If you're like me, then you may be pretty nuts about nut milk! Since being diagnosed with an intolerance to cow's dairy as a kid, I was pretty relieved when commercial brands of nut milks came onto the market. Nowadays it's possible to buy everything from almond through to cashew nut milk, and the latest kid on the block - macadamia! But are these commercial brands of nut milk really all they're cracked up to be as far as their nutritional value and the hefty price tag many of them tend to carry?
Those looking to replace cow’s dairy with nut milks, usually do so for health reasons - either because of an allergy or an intolerance to cow’s dairy, or because they’ve decided to follow a vegan or Paleo diet. Now the humble almond is the most popular nut of choice, when it comes to commercial brands of nut milk, and being rich in monounsaturated fatty acids – the same fat found in olive oil - along with dietary fibre, antioxidants, vitamin E and trace minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus, you’d think you’re onto a good thing!
The problem is, most consumers are guilty of being what I refer to as 'front label shoppers' - those who purchase a food product based on what’s written on the front label. When you see pictures of lots of almonds and phrases such as 'made from real almonds’ on the front packaging, you'd assume the main ingredient was actually almonds right? Wrong! Many commercial brands of nut milk contain predominantly water, and only average around 2.5% actual almonds! So like most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to nut milks. Prices for almond milk can vary anywhere from $2.50 up to $10 a litre, depending on the % of almonds, (brands can range from as little as 1.3% right up to 12% almonds), and whether you go for organic or fresh vs long life!
But' it's not just what you’re not getting in your nut milk, but also what you may be getting that could turn out to be a real pain in the gut! Aside from the addition of sweeteners from cane sugar, agave and rice malt syrup, many brands are adding a thickener known as carrageenan, which is derived from seaweed and used to stop liquids from separating. Although carrageenan is technically 'natural', it can be associated with causing major gut irritation and inflammation, even ulcerations and bleeding over time, according to carrageenan researcher and associate professor of clinical medicine, at the University of Illinois, Joanne Tobacman.
To add insult to injury, if you're thinking of swapping your cow's milk coffee for one made on almond milk, be prepared to be slugged as much as a dollar extra for the privilege!
Now, you may be scratching your head asking why you're paying for the privilege of drinking this often watery, overly sweetened beverage, that can leave your gut irritated and your wallet thinner? Well, the good news is, its not all dark and gloomy when it comes to drinking nut milk - it all boils down to being careful to choose the right brand - one that's free of carrageenan, is unsweetened (or at worst contains a small amount of rice malt syrup), and contains a higher % of actual nuts, (upwards of 7% is a good gauge). Just be prepared to pay more for it!
My personal recommendation, and what I do a few times a week, is to make your own! It’s actually super simple and can be done in as little as 5- 7 minutes - after soaking the nuts in water overnight. Then it’s just a case of adding a cup of nuts to a blender with 2 - 3 cups of filtered water and straining through a nut milk bag (available from health food stores). And hey presto - you're left with the freshest, creamiest and most delicious nut milk you could wish for!
Of course, you may think 5- 7 minutes to make your own is too big a chunk out of your day, so stick to my recommendations above, and view the heftier price tag as the price you pay for health and convenience!
If you're keen to learn more about what's healthy and what's not, why not purchase a copy of my e-book Eat Yourself Healthy or sign up for my next online6WK Eat Yourself Healthy online Program, written and presented by a qualified health professional with 16 years of clinical experience, that will cater to a wide variety of eating preferences and educate you beyond just food, but also in how to prevent illness and disease, then cut through the confusion and sign up to my and discover how you can reach your full health potential and stay that way for life!