For several years after I stopped drinking soy milk, I bought almond milk at my local grocery store, and consumed it regularly, until one day I read the label, and noticed the brand I used contain soy lecithin and carrageenan. I stopped drinking also commercial nut milks and began making my own, because making them is easy, cheaper, and I knew what I was putting into the beverage.
Almond milk is a healthy beverage that is touted by many health advisers for its nutritional benefits. Known since the Middle Ages, almond milk has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years as it has become more widely available. Almond milk is traditionally made from almonds and water. However, many commercially available forms of almond milk contain a substance called carrageenan. Carrageenan is made from red seaweed and is added to the almond milk to thicken and to stabilize the liquid.
What is Almond Milk?
Almond milk is made by blending almonds and water and then straining the mixture. Sweeteners are sometimes added. In 2014, almond milk surpassed soy milk in popularity. Almond milk contains about 90 calories per eight-ounce cup. It has no saturated fats or cholesterol and is lactose-free. Almond milk contains half of the daily requirement of vitamin E and a good dose of vitamin D, but it contains very little protein. With its creamy, nut-like taste, almond milk is a good alternative to milk in coffee and cereal. Its low calorie content makes it a good food for dieters and those who are lactose intolerant. People who regularly drink almond milk are advised to ensure that they get adequate protein from other plant or animal sources.
Problems with Commercial Almond Milk
With sales exceeding $854 million in 2014, almond milk is becoming a standard milk replacement. One of the problems with commercial almond milk is that it contains only 2 percent almonds. In fact, some of the labels on the commercial varieties list more sweeteners than almonds in the mixture. The labeling laws currently allow companies to use additives instead of the nutritious almonds that consumers expect. For a half-gallon of almond milk, about 144 to 192 almonds are needed; however, only 38 to 50 almonds are used per half-gallon by both Blue Diamond and Silk almond milk. Instead of almonds, the product is thickened with carrageenan, which is void of nutrients. Recently, WhiteWave and Blue Diamond stated they would be removing carrageenan from their products.
Carrageenan’s Harmful Health Effects
Carrageenan is known to cause numerous health problems, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. Research has shown that exposure to carrageenan could cause ulcers in the colon and possibly even contribute to GI cancers. In 1972, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considered a restriction on dietary carrageenan, but no regulation was put into effect, which means that manufacturers are free to use this product at their discretion.
First used as a food additive in the 1930s, carrageenan is also used as a laxative, a treatment for peptic ulcers, and in toothpaste, room deodorizers, pesticides, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical drugs. In 1959, carrageenan was granted GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status. It easily combines with milk proteins and has been used as a substitute for fats in food. It can be found in cottage cheese, whipped cream, ice cream, infant formulas and processed meats.
Nutritional Benefits of Almond Milk
Almond milk is a dairy-free and lactose-free beverage that serves as a healthy alternative to cow’s milk. It contains the same health benefits as almonds, containing nutrients such as vitamin E, riboflavin, protein and fiber. Almonds also help with heart health because they contain monounsaturated fats, which are good for the heart. Research has shown a 45 percent reduction in the risk of heart disease by replacing dairy sources of saturated fats with nuts.
How to Make Your Own Almond Milk
Making almond milk is very simple. Here’s a link to a sites with recipes and directions: