What is almond milk?
Almond milk is made by blending almonds and water and then straining the mixture. Sweeteners are sometimes added. In 2014, almond milk surpassed soy milk in popularity. Almond milk contains about 90 calories per eight-ounce cup. It has no saturated fats or cholesterol and is lactose-free. Almond milk contains half of the daily requirement of vitamin E and a good dose of vitamin D, but it contains very little protein. With its creamy, nut-like taste, almond milk is a good alternative to milk in coffee and cereal. Its low calorie content makes it a good food for dieters and those who are lactose intolerant. People who regularly drink almond milk are advised to ensure that they get adequate protein from other plant or animal sources.
Problems with commercial almond milk
With sales exceeding $854 million in 2014, almond milk is becoming a standard milk replacement. One of the problems with commercial almond milk is that it contains only 2 percent almonds. In fact, some of the labels on the commercial varieties list more sweeteners than almonds in the mixture. The labeling laws currently allow companies to use additives instead of the nutritious almonds that consumers expect. For a half-gallon of almond milk, about 144 to 192 almonds are needed; however, only 38 to 50 almonds are used per half-gallon by both Blue Diamond and Silk almond milk. Instead of almonds, the product is thickened with carrageenan, which is void of nutrients. Recently, WhiteWave and Blue Diamond stated they would be removing carrageenan from their products.
Harmful health effects of carrageenan
Carrageenan has been shown to cause numerous health problems, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. Research has shown that exposure to carrageenan could cause ulcers in the colon and possibly even contribute to GI cancers. In 1972, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considered a restriction on dietary carrageenan, but no regulation was put into effect, which means that manufacturers are free to use this product at their discretion.
First used as a food additive in the 1930s, carrageenan is also used as a laxative, a treatment for peptic ulcers, and in toothpaste, room deodorizers, pesticides, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical drugs. In 1959, carrageenan was granted GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status. It easily combines with milk proteins and has been used as a substitute for fats in food. It can be found in cottage cheese, whipped cream, ice cream, infant formulas and processed meats.