It is estimated that nearly 50 million Americans have some degree of “lactose intolerance” As a result many people turn to the many “non dairy” milks available at the supermarket and health food stores. You can find “milks” made from soy, almonds, coconut and hemp to name a few.
While these milks may be beneficial for those who are truly lactose intolerant, they are not as nutritional valuable as you have been lead to believe.
One of the Most Processed “Health” Food
This is a billion dollar industry that has positioned themselves as a “healthy” alternative to cow’s milk, but the truth is they are some of the most processed in the so-called “health foods” industry.
During processing, seeds, nuts or grains are heated to high temperatures and sometimes extracted with chemical solvents (like hexane). The resulting product is one that bears little resemblance – nutritionally or visually – to cow’s milk. Consumers want a product that looks, tastes and flows like cow’s milk.
So along comes fortification …
Since most people buy dairy free milk as a substitute for cow’s milk, the companies often enrich their almond milks with Vitamin A and D and other ingredients which make the dairy free milk appear more similar to cow’s milk.
Here are the ingredients in 1 of the most popular Organic Almond Milk’s:
Pacific Organic Almond Milk Ingredients: Organic Almond Base (Filtered Water, Organic Almonds), Organic Rice Starch, Sea Salt, Organic Vanilla, Natural Flavor, Carrageenan, Riboflavin (B2) Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2
Let me tell you what bothers me the most…
Carrageenan… Do you really want to eat it?
Carrageenan is an additive derived from seaweed and is used as a stabilizer and thickener to give it a better consistency on your tongue. The FDA considers it safe but many scientists don’t agree.
Joanne K. Tobacman, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine,has published 18 peer-reviewed studies that address the biological effects of carrageenan and is convinced that it is harmful to human health. In April 2012, she addressed the National Organic Standards Board on this issue and urged reconsideration of the use of carrageenan in organic foods.
Dr. Tobacman said that her research has shown that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation.
The FDA denied a petition to re-examine the safety of carrageenan and it is still an approved ingredient in organic products, but a few companies like Stonyfield have pledged to reformulate their products that currently use the additive.
You can eat anything once in a while without harm, but I recommend avoiding regular consumption of foods containing carrageenan. This is especially important advice for persons with inflammatory bowel disease.
Adding in Vitamins D & A
While adding vitamins into the dairy free milk may seem like a good idea to make it more like cows milk, the truth is isolated, synthetic nutrients do not behave the same way in the body that naturally-occurring nutrients do. In fact, the synthetic forms of many nutrients can actually promote – not reduce – the risk of poor health and disease.
Consider 2 of the most common (synthetic) versions of vitamins commonly found in dairy-free milks:
Vitamin Dis one of the most important vitamins you need for long term health. Studies show it reduces the risk of chronic disease including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more. Vitamin D3 is the form that occurs naturally. The type typically added to most non-dairy milks is vitamin D2 which is a synthetic version made by irradiating fungus.
A recent study of 94,000 people by the Cochrane Database on mortality rates showed those supplementing with vitamin D3 reduced their mortality rate by 6% and the people who supplemented with vitamin D2 increased their mortality rate by 2%. This won’t kill you but it is something to be aware of.
Vitamin A Palmitate
Natural vitamin A (retinol) is a powerful antioxidant, with a wide range of health benefits. It originates from animal foods, including cod liver oil, liver, organ meats, butter, eggs and milk as well as vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and greens. We need Vitamin A and it is good for you. When you get it naturally from your food you will never get too much.
The problem is that in excess, the isolated chemical form (vitamin A palmitate) is associated with tumors, enlargement of the liver and spleen, joint disorders, osteoporosis, extreme dryness of eyes, mouth and skin, birth defects, and immune suppression.
Sweetened non-dairy milk has almost as much sugar as a cola.
If you buy processed non-dairy milk it is best to always get unsweetened as the sweetened ones are full of agave nectar, brown rice syrup or just sugar which brings the sugar content in an 8 oz serving to almost the same level as a cola
You can enjoy delicious whole food dairy free milks…
The good news is you can enjoy diary-free nut milks that are made purely from whole foods. almond or coconut milk. Homemade nut milks have high nutrient levels, a low glycemic index and a rich creamy taste.
I personally will choose to drink organic cows milk over the processed nut milks if those are my only 2 choices. I don’t have a lactose intolerance but I do limit my dairy because it is inflammatory.
To make homemade nut milks you will need a regular household blender or Vitamix and a nut bag or cheesecloth. You can see my video to see how to make it with the cheese cloth, it’s quite messy but it works. It is easier and less messy using a nut milk bag which can be found in many health food stores or online here.
For your own fresh dairy-free milk follow the easy, wholesome and delicious recipes below:
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 3 cups filtered water
- Place almonds in a bowl and cover with filtered water. Place in refrigerator and soak overnight (for 8-12 hours).
- Rinse and drain the almonds. Place into a blender along with 3 cups filtered water.
- Blend on high in a high speed blender (Vitamix) for 3 minutes or regular blender for 5 minutes..
- Place a nut milk bag or cheese cloth and strainer over a large bowl. Slowly pour the almond milk mixture into the bag.
- Gently squeeze the bag to release the milk.
- Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
- 1 cups unsweetened organic shredded coconut
- 2 cups filtered water
- Heat water in a saucepan to near boiling.
- Add hot water and shredded coconut to blender.
- Blend on high for 3 minutes until creamy.
- Pour mixture through a nut bag or a colander lined with a cheesecloth.
- Squeeze the cheesecloth well to extract coconut milk.
- Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.