Non-Dairy Milk – why they’re not all healthy!

Recently someone pointed out to me all the not so fabulous additives in Almond and Coconut milk.  I started doing some digging and just because something is “dairy-free” doesn’t mean it’s good for you! Do your homework people and read those labels.

So, what is so bad about it? Almost all the brands I looked at had carrageenan which is an additive used primarily as a thickening and stabilizing agent. This is why it will last 2-3 weeks on the shelf instead of  3-5 days. Companies try to make you believe it is healthy because it is derived from red seaweed, but it still goes through a rigorous chemical process. Carrageenan has no nutritional value and has been known to cause gastrointestinal inflammation and even colon cancer in animals – eek!  A 2012 study showed that mice given food-grade carrageenan in the diet exhibited impaired glucose tolerance and increased insulin resistance.¹  There is evidence from studies performed on rats, guinea pigs, and monkeys that indicates that food-grade carrageenan may cause ulcerations in the gastro-intestinal tract and promote (though not initiate) the development of gastro-intestinal cancer.²  People with (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) IBS are cautioned to avoid products with carrageenan.

What else is in there?? Synthetic vitamins, which are really the chemical version of real vitamins – processed and therefore not as good for you.  Also, “natural flavours” which  you may think are good for you as they do contain a natural part of a plant they are named after but also contain a bunch of other ingredients (such as food colors, preservatives, sweetening agents, etc).

My go-to brand had been Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla, and what sneaky little ingredients are in there? Yup. You guessed it, all of the above. Here are some screen shots of a few popular brands. I apologize for the picture quality, but if you click on the photo it will enlarge it for maximum readability.

Almond Breeze Shelf Stable

Almond Breeze Shelf Stable

So Delicious Coconut Milk

So Delicious Coconut Milk

Silk True Almond Unsweetened Vanilla - Shelf Stable

Silk True Almond Unsweetened Vanilla Shelf Stable

Silk Pure Almond Original Refrigerated

Silk Pure Almond Original Refrigerated

There are brands out there that do not contain carrageenan such as Whole Foods 365 organic almond milk and Silk’s Almond Milk (above). However, the problem with Silk is that they are owned by Dean Food’s — one of the biggest dairy companies in the world so you’re still supporting the dairy industry – personal choice I guess! Here is a great website that lists all the products that contain or do not contain carrageenan. I’m sure you’d be surprised at the products listed on there.

So, what is a health freak to do? Well, make your own that’s what! It is surprisingly easy, cheaper (although it does depend on your ingredients) and free of chemicals and additives.  I did it at home with a regular kitchen blender and it worked out great. Be sure to check back tomorrow; I will be posting the recipe!
photo 2It’s a wild and crazy world out there and it’s unrealistic to think you can avoid ALL chemicals and additives. I just advise you to read your labels, do your homework and realize that many, many products we buy can just as easily be made at home without all the added junk. It may take a few more minutes of your time, but you are worth it!


1. Bhattacharyya S, O-Sullivan I, Katyal S, Unterman T and Tobacman JK (2012) Exposure to the common food additive carrageenan leads to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and inhibition of insulin signalling in HepG2 cells and C57BL/6J mice. Diabetologia 55(1): 194-203
2. Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments J. K. Tobacman. Environ Health Perspect. (2001) 109(10):983, Corpet DE, Taché S, and Préclaire M (1997) Carrageenan given as a jelly does not initiate, but promotes the growth of aberrant crypt foci in the rat colon. Cancer Letters 114:53–55


  • Kelly April 10, 2013 at 8:00 am

    and the great milk debate continues! For some reason my reply I put on your beet topic didn’t post!

    • thehappyhealthfreak April 10, 2013 at 8:34 am

      Hahah! Yes, it does! I’m making my own now, tastes better too 🙂

  • Anna April 10, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Thanks for the info! I was buying almond milk for a few weeks and then realized the one I was buying had about 2% almonds, and sugar was one of the top two ingredients!

    Looking forward to your post about home-made almond milk, when you post it could you also include how long it stores for?

  • Laura April 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Yikes!! What a bunch of unhappy surprises to discover!! I have to read the labels more than ever now because of my gluten intolerance, but I almost hate doing it! It makes me want to cook and bake everything — and I mean EVERYTHING — myself so I can relax about what I’m putting in my body!

    • thehappyhealthfreak April 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      I know! Pretty crazy huh!? I feel the same way. Heck, if it’s easy to do at home, why not?!? Yes, makes for a bit more work but in the end it’s worth it 🙂 Our bodies will thank us!

      • Laura April 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm

        I prepare every meal for that reason! But smaller items like crackers or cereal or yogurt I have to buy! (I guess I don’t HAVE to, but if I didn’t I’d be chained in the kitchen all week lol)

        • thehappyhealthfreak April 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm

          Yea, I hear ya. I saw a guy on Dr. Oz that made his on yogurt! I don’t think I’d go that far because it does look like quite the process! I’ve made my own gluten free crackers though: But these are a work in progress too!

          • Laura April 10, 2013 at 1:36 pm

            Those look pretty!!! lol, The ‘hardest’ thing I’ve ever tried was bread (which turned out awesome), and I think I’d like to impress the pants off of people if I served my own crackers lol

          • thehappyhealthfreak April 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

            I haven’t attempted bread yet! It scares me lol. The only reason is I really don’t eat bread that often, pitas on the other hand…I have tried a few recipes and they haven’t been the greatest. I’m still working on that one!

          • thehappyhealthfreak April 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm

            That’s awesome! Looks yummy! Your Nonna is adorable 🙂

          • thehappyhealthfreak April 10, 2013 at 1:48 pm

            My Mom is coming down in May and I’m looking forward to some Mother/Daughter cooking 🙂 Wish my G-ma was around to help too 🙁 that lady could cook!

          • Laura April 10, 2013 at 1:53 pm

            Yes, they seem to know all the secrets, don’t they? Hope you have fun cooking with your mom in May!! 🙂 I’ll look out for a blog post 😛

          • thehappyhealthfreak April 10, 2013 at 1:54 pm

            Thanks, will do! They are have a vast amount of knowledge and experience!!

  • massageworkslg April 10, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you for this post. I cannot drink cow’s milk and often wondered about the added ingredients in my almond or coconut milk. Very helpful information.
    Will be exploring other options and possibly making my own sounds like a great option!

    • thehappyhealthfreak April 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      It is very easy!! Check back tomorrow, I’ll have all the details for you 🙂

  • Marie May 6, 2013 at 9:01 am

    I drink ‘Yu’ Basmati Brown Rice Milk as it was the only one I could find without the ‘extra’ ingredients. It tastes great but is very expensive so will try making my own.

    • thehappyhealthfreak May 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

      I haven’t tried that one yet! Sounds yummy 🙂 But yes, it’s always cheaper to make you own, but maybe not always convenient.


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