Granted, vegan milk has its health benefits over cow’s milk, but do you actually know what you’re consuming when you drink the processed product?
Let’s review some of the most common additives in ready-made almond milk so that you can make the best health choice when you choose which brand to buy.
Carrageenan is an additive used to create an even, creamy texture in food. Although it is derived from seaweed, which sounds pretty healthy, studies have shown that carrageenan causes inflammation in the body. Research on the effects of this additive is not at all conclusive, but based on studies thus far, I highly recommend avoiding almond milk that contains carrageenan.
Gellan gum is a much better option than carrageenan. It is similar to xanthan gum in that it is a thickener/emulsifier, produced by bacterial fermentation. To test the safety of gellan gum in humans, the diets of ten volunteers were supplemented with gellan gum at approximately 30 times the level of normal dietary exposure for 23 days. No adverse effects were reported. However, a rat study with gellan gum supplemented at 5% of the diet for 4 weeks resulted in abnormalities in intestinal microvilli. This rat study, as well as the lack of overall data, calls for caution, so I recommend avoiding gellan gum if you have a particularly sensitive gut. That said, the small amount found in your almond milk is unlikely to cause a problem, but it’s still best to avoid if possible.
Xanthan gum is harmless in small quantities as in your almond milk. There are few human studies out on this additive, but again, if you have a particularly sensitive digestive system, you may want to steer clear due to its structural similarities to gellan gum. Note that excess consumption of chewing gum made with xantham gum (15 or more per day) can lead to diarrhea.
Acacia gum or gum arabic is a natural gum derived from the sap of the acacia tree. This gum appears to be your best option as far as thickening agents in almond milk. The “New Barn” brand makes an almond milk with organic acacia gum, and what’s more, you can count the rest of their ingredients on one hand!
Dipotassium phosphate is usually considered harmless in small amounts. Some studies show that it can lead to potassium imbalances. It’s an inorganic compound, so if you can steer clear, by all means do, but 1 cup of milk containing a tad bit of this chemical should not lead to any adverse reactions.
Synthetic vitamins, in general, are best avoided as processed products don’t contain natural co-factors to allow the body to assimilate these synthetically produced vitamins. In particular, opt for almond milks that are free of Vitamin A Palmitate (synthetic version of vitamin A).
Tricalcium phosphate is simply a supplemental form of calcium, all good!
To sum it all up? Read your labels: the less ingredients, and the more ingredients you can identify, the better. And if you REALLY want to know what’s in your almond milk, make your own at home! Here is my favorite recipe, courtesy of LeBootCamp :).
Homemade Almond Milk
To your health!
Your Weight Loss & Wellness Coach