Is Your Non-Dairy Milk Safe?
As the summer days grow sticky, maybe you’re cooling down with a chilled bowl of dairy-free ice cream or a refreshing and creamy smoothie. If you follow a dairy-free diet, there’s a good chance you could be incorporating one of the many dairy-free milk alternatives available these days into your cooling summer recipes.
But is that carton of almond or coconut milk safe?
I used to think it was. For years, I bought unsweetened almond and hemp milk by the carton to use in my smoothies, porridges, baking recipes, and more. It was sugar-free after all. How bad could it be?
As I dug deeper and began to do more research, I quickly came to realize that I was paying good money for a product that wasn’t doing my body any good. The main ingredient culprit? Carrageenan.
Carrageenan, a substance derived from red seaweed, is quickly rising in the ranks of controversial ingredients used in our food supply. Don’t let the “seaweed” part fool you. Carrageenan is a highly processed ingredient that is used as a thickener, emulsifier, texturizer, and fat replacer in dozens of dairy-free and dairy-based products including everything from ice cream to yogurt to non-dairy milk alternatives.
The International Agency of Research on Cancer (1982) and The University of Iowa College of Medicine (2001) conducted studies that revealed that carrageenan can cause ulcers and even cancer in the GI tracts of animals. The ingredient has been linked to increased inflammation and gastrointestinal distress in multiple studies. Just because a product is labeled “organic” doesn’t mean that it’s carrageenan-free. In fact, many organic products include the ingredient.
You’ll also find carrageenan in wet dog food, toothpaste, air fresheners, anti-aging creams, and a host of other edible and non-edible products. Through my research, I even stumbled upon some scattered claims that carrageenan is among the chemicals used to de-ice airplanes. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but it makes me wonder.
Mike Adams, a natural health pioneer and the Editor of NaturalNews.com, included carrageenan on his recent list of 10 worst toxins hidden in vitamins, supplements, and health foods, although he did remark that he doesn’t deem it as dangerous as MSG or aspartame.
Regardless, I made the choice a while ago to eliminate processed dairy-free milks from my diet. While there are many dairy-free alternatives that do not contain carrageenan (click here for a list of those), they still are often a source of other gums and poor quality vitamin and mineral enrichments. Getting our vitamins and minerals from whole, real foods the way nature intended is the very best option!
Does this mean that I’ve given up dairy-free milk entirely? Nope, I just make it from scratch! It’s easy, less expensive, and tastes 10 times better than anything I ever bought in a store. Knowing that I’m drinking a pure, unadulterated beverage makes the little bit of effort it takes to prepare it 100% worth it.
There are dozens of creative, homemade, non-dairy milk recipes at your fingertips on the web. Here are a few recipes to get you started:
- Hippy Dippy Hemp Milk from Diet, Dessert and Dogs (pictured above)
- Sunflower Carob Milk from Lexie’s Kitchen (pictured below)
- Almond Milk from Lexie’s Kitchen
- Cashew Nut Milk from Go Dairy Free
- Homemade Coconut Milk from Go Dairy Free
- Raw Homemade Hemp Seed Milk from Healthy Blender Recipes
- Homemade Raw Pumpkin Seed Milk from Healthy Blender Recipes
I hope you’ll join me in jumping into the nutritious homemade milk revolution! It took a few weeks to get the hang of regularly making milk, but now it’s as much of a habit as brushing my teeth.
Thanks for reading and happy non-dairy milking!
Hallie Klecker is the author of Super Healthy Cookies and The Pure Kitchen, both gluten- and dairy-free cookbooks focusing on fresh ingredients and whole foods. Her newest e-book, Crazy for Kale, makes use of kale in 40 creative ways. She is also the Editorial Content Manager for Simply Gluten Free Magazine. Hallie writes the recipe blog Daily Bites, where she shares her passion for cooking with whole, natural foods. Hallie is a certified Nutrition Educator and former personal chef. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!
Read all of Hallie’s posts here.