I have noticed more and more people telling me that they use almond milk instead of dairy milk, and I see quite a few reasons why. First of all, lactose-intolerance is a real thing and almond milk (or other plant milks) doesn’t have lactose in it because it doesn’t come from cows. Second, a lot of people have told me they simply prefer the taste of almond milk to dairy milk. Especially now that there are SO MANY plant-based milk options, I’m sure you can find one that suits your taste. Last but not least, marketers have totally caught on to the appeal of plant-based eating. The sales of plant milks have increased 61% since 2012, and the sales of dairy milk have dropped by 15%. I would say this is thanks to the increase in visibility and marketing for plant-based milks – marketers are making them seem way more trendy and healthy than dairy milk (and I don’t really have a problem with that).
On second thought…
On the whole, I’m really happy with the whole spectrum of veganized dairy products that are out there, from milks, to cheese, to yogurt. It signals more interest and buy-in to veganism, and I’m all for that. I repeat, almond milk is still better for you and the planet than dairy milk. However, there is something not so wholesome about a lot of these plant-based dairy alternative products – carageenan and xanthan gum. These ingredients are used as thickeners to help dairy free products reach the level of structure and stability you would get from casein (protein found in dairy milk). Scientifically, I think it’s rad that we can create substances that mimic others. But in health terms, carageenan and xanthan gum may be causing some of the most common daily health complaints.
The Low-Down on Almond Milk Additives¹
Carageenan – food additive derived from algae, used to thicken and emulsify, causes inflammation and pain in intestines and elsewhere in the body.
Xanthan Gum – a carbohydrate secreted from bacteria, mixed with sugars to form a gummy substance that is dried and powdered to make a food elasticizer (adds stretch to cheeses and breads). Often mixed with corn, lactose, wheat, and soy sugars, which are some of the most common allergens. Causes bloating and gas, as well as an increase in the amount of water held in intestines and intestinal cells and a decrease in the absorption rate of intestines (a big deal because because that is where nutrients move from food cells to our body cells)!
Why I’m Mad About Almond Milk
People drink almond milk to feel better. Whether they are lactose-intolerant or vegan, people turn to almond milk as a healthy alternative to dairy. And come to find out, there are ingredients in it that are actively causing the symptoms we are trying to avoid? What’s especially deceptive is that xanthan gum contains small amounts of corn, lactose, wheat, and soy which hundreds of thousands of people are allergic to. I have issues with bloating and indigestion, and vegan friends of mine do as well. I am hoping that cutting out products with carageenan and xanthan gum can help us all have less stomach aches, inflammation, and bloating. Because nobody grabs for almond milk and expects to get a stomach ache from it and then not even be able to absorb nutrients like they should.
What To Do About It
When I read about all this, I immediately went to my kitchen and found xantham gum in my flax milk. This prompted me to commit to make my own almond milk, and I am so happy with the taste, texture, and ease of making it! Not to mention I know exactly what’s in it AND it’s cheaper to make it yourself than buy almond milk at the store.
As always, The Minimalist Baker saves the day. I used her recipe for almond milk and it couldn’t have been easier. My blender is anything but high powered, and I was still able to make creamy almond milk in about 5 minutes of work. The hardest part is waiting for the almonds to soak! And in case you’re wondering (like I was), cheesecloth is reusable! Just wash it with soap and hang to dry.
¹ “Vegan Cheeses.” The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life, by Michelle Schoffro Cook, New World Library, 2017.