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.
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!
It’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