If its omnipresent appearance in every caramel macchiato, golden milk latte, and iced coffee beverage posted to Instagram in the last year is any indication, non-dairy milk has taken the world by storm. While we’re not surprised by the surge in plant-centric alternatives — increased consumer awareness of the horrendous treatment of cows in the milk industry coupled with the rise in health conscious consumers (like you!) and the consequential decline in pasteurized milk sales, has compelled even the oldest dairy companies to go veg — you might be a little shocked when you find out what’s actually in most store-bought nut milks currently lining the shelves.
Take Pacific Foods almond milk for example. One of the few USDA certified organic brands on the market. Their non-GMO verified Unsweetened Almond Original flavor contains:
Pacific Unsweetened Almond Original: Almond Base* (Water, Almonds*)*, Rice Starch*, Sea Salt, Vanilla*, Natural Flavor, Carrageenan, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin (B2m), and Vitamin A Palmitate.
* = Indicates Organic
Or So Delicious. Their carrageenan-free, unsweetened almond milk beverage includes:
So Delicious Unsweetened Almondmilk: Almondmilk (filtered water, almonds), contains 2% or less of: vitamin and mineral blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2), Sea Salt, Natural Flavor, Sunflower Lecithin, Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum, Ascorbic Acid (to protect flavor).
Or Starbucks, who recently appropriated their own almond milk formulation called, ‘Almondmilk’.
Starbucks Almondmilk: Filtered water, Almonds, Sugar, Tricalcium Phosphate, Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Vitamin A palmitate, Vitamin D2.
Starbucks Coconut Milk: Water, Coconut Cream, Cane Sugar, Tricalcium Phosphate, Coconut Water Concentrate, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Carrageenan, Gellan Gum, Corn Dextrin, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2.
Starbucks Organic Vanilla Soymilk: [Organic Soymilk (Filtered Water, Whole Organic Soybeans), Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Vanilla Flavor, Sea Salt, Carrageenan, Sodium Citrate, Baking Soda, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12].
Taste aside (which is of course a factor, too) here’s how these ingredient lists breakdown.
Controversial additives, unnecessary microbe irritating preservatives, and chemical stabilizers.
Carrageenan – Carrageenan is used as a thickening agent, stabilizer, and/or emulsifier in many packaged foods including dairy-substitutes like non-dairy milks, yogurts, and ice creams. Although carrageenan seems harmless at first glance (it’s derived from red seaweed), research links carrageenan to gastrointestinal inflammation, lesions, and even colon cancer in animals. Although there are no conclusive studies in regards to human consumption of carrageenan, we avoid it, always and many mainstream brands are following suit. Silk, Almond Breeze, and So Delicious have all removed (or are currently in the process of removing) carrageenan from their products.
Consumer warning: carrageenan is still found at Starbucks (coconut and soy milk) and in Pacific Foods non-dairy milks. Always read labels when purchasing any kind of packaged food!
Xanthan Gum, Gellan Gum, Locust Bean Gum and Guar Gum – Like carrageenan, xanthan gum, gellan gum, locust bean gum, guar gum and likely any other gum you see on a food label are used as thickening agents. While they appear to be relatively harmless and safe for adult human consumption (according to the FDA** not us), they’re widely known to cause stomach issues like bloating, gas, and diarrhea in people who have sensitive digestive systems. Not to mention, these gums and emulsifiers are actually considered antinutrients because they reduce the absorbability of dietary minerals like calcium.
**NOTE: Xanthan gum is not safe for infants. It’s been linked to cause potentially fatal necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in babies under 12 months old and has been banned for use in formula by the FDA.
Speaking of xanthan gum, it’s derived from a variety of sources including common allergens like corn, wheat, dairy, or soy (food manufacturers don’t have to disclose the source unless you ask). As such, if you know you have a food allergy or sensitivity (especially if you are highly sensitive to gluten), it’s best to avoid foods with generic xanthan gum or determine the source of the xanthan gum, first.
Natural flavors – So many problems with “natural flavors.” First, they’re not natural. Both natural and artificial flavors are synthesized in laboratories. The difference is that artificial flavors come from petroleum and other inedible substances, while “natural flavors” can refer to anything that comes from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf — yes, we’re still going — meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or anything fermented from those foods.
Second, you have no idea what you’re getting. Flavorists, or “modern day Willy Wonka’s” as described in this tell-all Healthyish article, create natural flavors in a lab based on taste and taste alone. Once the flavorists develop the recipe for a flavor blend, it’s industrially manufactured at a production plant. Not to mention, all of these flavors are proprietary. Meaning the manufacturers are not under any legal obligation to disclose what’s in them as long as the chemicals are GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe by the FDA). And spoiler alert… natural blueberry flavor likely has zero traces of actual blueberry.
Added vitamins – On the onset we think, “fortified with vitamins, great!” However, similar to the natural flavors bit, added vitamins are almost always inferior, synthetic, low-grade quality simply added for commercial reasons (read: $$$).
Not only are added vitamins unnecessary, they can be harmful, potentially toxic, and cause nutrient imbalances forcing our kidneys and liver to work overtime. Take Vitamin D2 for example, which is not in fact, the bioavailable equivalent of Vitamin D3 or comparable to 10 minutes of natural sunlight. Nope. According to the The American Journal of Nutrition, “Vitamin D2 should not be regarded as a nutrient suitable for supplementation or fortification.”1
Not exactly the kinds of things we want floating around our cereal…
So how can you avoid potentially harmful additives and controversial ingredients?
Simply make your own.
Avoid unnecessary additives and controversial ingredients with your own homemade almond milk.
Fortunately, it’s super easy, way more cost effective, and plus, it’s the ONLY way you can be one hundred percent certain about what’s actually in it. Not to mention, when you make your own nut milk at home, you control the quantity, flavor, sweetness, and can customize it any way you want.
Here’s our go-to guide for quick and easy high vibe almond milk.
Add this to your list of healthy kitchen staples every non-chef needs to know how to make.
High Vibe Almond Milk
Level of Difficulty: Ridiculously easy.
Equipment Needed: Blender, nut milk bag or cheesecloth.
Good To Know Beforehand: Nuts required soaking.
Makes: About 3 1/2 cups of milk.
1 cup of raw almonds (preferably unpasteurized sprouted raw almonds - we get ours here)
3 1/2 cups purified water for blending
Pinch pink Himalayan salt
2-4 medjool dates, (pitted) OR stevia to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract OR 1 vanilla bean, scraped
Place the almonds in a large glass container (we use a half gallon mason jar) filled with fresh water and place in the refrigerator for the day, or overnight.
Drain and rinse the soaked nuts before proceeding to make the milk. You’ll notice the soaked nuts have nearly doubled in size.
Combine the soaked almonds with any add-ins (dates, vanilla, cinnamon) and 3 1/2 cups of filtered water in a blender. Secure cap and puree on high for 45-60 seconds. If using a high speed blender, it’s even quicker, like 30 seconds.
Place a nut milk bag in a medium mixing bowl, and carefully pour in blended mix. Lift up the bag, twist the top tight (you don’t want nut-pulp exploding through the top!), and gently squeeze out the milk. This is the hardest part. Keep squeezing until you get (almost) every last drop. Smile as you’re simultaneously strengthening your hands.
Transfer the milk to an airtight glass jar or jug and store in the refrigerator (we suggest dating the top).
Will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Notes for the non-chef:
Store leftover nut pulp in the fridge or freezer to use in other recipes or, dehydrate and grind it into an almond flour for baking.
Alternatively, you can freeze any leftover nut milk in ice cube trays to use in smoothies.
This recipe pairs perfectly with our homemade granola, your favorite smoothie recipe, and cold-brew coffee.
Got other ideas? We want to know! What’s your favorite way to use nut milk? Weigh in the comment section.
And as always,
Show us your plant-centric adventures! Upload a pic Instagram and tag us at @thedailyalchemy so we can like your photo. Bonus points for selfies or using the hashtag #spiritednutrition.
For more high vibe recipes and cooking inspo check out our 14-day program, Nourished By Nature, where you’ll learn to make quick, simple, delicious, plant-based meals that nourish you from the inside out.
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Because science →
1. Houghton, Lisa A. and Vieth, Reinhold. “The case against ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) as a vitamin supplement.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. October 2006. Vol. 84 no. 4. 694-697. Web. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/4/694.full
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