You know all those Got Milk ads right? I like them. I wish they would say Got Almond Milk? I don’t normally drink cow’s milk but the vision of a glass milk just appeals to me. It always looks so refreshing and healthy. It tastes great and has lots of nutrients. I would probably give my kid cow’s milk if I had one (not chocolate milk which has too much added sugar). Instead of cow’s milk I drink cashew milk or almond-coconut milk….the store bought kind. Now herein lies the problem…..
There are tons of websites telling you to stay away from milk of the almond, cashew, coconut variety (In this article I will refer to all of these as “almond milk” most of the time). For example, there are articles with titles like “If you know anyone who buys almond milk, tell them to stop immediately!” and “Almond milk is a rip off”. Even the very popular Dr. Mercola discourages drinking almond milk. I agree….sometimes.
Store bought almond milk usually has very little nutritional value. They usually contain very little almonds or cashews or coconut, etc. But guess what? I like them anyway. In fact, I like them a lot and I’ll tell you why I do.
This picture shows what’s in my weekday breakfast, and the main part of my weekday dinner. It’s packed with nutrients! It tastes great! Its base is usually Silk Unsweetened Cashew Milk or Silk Unsweetened Almond-Coconut Blend Milk. No, I don’t care if there is only a tiny amount of cashews in my cashew milk or very little almonds in my almond-coconut milk. I use this milk because it has no sugar, very little calories, has a relatively neutral flavour and most importantly it helps to add thickness and creaminess to my delicious smoothies.
My smoothies contain tons of nutrient dense ingredients so I don’t care if the liquid base I use is lacking in nutrient value. What’s in my smoothie?
- A lot of either spinach or kale; I grab a handful…maybe more
- Vanilla whey protein powder
- About ½ of an English cucumber
- 2 tbsp. of hemp seeds or flax seeds
- 2 heaping tsp. of blueberries
- 1 cup of cashew milk or almond-coconut milk
(I also add vitamin C powder, Iodine, Magnesium to my breakfast smoothie)
I could make a smoothie with water as many people do. The difference between a water based smoothie and my cashew milk base smoothie is that my smoothie is thicker and creamier. It is delicious!
I even use almond milk to make omelettes and scrambled eggs. I also use almond milk in my coffee in place of cream. I go through about 2 cartons of almond milk each week.
Check out the ingredients in Silk Unsweetened Cashew Milk. Most of the ingredients are simple recognizable ingredients and these are healthy. The questionable ones are usually Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan, Locust Bean Gum and Gellan Gum.
Here is what you need to know about the questionable ones.
Locust Bean Gum: Derived from the seeds of the carob tree. Studies have shown that Locust Bean Gum has beneficial health effects on diabetes, colon cancer, bowel movements and heart disease.
Guar Gum: Guar gum is a dietary fiber derived from the seeds of Guar or Cluster Bean plants. Mainly used as a thickening, emulsifying and stabilizing agent in food products. It has been said that consumption of Guar Gum in large amounts can cause digestive issues like leaky gut and that large amounts of Guar Gum interferes with mineral absorption. Studies have also shown Guar Gum has positive effects on diabetes, colon cancer and heart disease.
Xantham Gum: Xanthum gum is a hydrocolloid (a water-binding carbohydrate) produced via fermentation of simple sugars by the bacterium Xanthamonas campestris. It is generally used as a stabilizing and thickening agent in food products and consuming up to 15 grams is considered safe. I found no information indicating a cause for concern if you consume under 15 grams per day.
Carrageenan: Often used as a thickener and stabilizing agent in food products. There are two types of Carrageenan: Undegraded Carrageenan and degraded Carageenan. Undegraded Carrageen is approved for use in food products, while degraded Carrageenan is not. Studies have found that it can cause inflammation and is linked to gastrointestinal diseases in animals, however it appears that most of these studies were done with degraded Carrageen.
Gellan Gum: Gellan Gum like xanthan gum is produced by bacterial fermentation. Not many studies have been done on Gellan Gum but one study on humans found no negative side effects. However, one study conducted on lab rats showed negative effects to the microvilli of the small intestines. To be honest I don’t find this alarming as I think the amount in almond milk would be too small to cause any harm.
To sum up my thoughts on almond milk:
- Unsweetened almond milk is a “non-unhealthy” drink
- Don’t use it for its nutritional content
- The questionable ingredients aren’t so questionable, in fact for the most part they have health benefits
- Use it to add thickness and creaminess to your smoothies
- It’s low in calories and sugar
- It’s great for someone watching their weight. Read my article on how to lose weight
Children and Cow’s Milk and the General Health Benefits of Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk has a lot of health benefits especially for growing children, but the cow’s milk I’m talking about here is he whole milk kind, not the low fat version. It is a good source of complete protein, calcium, vitamin D and B12. The sugar in cow’s milk is natural; it is 100% lactose. Your body does not process lactose the same way it does table sugar so if you are watching your sugar intake you can be a little less horrified at the average 13 grams of sugar per cup, however if you are lactose intolerant cow’s milk is not for you. All that being said, you can get the nutrients that are in cow’s milk from many other sources.
In conclusion, while store bought almond milk may not be packed full of nutritional value it is not an unhealthy milk option, as long as you select the unsweetened versions. If you are not trying to substitute for the nutritional value derived from cow’s milk or milk made with lots of almonds or other nuts there is no need to stop having it. Put away all the alarm bells and enjoy your store bought almond milk!
If you find you just cannot live with yourself if the almond milk you are drinking is not nutrient dense then I suggest making it….or getting someone to make it for you :). A very good friend of mine said it’s easy to make and the recipes/instructions I’ve found do look simple. Here’s a good short video on how to make almond milk . I may just try it one day. Alternatively, you could just have a glass of cow’s milk.
So, Got Milk? I have the lacking in nutritional value kind and I love it!
Live Healthy…Be Happy,
NB* The items listed in this article as ingredients used in store bought almond milk is not exhaustive as other ingredients can be used in different brands of almond milk and my opinion of almond milk not having harmful effects on health is solely based on the ingredients listed in this article.
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