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Is Your Nut Milk as Healthy as You Think It Is?

April 5, 2013

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Nut milks are a great alternative to dairy if you’re lactose intolerant or switching to a more plant-based diet. Whether in your morning oatmeal or post-workout smoothie, almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, and soy milk can all add creaminess, flavor, and extra nutrition to your meal.

Unfortunately, many plant milks on the shelves of your grocery store are highly processed drinks that contain many preservatives and hidden ingredients that you wouldn’t find growing in nature and aren’t great for your health.

Next time you’re shopping for nut milk, be sure to read the ingredients list and avoid products that contain these ingredients:

Carrageenan: A common food additive derived from seaweed, carrageenan is used as a thickener to improve the texture of processed foods. It’s especially common in processed soy and almond milk. Research shows that carrageenan can cause inflammation, the root of most chronic illnesses. Integrative Nutrition guest speaker Dr. Andrew Weil recommends avoiding regular consumption of any foods that contain carrageenan.

Added Sugar: Sugar appears in nut milk in many forms – evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, malt syrup, and more – and the amounts are often high enough to wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. Do yourself a favor and choose unsweetened plant milks, and definitely avoid any variety that’s chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry flavored.                                                              

GMOs: While it’s unclear if genetically modified foods are actually detrimental to your health, many people avoid them because of the damage they can cause to the environment and the unsavory politics of giants like Monsanto. Among plant milks, soy milk is the most likely to contain genetically modified crops.

Dipotassium phosphate: A food additive classified as “generally regarded as safe” by the FDA, this ingredient is often used in plant milks to control acidity and prevent coagulation. Also used industrially in cleaning and sanitation products, this chemical may not have any real health risks, but it also has no known nutritional benefit.

The best way to avoid these ingredients is to simply make your own nut milk. Try this delicious cashew milk recipe from 2010 graduate Dana Palumbo – it’s a tried-and-true formula that’s cheap, easy, fast, and tasty.

Do you make your own nut milk? Let us know what your favorite recipe is in the comments below.