Nut Milk Alternatives to Dairy Giving You a False Sense of Security?

Not that I ever visited Starbucks with any frequency, but they now offer nut milk alternatives to dairy as an option.  Now if you are a Starbucks regular, you are probably thinking they are providing you a better alternative.  Not being a dairy source, there is no concern of dairy related symptoms like increased phlegm and congestion.  Yet know this.  When you place that order for coconut milk instead of regular milk, you are doing so under a false sense of security that it is a better option.

Choosing coconut milk at Starbucks poses its own risk.  You are not getting what you think you are.  This is not unique to Starbucks.  They are just providing what is in demand.  Same goes for other coffee shops.  The burden here lies at the feet of the consumer.  Your willingness to accept a nut milk alternative to dairy as better simply because it is a different is leading you astray.  You must look deeper.  Nut milk alternatives to dairy can be better, but only if you know how to select them.

Frankly, You are Boring!

You will notice that I am focusing on nut milk alternatives, with an “s”, as opposed to any single source.  No matter the category of food we talk about, one thing is for sure, you cannot consume the same foods routinely and not expect to react to them eventually.  I have noticed a trend with the nut milk alternatives to dairy suggesting that it is from a single source of nuts, when it is not.  Let me provide an example.  One popular company’s cashew milk states boldly on the packaging “Cashew Milk”.  Closer inspection of the label reveals it is from cashews and almonds.  Marketing and nutrition facts don’t correlate.

The Routine

Eating the same foods routinely is not talked about enough as a big problem.  While I talk about it like a broken record, most informed doctors that understand food will echo my voice.  But science aside, let’s ask Mother Nature what she thinks.  The conversation would go something like this

Dr. Hill: Do all foods grow all year?

Mother Nature: No.

Dr. Hill: Do foods have a growing season?

Mother Nature: Yes.

Dr. Hill: It is best to eat foods within their growing season?

Mother Nature: Yes.

Dr. Hill: Why?

Mother Nature: That is when food has its maximal nutrients and yield.

The natural rhythm of food availability suggests that we should not eat the same foods all the time.  Tomatoes grow in the summer and are a warm weather crop.  They cannot handle cold.  In contrast, collards and turnips are cooler weather crops.  They do not do well in heat.  Our body thrives on a diversity of foods.  As it relates to nut milk alternatives to dairy, if you are not taking the time to read labels on a routine basis, you increase your chance of consuming the same source of nuts all the time.  Ultimately, this could lead to a food allergy or sensitivity.

How to Break the Routine

Here are a couple of steps to avoid reacting to nut milk.

  1. Read Labels Consistently – This is especially true of the brands you trust.  No getting lulled into a false sense of security.  Food manufactures are not going to advertise ingredient changes.  You have to look closely and carefully.
  2. Drink More Nut Milks – Move beyond the most common almond, coconut and cashew milks.  Hemp, macadamia, and pecan are also options.  Drink from the list, not a single one.
  3. Organic, Non-GMO – If it is not organic, don’t even consider it.  But remember, just because it is organic, doesn’t mean its a good choice.  Sometimes the best choice is no choice at all.

Less Than You Think

If I didn’t get your attention by alerting you to the risk of consuming the same nut milk routinely, maybe this will do it.  You assume when you open a container of nut milk that all, or at least most, of what is in the bottle came from nuts.  What if I told you that was not correct?  If it were, the labels of ingredients would be short, likely no more than 2-3 ingredients at most.  But you know if you have looked at the labels recently for nut milk alternatives to dairy, the list of ingredients if far more than 2-3.

The desired part of the nut is what is compressed out of it.  The extracted liquid is the nut milk.  Very little of that ends up in the bottle as compared to other ingredients.  Some estimates suggest that the amount of true nut milk maybe as low as 2%.  If only 2% of the liquid you know as nut milk is what is really expressed from the nut, what is the rest.  This is important to know since the rest is the majority.

Dairy milk has a creamy consistency.  This is not the case with nut milk.  However, it is desired.  It’s this texture that we enjoy.  To get the same experience from nut milk alternatives, you have to add gums.  Gums are thickeners.  Some might argue that gums are bad, and admittedly they can cause reactions in some.  Yet, gums are not a clear it is good, it is bad, situation.  Most don’t have an issue with them.  After the gums, much of the rest is water.  If you thought you were drinking all nut milk, you are not.

The Hidden Toxin that Should Terrify You

Some proactive and responsible nut milk suppliers have started listening to the consumer.  Here is the reality check.  Some is still too small of a number as several still allow a hidden toxin to reside in nut milk.  This hidden toxin is carrageenan. Carrageenan is also a thickening ingredient.  It is derived from seaweed.  What started out as suspicions of toxic effects are now unquestionable issues.  The evidence supports that carrageenan should not only be removed from nut milk alternatives to dairy, but all foods.

The gut is the gateway to the rest of the body.  This is why we now talk about the brain-gut-axis and the liver-gut-axis among others.  Without a healthy gut, disease is imminent.  So where does carrageenan come in?  Carrageenan promotes gut damage.  Through inflammation, it breaks down the gut lining.  And you thought nut milk was a health choice.  Not if it has carrageenan.  If that was not enough, the probiotics we depend on to keep our gut healthy are altered, opening the door for harmful organisms to establish.  This is not good at all.  In fact, it is the same chain of events leading up to inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

Trusted Nut Milk Alternatives to Dairy

You are going to start reading this section expecting a list of name brands to buy.  I want to give you that list.  Yet, no matter how much I would like to tell you to focus on a single brand, I cannot.  If I did, I am only contributing to your false sense of security.  That said, you should be seeking out nut milk sources with as few ingredients as possible.  For most, compressing your own nuts is not a reality.  I get it.  I may get there one day, but not yet.  Here are a few simple things I look for.

  • organic
  • unsweetened, no cane sugar
  • carrageenan free
  • one nut source, not mixed
  • not mixed with other proteins like pea

Get in the habit of looking for these few key characteristics and you will be on the right track for making a better nut milk choice.

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