Like just about any type of food or drink, almond milk is both cheaper and healthier if you make it yourself. While there are a few higher quality store-bought options available, many, if not most, brands contain additives like carrageenan in order to keep it shelf stable, and to retain a more consistent texture.
Carrageenan is not digestible and has no nutritional value. It’s been associated with a host of digestive health issues, and some experts are even of the opinion that it isn’t safe to consume over long periods of time.
Although derived from a natural source, according to Wellness Mama, “it appears to be particularly destructive to the digestive system, triggering an immune response similar to that your body has when invaded by pathogens like Salmonella.” Veteran researcher Joanne Tobacman, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois School of Medicine at Chicago, tells the site that the result “predictably causes inflammation, which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding.” She said the food ingredient irritates by activating an immune response that dials up inflammation.
The World Health Organization even lists one type of carrageenan as a “possible human carcinogen, which, of course, means that it can potentially cause cancer.
If you take a look at the ingredient list on an almond milk carton, you’ll notice that it’s rather long. In fact, it may also include an ingredient commonly used as a thickener, soy lecithin. Soy lecithin is typically made from GMO soy, something we should all avoid, and comes with a number of side effects, like diarrhoea, bloating, nausea, stomach pain and minor skin rashes. As it’s a byproduct of soy, we also have to worry about high levels of pesticides, aluminum and estrogens called phytoestrogens, which disrupt endocrine function and can lead to infertility and breast cancer in women.
Not only that, but the amount of actual almonds you’re getting in that carton of almond milk is pretty mind-blowing. Research has shown that on average, it’s just a little more than a handful. According to a lawsuit filed in 2015, the popular brand Almond Breeze only contains 2 percent of almonds and is mostly made up of water, sugar, sunflower lecithin, and carrageenan. Analysis of the almond milk brand Alpro, sold in the U.K., also found that almonds made up only 2 percent of its total drink.
Mother Jones reports: “…the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds, which leads us to the question of price and profit. A jug of almond milk containing roughly 39 cents worth of almonds, plus filtered water and additives, retails for $3.99.”
4 Reasons Homemade Is Better Than Store Bought Almond Milk
All in all, homemade almond milk is:
More nutritious. Just one of the many benefits of consuming almonds in the form of almond milk is that they’ll be soaked before you eat them. Soaking helps to eliminate phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with the function of your digestive and metabolic enzymes. Phytic acid, found in the coatings of nuts, is an ‘anti-nutrient,’ which means it leaches vital nutrients from the body. Phytic acid also blocks the uptake of essential minerals like iron, calcium, copper, magnesium and zinc. Enzyme inhibitors in nuts and seeds help protect the nut as it grows, which helps to reduce enzyme activity and prevent premature sprouting. When nuts are soaked, the germination process begins which allows the enzyme inhibitors to be deactivated, increasing the available nutrition of the nut significantly, as well as making them much easier to digest.
There’s no waste. When you make almond milk at home, you can save the pulp, a byproduct of nut milks. It’s quite nutrient dense and there are lots of ways to use it.
It can be customized. Many store-bought brands of almond milk contain things like sugar and other unnecessary flavorings, but when you make your own, you can add what you like. If you want a slightly sweet almond milk, you can use raw honey, dates or vanilla beans, for example.
No toxic additives. Perhaps the most important benefit of making your own almond milk is that you can avoid those unwanted additives like carrageenan and soy lecithin.
It’s easy to see that making your own almond milk is far healthier than buying a ready-made version, not to mention being more economical. If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, you probably already know about the joys of almond milk, but if if you’re drinking traditional cow’s milk now, you might wonder what the difference is in terms of benefits.
2 Reasons To STOP Drinking Cow’s Milk
First, there are a number of reasons NOT to drink cow’s milk, including these:
It contributes to global warming. Dairy cows are among the worst offenders when it comes to global warming. They emit tons of methane gas and need lots of grain and water, not to mention, putting out far more fertilizer than can be used. According to One Green Planet, the global water footprint of animal agriculture is 2,422 billion cubic meters of water (one-fourth of the total global water footprint), 19 percent of which is related to dairy cattle – in the U.S. alone there are currently nine million dairy cows, and water is required to hydrate cows, clean floors, walls and milking equipment.
When it comes to methane, it’s been estimated that cows produce between 250 and 500 liters of it a day. For a dairy factory farm with 700 cows, that is up to 350,000 liters or 325,500 pounds of methane pumped into the atmosphere every day. Putting that into perspective, a single fracking well is responsible for the release of 30,684 pounds of methane a day.
A big dose of hormones. If you aren’t drinking organic milk, that means that you might be consuming as many as 60 different types of hormones and antibiotics in every glass. Cows are pumped with antibiotics to prevent disease and are also given growth hormones so that they grow larger and produce more milk. The problem is that these hormones and antibiotics are also found in the milk produced by the cows. The antibiotics disrupt your gut health even further, weaken immunity and contribute to a worldwide health catastrophe: antibiotic resistance.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013 indicated that more than two million people in the United States become ill each year due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, of which 23,000 die.
6 Remarkable Health Benefits Of Almond Milk
In addition to not containing hormones and antibiotics, almond milk offers a number of benefits:
Almond milk supports bone health
While almond milk doesn’t contain as much calcium as cow’s milk, it does offer a pretty good amount: 30 percent of the recommended daily value. It also contains 25 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin D, which helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and arthritis, while strengthening the immune system. Calcium and vitamin also work together to help support healthier bones and teeth.
It offers healthy fats
Unlike cow’s milk, almond milk contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are important for heart health. According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. The organization also notes, that while all fats contain 9 calories per gram, monounsaturated fats can have a positive effect on health when eaten in moderation. Saturated fats and trans fats, on the other hand, can negatively affect health. Cow’s milk contains mostly saturated fat.
It’s lactose free
Lactose intolerance impacts about one-quarter of the U.S. population, which means they have difficulty digesting the sugar in cow’s milk. That makes almond milk a great lactose-free substitute.
It may help with weight management
One cup of almond milk contains just 60 calories, as compared to 146 calories in whole milk, 122 calories in 2 percent, 102 calories in 1 percent, and 86 calories in skim. It makes a very good alternative substitute to help you lose or maintain your weight.
Protecting your skin
Almond milk contains 50 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin E, which offers antioxidant properties essential for skin health, including protecting it against sun damage.
Reducing the risk of cancer
In 2011, a study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer suggested that consuming almond milk may help prevent prostate cancer, while cow’s milk actually stimulated the growth of cancer cells due to its high estrogen level, a result of the cows being fed hormones. Almond milk was found to suppress cancer cell growth by as much as 30 percent.
How To Make The World’s Best Almond Milk
Now that you have plenty of reasons to choose almond milk, save yourself some money, and potentially harmful additives by making your own. You’ll be surprised at just how easy it is.
All you need to make it is:
- 1 cup of raw almonds, soaked for 12 hours first according to directions below
- 3 cups filtered water, plus extra to soak almonds
- 1 tsp sea salt, plus an extra pinch
- Splash fresh lemon juice
For a sweeter almond milk, you can add:
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 to 3 tbsp raw honey or pure maple syrup, or 4 to 6 pitted dates
Making it is fairly easy too. To do so:
- First, soak your almonds by placing them in a large glass jar or bowl and then cover with filtered water. Add the teaspoon of sea salt and splash of lemon juice. Cover the container with a breathable kitchen towel, and allow the almonds to soak at room temperature for 12 hours.
- After 12 hours, drain the almonds, discarding the liquid. Rinse them a few times in order to remove enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients.
- Place the almonds, three cups of filtered water and pinch of sea salt into a blender. Blend on high for 30 to 60 seconds, or until almonds are completely pulverized.
- Strain using a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or a piece of sheer nylon hosiery placed over the opening of your bowl or jar. Pour the milk into the bag, twisting it closed and gently squeezing to allow the liquid to pass through. Set aside the pulp to use in a smoothie or other recipes.
- Rinse out the blender and pour in the strained milk. If a sweeter milk is desired, this is when you can add the vanilla with the syrup, honey or dates. Afterwards, blend again until smooth and creamy.
- Store your almond milk in a sealed container inside the refrigerator. It will keep for 2 to 3 days, in a refrigerator with a very cold setting, so be sure and only make what you can use within that period.