There are many reasons to snack on whole, raw almonds. They are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants, for starters, and almond skins even contain beneficial phenols, flavonoids. Also, phenolic acids, which are typically associated with vegetables and fruits.
Drinking almond milk may, therefore, seem like a smart choice, one that may offer you the health benefits of almonds in beverage form – but it is not as healthy as it would appear, particularly if you buy commercial varieties.
What exactly is almond milk? It is typically a combination of almonds, water, sweetener, a thickener such as carrageenan (more on this below), and, often, fortified nutrients such as vitamins A, E, and D.
A Handful of Almonds in a Carton…
The amount of actual almonds in a half-gallon carton of almond milk is shocking: research suggests it is just over a handful. In one analysis of the UK almond milk brand Alpro, almonds made up just 2 percent of the beverage, and the Almond Board of California noted that ingredients are pretty similar between UK and US almond milk brands.
If you’ve ever wondered how almond milk can be so low in calories – about 30 calories in a cup, compared to 160 calories in a serving of almonds – it is because it is mostly water … not almonds.
“Based on these numbers,” Business Insider reported, “to get the nutritional value of a handful of almonds, you’d have to drink not just a few cups of the almond milk but an entire carton of it.”
Almond Milk Sales Soar as Consumers Get Ripped Off
One maker of plant-based milk, White Wave, reported first-quarter sales in 2014 had increased 50 percent over the prior year. In the US, almond milk tops the plant-based milk market, taking up two-thirds of the share (followed by soy milk, at 30 percent, rice, and coconut milk).
In all, sales of alternative milks are soaring and are expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2016, with almond milk leading the way. However, as a consumer, you have to question what you are really paying for, and how much it is costing you. In the case of almond milk, you are paying much money for what is essentially water and sweetener with a handful of almonds.
According to Mother Jones: “…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.”
Other Health Concerns
Commercially produced almond milk is full of a bunch of extra ingredients that you really do not want in your body. Carrageenan, the thickener commonly used in almond milk, is linked to a whole bunch of digestive health issues. Some experts believe it isn’t safe to consume for extended periods of time.
Another common thickener is soy lecithin. Soy lecithin is commonly made from GMO soy which we should all avoid for many different health reasons.
If you want some delicious almond milk, the best bet would be to make your own.
Making Your Own Is Much Easier than You Think
Almond milk by nature is not bad for us, but the store-bought varieties are filled with preservatives, stabilizers, sugar, etc. For the most part, it is more deceptive than anything, as you are paying a premium for mostly water and could get better nutrition from eating a handful of actual nuts.
Still, if you enjoy the taste of almond milk and don’t want to give it up, making your own almond milk is far more economical and healthier than buying a ready-made version.
Here are 4 reasons why you should experiment with making your own:
- More Nutritious: One benefit of consuming almonds this way is that they’ll be soaked before you eat them. Soaking helps to get rid of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can interfere with the function of your digestive and metabolic enzymes. Phytic acid, which is found in the coatings of nuts, is an ‘anti-nutrient’ responsible for leeching vital nutrients from your body. Phytic acid also blocks the uptake of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. Enzyme inhibitors in nuts and seeds help protect the nut as it grows, helping to decrease enzyme activity and prevent premature sprouting. When nuts are soaked, the germination process begins, allowing the enzyme inhibitors to be deactivated, increasing the available nutrition of the nut significantly, as well as making them much easier to digest.
- Less Toxic Additives: Another benefit of making your own almond milk is you get to avoid the scary additives. The approval of the use of the stabilizing agent, Carrageenan, has long been controversial due to research showing it causes gastrointestinal inflammation and can be a big problem for those with leaky gut syndrome. The World Health Organization lists one type of carrageenan as a “possible human carcinogen” …this means it potentially causes cancer. Carrageenan can be found in most milk substitute products, infant formula, cottage cheese and some flavored coconut waters regardless if the product is certified organic by the USDA.
- No Waste: When you make your nut milk at home, be sure not to throw out the nut pulp that is the byproduct of nut milk. There are so many ways to use this nutrient dense pulp such as in healthy dessert recipes and more!
- Customizable: Many store-bought brands contain SUGAR and other unnecessary flavorings. However, when you make your own, you can add healthy alternatives like dates, honey, cacao powder or even vanilla beans that will light up your taste buds, naturally!
So with that in mind, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from all of the garbage out there in our food supply and prevent getting ripped off. Making your nut milk sounds complicated and time-consuming but it is really as easy as 1-2-3!
Raw, Organic, Dairy-free Nut Milk
What you’ll need:
1 cup raw, organic nuts or seeds of your choosing
5 cups of filtered water
1 small, fine mesh strainer or nut milk bag
1 large mason jar
Step 1: Soak 1 cup of nuts overnight to strip away the enzyme inhibitors that prevent you from getting the most from your food.
Step 2: In the morning, rinse the nuts and place them with 5 cups of filtered water into the blender.
Step 3: Blend on high for a few minutes until all of the whole nuts have been processed.
Step 4: Place a very fine, conical shaped strainer or nut milk bag over a mason jar and pour small portions of the blender contents in at a time. Stirring and emptying out the strainer after each small batch. One can also use a nut milk bag.
BAM! You have your own homemade, delicious nut milk. I like mine just like this, but you can add vanilla bean or a little natural sweetener of your choice. It will last just under a week in the fridge.
Check out David Wolfe making almond milk!