Whether you have trouble digesting dairy or have a true allergy or sensitivity, you may be turning to alternative milk sources for your morning bowl of cereal, smoothie or coffee. Enter, almond milk, which has become increasingly popular as a dairy substitute. We wanted to address some of the misguided health perceptions surrounding the benefits of almond and as well as other non-dairy nut milks.
For starters, almond milk actually provides little if any of the whole almond’s glowing qualities such as fiber, healthy fat, protein, magnesium or other minerals, and antioxidants. But that’s not all.
Here’s our take on the topic:
We decided to break the criticism of almond milk into a few different issues.
- Added sugar: The amount of sugar added to the majority of the brands contain from 7 – 16 grams of added sugar. That equates to about 2-4 teaspoons per cup. Ouch! It’s vitally important to reduce added sugar content as sugar contributes to inflammation, heart disease, and weight issues. There is no need to get an extra 2-4 teaspoons in your almond milk. Fortunately, you can always find an unsweetened version. Look at the Nutrition Facts panel which should have no more than 1 gram of sugar per serving.
- Carageenen: Many brands of almond and other nut milks contain an additive called carageenan (a processed seaweed), which can cause digestive issues. Be sure to look for brands that do NOT contain this additive. We favor Silk, Califia and Tree of Life as a few decent options. You can find more options by looking here.
- Synthetic vitamins: Almost all brands contain synthetic forms of Vitamin A and D (D2 vs D3), which are not the best ways to absorb these nutrients. There is one select brand we found that avoids added supplements, from a company called The New Barn. Check your local health food store for other brands that may be available locally.
- Gums: Most brands also contain added gums, such as guar or locust gum, which are used to keep the milk from separating. Though most people tolerate these well, some people who have severe digestive issues may not do well with these additives.
As you can see, almond milk is not without its flaws. However, you will note that we often do use almond milk in some of our recipes, though it is NOT to get the benefit of almonds.
Here’s why we DO sometimes use it:
- Many people do not tolerate milk (in fact dairy is one of the top food groups people are sensitive to).
- Most milks are from cows that are not 100% grass fed, which is what cows should be eating. Cows that are 100% grass fed are much healthier (translation, the milk from grass fed cows will be healthier).
- Cows that are not 100% grass fed are often given feed that is often tainted with GMO’s, pesticides and hormones that do not benefit our health.
- There have been numerous studies linking the consumption of too much dairy and disease, so we do try to limit it.
FYI, almond milk is not the only dairy alternative milk with these flaws. Any trip down a supermarket aisle and you will see many different kinds of milks, from almond and cashew to flax, hemp and oat milks. Each should be evaluated for the same criteria, as they all can fall into similar traps.
For a truly clean milk, check out our simple homemade almond milk recipe here:
- 1 cup raw almonds (or cashews, etc, soaked for 8 hours or overnight)
- 4 cups filtered water
- 1 teaspoon liquid sweetener to taste, like maple syrup or honey (optional, would make sugar 1 g/serving)
- Dash sea salt
Take your soaked almonds (throw away the soaking water) and place them in a blender. Add the 4 cups of fresh water. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes until the almonds are ground down. Pour your almond milk into a nut milk bag* over a large bowl or wide mouthed pitcher. Squeeze the bag so that the milk flows through the bag and into the bowl. The almond pulp should be left inside the bag. Sweeten your milk if desired, and add a dash of sea salt. Pour your milk into a container and place it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. The milk should last 4 to 5 days before spoiling.
*NOTE: Don’t have a nut milk bag? Try a clean, white T-shirt or the leg of a pair of nude pantyhose (unused, of course) instead.