save your money. Buy a bag of Daiya, if that’s you’re thing, and add your own toppings to your favorite crust. If you don’t have a favorite crust, try the prepared crusts from Trader Joe’s; they’re cheap and tasty! (They don’t have a gluten free variety yet. Bummer.)

Review: Beyond Meat

Have you heard of Beyond Meat?

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Beyond Meat is the newest plant-based animal protein replacement to hit the market. It’s a relatively new product (as far as consumer products go) and as recently as this year became available nationwide (after starting on the West coast). Made from a variety of plant-based proteins, Beyond Meat has received high accolades for its resemblance to animal protein in both flavor and texture.

I wasn’t impressed.

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I’m always leery of fake meat products. I chose to adopt a plant-based diet to get away from animal products, so I’m a little freaked out by products that try to imitate the very foods I left behind. Luckily, very few faux meat products resemble their counterparts, so the occasional meat analogue isn’t a big deal (except for a weird McRib type sandwich I refused to eat once because I swore it was real).  Additionally, I’m usually hope very happy with the ingredients lists of most of the processed plant-based meat products; Beyond Meat was not exception.

I was a little excited to see Beyond Meat at the Whole Foods I go to in Dublin, Ohio. I’d heard such great things. And, at just under $6 for four servings (pretty big ones), I thought the value was OK. What I didn’t like were the ingredients. They almost deterred me from purchasing the product. The second ingredient is isolated soy protein. Ugh. (The first ingredient is water.) The package does reassure consumers the soy is non-GMO, which is good, but still, soy protein isolates? Oy! The very thing that gives soy a bad name, and BAM, there is it. Among the remaining list if ingredients (which isn’t short, by the way) is a HUGE chemical I’ve been going out of my way to avoid – titanium dioxide. Seriously? Why is an ingredient in caulking in my food?!?!

Even if this product didn’t contain questionable ingredients, I wouldn’t buy it again. The “Grilled” flavor wasn’t appealing in taste or texture, and barely ate any of it. What a waste.

Save your money and don’t even bother trying Beyond Meat. You can make an amazing meat substitute with tofu – a much less processed soy product. Or, mash up some beans, a binder and a little something to dry everything, and BAM, you’ve got a veggie burger. (I have a few burger recipes on the blog; do a search.)

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Steak Salad

really wanted to post this recipe last week – for Father’s Day – but I didn’t get around to it *sigh* Being sick off and on for three weeks has not been good for my blogging schedule!

Regardless of the timing, this simple salad is delicious and hearty enough to stand against any meat filled concoction you might run into at an omni cookout – and filling and tasty enough to made anybody (dad included) feel full and satisfied after digging in.

Steak Salad

1 lb lacinato/dinosaur kale, stemmed

1/2 – 1 avocado

1 pt cherry tomatoes

2 lg portobello caps, stemmed, ribbed, and sliced

1/2 – 1 lemon, juiced

Seasonings to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, etc.)

First, stem and clean your kale. Then massage it with the avocado. Really get in there and mash it all around. Rub it with your fingers under the kale is a bit wilted and the avocado is well incorporated. Arrange massaged kale on a serving platter or large plate. Then, slice tomatoes in half and place them artfully over the kale. Finally, slice the portobello caps into thick slices and arrange on top of the tomatoes. Finally, dress the salad with freshly squeezed lemon and whatever seasonings you like. (I like salt, pepper and a little dried oregano.)

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Join our Raw Fusion Rest group on Facebook for this month’s challenge – lowering the fat in your high-raw, vegan diet.

 

Spring into Healthier Eating: Peace Salad Party!

First things first…The winner of the Plant Powered 15 by Dreena Burton is Bex of How to Feed a Vegan. Congratulations, Bex!

Now, onto my  next Spring into Healthier Eating review…Peace Salad. Have you heard of this yet? I hadn’t either until I received an email from my only real-life vegan friend (as opposed to my virtual vegan friends – ha!) asking if I wanted to have a Peace Salad party. Um…sure?

Peace Salad is the newest brainchild of raw-food, vegan blogger, Sandy Henson Corso, the owner of  Peaceful Daily and Sandy’s Salad.

In the book, Sandy lists 100 tips for peace. Practiced together, they’re like a salad 🙂

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To celebrate the book, people are hosting Peace Salad parties all over, so we did, too!

Last Saturday night, we gathered a few friends and enjoyed some lively conversation over an abundance of vegan eats and treats. Ok, there were also some vegetarian cupcake there, but they were from a small business down the street, so at least we were supporting local business 😉

Check out this spread!

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Ellen, the hostess of the party, made some of her favorite party foods, including this macaroni salad (from the Forks Over Knives cookbook (I gave her that book as a Christmas gift ;-))) and those crispy apple muffins in the background (from the Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook).

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Ellen also made her famous bruchetta (with a pesto recipe from The Kind Diet) and this super delicious cheeze dip (made with Teeze, soy cherizo, and spicy tomatoes). We couldn’t stop eating this stuff!

Someone else brought giant vegan cupcakes from a local restaurant, and someone else brought hummus and tabouli from a local artisan.

There was also lots of wine!

I brought a giant pan of raw vegan brownies, using my Brown Batter Bites recipes, and frosted them with chocolate cashew cream (made by blending cashews, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and a little date soaking water – left over from the date paste I used in the Brownie Batter Bites).

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And a bunch of Gabby’s Pizza Bites.

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The mixture was so massive, I had to bust out the beast – my 13 cup Kitchen Aid food processor.

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And I made this giant bowl of Asian Rice Noodle Salad, which got rave reviews!

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Here’s the recipe!

Asian Noodle Salad

1 pkg rice noodles, cooked according to package directions (I used Brown Rice Noodles)

1 sm pkg shelled edamame (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 c shredded carrot

1 small bunch scallions, diced on the diagonal (white and green parts)

2-3 TBSP toasted sesame oil (more or less to taste)

1/4  c tamari (more or less to taste)

Cook noodles according to package directions, and allow to cool. Mix noodles, edamame, carrots, and scallions in a bowl. Add sesame oil and tamari and toss to combine. Add more sesame oil and tamari to taste, or after noodle salad sits for a while. (My suggestion is to make this salad ahead, and let it sit in the refrigerator to allow flavors to meld.)

So easy, and soooo good!

I hope you decide to have a Peace Salad party, too. It’s a great excuse to gather your friends and family and share your ideas on peace and happiness while you enjoy some peaceful, vegan goodies. Enjoy!

 

Raw Coconut Caramel Dippers & a Raw Foods DVD Contest

I’ve been obsessed with raw caramel dipping sauces lately. Seriously. Check out these awesome, easy recipes!

Raw Caramel Sauce

5 jumbo medjool dates (or 8 regular size fruits)

1-3 tsp vanilla extract (I use alcohol free)

splash water

Blend dates, water, and vanilla in a small, bullet style blender until smooth. Drizzle over or apples or other tart fruits.

Raw Caramel Sauce

5 jumbo medjool dates (or 8 regular sized fruits)

1-3 tsp vanilla extract (I use alcohol free)

1 TBSP raw cacao powder (or carob powder for a chocolate-free sauce)

splash water (start with 1 tbsp)

Add all ingredients to a bullet style blender cup and blend until smooth. Dip apple slices into caramel or drizzle over your favorite fruit, pancakes, toast, etc.

Raw Coconut Caramel Dippers

5 jumbo medjool dates (or 8 regular size fruits)

1-3 tsp vanilla extract (I use alcohol free)

1-2 TBSP shredded coconut (super fine shred works best)

splash water (about 1 TBSP)

Add all ingredients to bullet style blender cup and blend until incorporated. Coconut will not blend until smooth, but will blend enough to create an awesome dipping sauce for apples, banana skewers, strawberries, or even stuffed into whole, pitted dates.

Are you familiar with the works of Jennifer Cornbleet? I have two of her books and absolutely love them! Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People and Raw for Dessert: Easy Delights for Everyone are both amazing, and I have been drooling over Jennifer’s videos on her YouTube channel for months.  Guess what…Jennifer has a new DVD that’s releasing next month, but you can enter to win a free copy! She’s giving away one DVD each week, so even if you don’t win this week, you still have another chance 🙂 Enter to win today; I did!

Jennifer Cornbleet has just released an excellent new DVD that’s loaded with
tips and recipes to make eating well a breeze no matter how busy you are.
It’s full of time-saving techniques and dishes that taste great and will
keep your body energized.
Throughout the month of November, you can enter to win a copy for free! For
more information, and to enter to win, click here

gRAWnola

I finally did it; I made gRAWnola!

After reading a lot of recipes for raw granola, I finally settled on a combination I thought would suit me. And it did 🙂

gRAWnola

1 c buckwheat groats, soaked

1 c almonds, soaked

1/2 c pumpkin seeds, soaked

1/2 c sunflower seeds, soaked

1 TBSP hemp seeds, heaping (not soaked)

1 c dates, soaked

1 TBSP (or more) date soaking water

1/4 c raisins, organic

1/4 c currants, organic

Optional add-ins: cinnamon, dash salt, cacao nibs, vanilla, other seasonings

First, make the date paste by blending the soaked dates and about 1TBSP of the date soaking water. (Use more if necessary.) You want the paste to be thick, but not too thick. It’s going to be used to make everything stick together. (NOTE: If you want to add a touch of vanilla flavor to your gRAWnola, add it to the date paste.)

Rinse and drain the buckwheat groats very well. Add them to a bowl. Add the rinsed and drained almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds to the same bowl. Add the raisins, currents, and hemp seeds to the bowl. Add any additional seasonings at this time. Finally, add the date paste, and stir to combine. Spread mixture onto dehydrator mesh sheets in a thin enough layer so nuts and seeds aren’t on top of each other, but not so thin that mixture isn’t sticking together. (If your gRAWnola contents are too small and fall through the mesh sheets, start your gRAWnola on a teflexx/paraflexx sheet, and transfer it to a mesh sheet after a few hours. To transfer, lay a mesh sheet on top of the teflexx/paraflexx sheet and flip.) Dehydrate for about an hour at 145F and at 110-115 for about 12 more hours.

Taste test your gRAWnola along the way. You might want it a bit chewier or a little more crisp. Dehydrate accordingly.

Oven directions: If you don’t have dehydrator or don’t want to use one, place your mixture on a parchment lined baking sheet (or use a Silpat) and bake at the lowest temperature your oven will accommodate until the mixture has reached the appropriate consistency. Check the mixture after two hours and then at least hourly after that. I haven’t tried this method, but I assume it will take at least 2-3 hours. (Kale chips done this way take 4-7 hours in my oven, which goes down to 170F.) Your gRAWnola won’t be raw anymore, but it will still be delicious!

Store your gRAWnola in an air-tight container. I have the best luck with a zip-top plastic bag (even better than a glass jar or glass bowl). Try eating it alone or with your favorite non-dairy milk.

Nut/Seed Free Options: Change up your add-ins! Don’t want to use nuts? Don’t! Don’t want to use seeds? Don’t! No hemp seeds? No problem! Try chia seeds, flax seeds or meal, sesame seeds, or don’t include any tiny seeds. The extra omega 3’s are nice, but not necessary.

Date Paste

Sharing is good manners…Wellness Weekends, Raw Food Thursdays, Healthy Vegan Fridays

Success! Plants2Plate Recap

Well, I did it. I successfully completed my first community presentation…and it went great!

About 45-50 people attended Plants2Plant: An Introduction to a Plant-Based Diet last Tuesday evening, May 15.  We had a nice mix of attendees, with about half of the people comprised of community members and the other half were members of the Masons and their wives. (Freemasonry is a men’s organization dedicated to philanthropic and community endorses – much to the dismay of conspiracy theorists – ha!)

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I made enough food to feed about 100 people. Apparently, I can cook for 1 or 100 – but nothing in between!

On the menu: Quinoa Salad, Cool Slaw, Bean & Lentil Chili, Vegetable Chowder, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Dark Chocolate Mocha Chunk Cookies, Sunbutter Double Nut Cookies, Tropical Trail-Mix Cookies, Coconut Butter Cookies with Mix-Ins, and spa water (lemon, lime or cucumber). There was so much food left over (no cookies though!)  that participants were able to take food home 🙂 I’m soooo glad we decided to purchase some to-go containers!

Picture courtesy of my friend, Cherie Bullock-Myslinkky

After people got their food and got settled in, eating away, I began my presentation. The venue wasn’t the greatest  (Is a basement ever the best place to do a presentation??), but I kept everyone’s attention…for entire hour and half! I didn’t expect to talk that long, but I had so much important information to share! Plus, the teacher in me took over, and I got caught up in my love for lecturing. (Side note: I may be the only person on earth who has a love for listening to and engaging in lectures. But c’mon, a room full of people’s undivided attention?? That’s a dream come true! Ha ha ha)

I tried to encourage questions from the group, and a few people obliged. I love that people were actually listening! My friends in the audience said it seemed a though the people around them were intently listening, and Mr. M said some ladies seated near him were taking notes. Woohoo!

Robin, my hair stylist, posted one of my flyers in her shop!

I even managed to sell 9 copies of my eBook, which I burned on to CDs for the event. Nice! I included all of the recipes on my blog (all original Veggie V recipes), organized them by category, included a photo for all but a couple, and saved them in a PDF. It turned out really nice! I’m going to sell copies on here as soon as I make it look a little nicer.

I also passed out a flyer (Veggie V Can You Help Me?!) promoting my plant-based health coaching services. I would LOVE to help people get started on or continue their plant-based diet (and lifestyle!). I’ve done some research, and nobody is offering that type of service in my area. There are a few people in Columbus and Ann Arbor, but both are well over an hour away. I don’t think we’d competition for each other with face-to-face coaching, and there’s always room for web-based coaches. Everyone offers their unique views on our wondrous vegan journey.

I’m also VERY interested in presenting to area community organizations. I have some great contacts through friends and coworkers, so I’ll be working on all of those avenues in the very near future. I’ll keep you posted!

I’m so excited at the prospect of sharing my love for all things vegan/plant-based. I’ve been wanting to figure out a way to do this forever, and now some roads to reaching people are becoming visible. I can’t wait to travel down them and see what awaits!

Product Review: Almond Coconut Milk

I don’t do product reviews/endorsements very often, but I couldn’t resist this one. I had seen Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze Almond Coconut milk talked about on a few of my favorite blogs a couple of months ago, but, as usual, it hadn’t showed up at my local grocery store yet. Until last week, that is.

Score!

I debated on buying this product because it needs to be refrigerated, which means the shelf life is usually less than aseptic packaged non-dairy milks, and I don’t go through it quickly. But after all the fuss, I couldn’t resist. I’m so glad I did!

I’ve been drinking this milk straight from the carton. That’s crazy weird for me. It honestly reminds me of coconut flavored cow milk, which would normally send me running to the trash, but for some reason, this really  hits the spot. I’ve been making rich desserts just to have an excuse to drink my new favorite beverage!

Update: After a week in the fridge, this milk is ready to go. Bummer. While the same “use within 7 days of opening” statement is on every carton of non-dairy milk (aseptic packaging or otherwise), it seems as though the shelf-stable cartons stay fresh longer after they’re open. Oh well. I’m still in love with coconut-almond milk and will happily buy it again 🙂