12 March 2012

Reviews and comparisons of Almond Milk.... the best and the worst!

photo courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Are you looking for a dairy-free, soy-free alternative to milk?  Almond and coconut milks are delicious and healthy alternatives.  If you own a juicer, it is quite simple to make your own... however, if you want to try commercially available brands, I've tried them all and researched ingredients for you!

Here's my take on the best and the worst of commercially available almond milk...
  • Blue Diamond Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla- my favorite! Fantastic with lattes, creamy, delicious and smooth,  Does not contain gellan gum or xanthan gum both of which may cause reactions in hypersensitive patients.  From company email: Blue Diamond only uses the highest quality food grade *carrageenan – not degraded carrageenan.
  • So Delicious Almond Milk - also very tasty and great for lattes.  Contains carrageenan and locust bean gum but no reactions.  One of the few certified gluten-free, dairy-free!  And they do make "Plus" versions with extra protein (5gm per serving) from added rice protein - haven't tried this yet.
  • Whole Foods 365 Organic Almond Milk - Very bad news!  Do not try this if you are gluten-sensitive! Contains **xanthan gum- which I reacted to with trouble breathing & rash.  
  • Silk Pure Almond Milk - tastes great, no carrageenan but contains gellan gum and locust bean gum.  Gellan gum is polysaccaride produced by pseudamonas and since often people with sensitive immune systems, (like me!) react to lipopolysaccarides, proceed with caution!  The upside is the make the small individual containers which are great for travel...
  • Pacific Organic Unsweetened Almond milk - This one you will find in the aisles with the, non-refrigerated dairy alternatives.   One of the few certified organic brands.  Contains "rice starch" which is not great for paleo or those sensitive to starches, also contains  carageenan (seems to be a pattern here :) but certified gluen-free, dairy-free.  However, it tastes terrible in lattes...very acidic and not creamy at all.  Also curdles and separates when heated. They do make travel sizes....

*Carageenan is a natural polysaccharide (carbohydrate) extracted from red seaweed. It is referred to as a seaweed gelatin much like agar agar. It is a vegetarian/vegan alternative to gelatin.  There are two types of carrageenan, undegraded (food-grade) and degraded (hydrolyzed with acid).  New studies are being done on the safety of Carrageenan, which is in question.

**Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of source products that are themselves common allergens, such as corn, wheat, dairy, or soy. As such, persons with known sensitivities or allergies to food products are advised to avoid foods including generic xanthan gum or first determine the source for the xanthan gum before consuming the food.  Specifically, an allergic response may be triggered in people sensitive to the growth medium, usually corn, soy, or wheat. For example, residual wheat gluten has been detected on xanthan gum made using wheat. This may trigger a response in people highly sensitive to gluten. 

46 comments:

  1. Just as a note: I do get migraines from carageenan, reacting in just the way I do to other MSG-like products. I guess I am just reacting to the free glutamic acid, no matter if it comes from degraded hydrolyzed proteins or carageenan. So in that regard, the xanthan gum is much, much better for me than carageenan thickened products.

    ReplyDelete
  2. i have used Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk in my coffee for the past three years with no adverse reactions to it (or at least none that I know of). It was recently brought to my attention that I shouldn't be drinking it because it is a very toxic substance even possibly leading to colon cancer. Needless to say I have been in a panic ever since, as my father died from colon cancer. In addition, like you I had a terrible reaction to the Silk Almond Milk and am desperate to find something to put into my coffee. Your thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mary,
      Thanks for your comments. I think almond milk is fine unless you're sensitive to almonds, however, my favorite dairy alternative is unsweetened organic coconut milk, which contains MCTs - great for weight loss and energy and is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal. For a latte, I use coffee with a bit of unsweetened coconut milk and 5 drops of English Toffee naturally flavored Sweet Leaf stevia - delicious!

      Delete
  3. There is an easy solution. Make your own. Soak a bag of organic almonds overnight. Put into a high quality blender like the VitaMix, blend and strain through a milk bag. Done.

    Now you have fresh almond milk minus ALL the fillers. You just can't trust these major food companies anymore. Did you know Orange Juice is sprayed with chemicals to bring back it's flavor cause they sit in huge metal tanks for up to a year? They don't have to put this on the label but with a little research you'll find that companies do nasty things to their product.

    We use our VitaMix blender to make our own Almond Butter (super easy), Coconut Milk, Almond Milk, Cashew Nut milk etc. Best investment my wife ever made. I hope this info helps.

    Paleo all the way!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments Jesse. Great stuff, I completely agree with you! I'm making my own coconut milk now, too :)
      Blessings
      Dr Jill

      Delete
    2. I have been told that calcium carbonate , found in some Almond Milk is chalk.

      Delete
  4. My friend, Suzy Cohen, made a great video on how to make your own almond milk... which is the safest and best option if you are sensitive to commercial brands
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_gQF2VKNNI

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for this post! Great information, I was wondering if anyone knows of a almond milk that is gluten,dairy,corn free. I am almost positive I have a corn allergy. I was diagnosed with gluten allergy back many years ago. Looking into corn and its effects on body for gluten sensitive people. Thank your for any help!!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. It has virtually been established that Carrageenan is bad for you even in "Food Grade" form. Our whole family had to quit drinking almond milk because of bloating, pain and other problems. We have since learned of friends having the same problems, especially children because they are overly sensitive, but we have alerted them to this study and almond milk is history in our diets and no more problems.

    University Of Illinois Study on Carrageenan:

    http://www.cornucopia.org/DrTobacmanComment_toNOSB.pdf

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant to say Undegraded Carrageenan in lieu of "Food Grade" because the article referred to this type of Carrageenan as "likely safe" which is a dangerous assumption based on the studies that show all forms of Carrageenan to be dangerous. My child was just diagnosed with indications of juvenile diabetes and I'm almost certain that almond milk is to blame. We have been off of almond milk for almost a month now and my child had her first dip of ice cream with a normal blood sugar response....yeah! All of us need to do whatever necessary to spread the word about the harm almond milk has caused. So many are unaware that their health problems could be just a few steps away in the fridge.

      Delete
    2. Sheryda:Don't blame the Almond Milk, is not the almonds but the caraageenan. Home made almond milk, my children love it. We need to be carefull about what we say, we have to blame ourself, need to learn labels, and research what ever
      word we don't know (chemicals),and any effect on our bodies.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous,

      Here is a recipe for raw almond milk. It just contains purified water, raw almonds, and vanilla and dates, if desired. I hope this helps you all: http://glutenfreerecipebox.com/raw-almond-milk-recipe

      Delete
    4. Regarding the safety of carrageenan, there has been an amazing amount of misinformation being blogged about carrageenan being unsafe as a food ingredient. In spite of this misinformation, carrageenan continues as the safe food ingredient it has always been. If it were not, the principal regulatory agencies of the world (US FDA, FAO/WHO JECFA, EU EFSA, and Japan Ministry of Health) would not approve its use, and all of them give the necessary approvals.
      Why all the concern about the safety of using carrageenan in foods? Starting in the 1960s there have been research studies showing that if excessive doses of carrageenan are consumed in animal trials inflammation can be induced in the small intestine. Likewise, inappropriate methods of introducing the carrageenan into the animals, i.e. in the animals’ only source of drinking water, have induced an inflammatory response in the small intestine. However, there has never been a validated inflammatory response in humans over the seventy plus years carrageenan has been used in foods. The anecdotal “upset tummies” reported in blogs as coming from consuming a food containing carrageenan are hardly
      reliable sources of information on the safety of carrageenan.
      Inflammatory responses in animals only occur when carrageenan can cross the blood membrane barrier of the small intestine. This only occurs when the extreme feeding conditions mentioned above are employed. Normal feeding regimes induce no such response.
      Over the last decade a group of molecular biologists at the University of Illinois at Chicago lead by Dr Joanne Tobacman have been exploring the in vitro interaction of carrageenan with various genes and conclude that carrageenan can cause inflammation in the gut via a binding mechanism involving TLR-4 receptors. This group also concluded that carrageenan degrades in the gut and the degraded carrageenan can permeate the membrane barrier. Recent studies refute both of these claims, and furthermore this recent research questions the validity using in vitro studies to mimic the in vivo events in the GI tract when a human consumes a food containing carrageenan.
      The bottom line on the safety issue is that in spite of all the efforts to downgrade or question the safety of carrageenan, particularly by bloggers, carrageenan is a safe food ingredient in all of the major regulatory jurisdictions of the world.

      Delete
    5. Thanks so much for your comments! I can completely agree regarding safety of carrageenan, however, we are talking about patients who have food sensitivities and reactions to many things, including other "safe" foods such as gluten or dairy. The question is not one of safely but one of whether or not a particular patient has a reaction to this ingredient.
      warmly
      Dr Jill

      Delete
  7. When I was in Europe I tried Provamel's Almond Milk - it was just PERFECT.
    Contains only 4 ingredients: water-almonds(7%!!!!)-agave-maltodextrin.
    Best ever! I just wish they will bring their products to Israel already! =]

    ReplyDelete
  8. What are your thoughts about GMOs? Blue Diamond uses GMO almonds. Silk is verified non-GMO and does not contain carrageenan. It seems there is no perfect product and makes sense to make our own almond milk at home with organic almonds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have ever made almond milk. Consume lot of almonds as snacks. However, I am trying to kick my coffee habit and am looking for a milk alternative for use in sprouted grain cereal.(nutty texture) What is the texture of blended almond milk before straining? Maybe a odd question, just curious.
      Thanks!

      Delete
    2. Found this on Blue Diamond's website: " Blue Diamond uses California almonds grown by our grower co-operative members without the use of genetic engineering or gene manipulation. The varieties of almonds available were developed using traditional agricultural breeding techniques." where did you find out that they did?

      Delete
  9. Yes, agree completely! There are no perfect commercially available almond milks and I highly recommend that patients learn the simple art of making their own at home....

    ReplyDelete
  10. Update to my views on Carrageenan... http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA401181/Is-Carrageenan-Safe.html

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yvette ,,, I drink silk pure almond I get very bloating. why is that.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Just desire to say your article is as surprising. The clearness in
    your post is simply excellent and i could suppose you are knowledgeable in this subject.
    Fine with your permission let me to clutch your RSS feed to
    stay updated with drawing close post. Thanks 1,000,000
    and please carry on the rewarding work.

    Feel free to visit my web page: Advanced Test O Boost

    ReplyDelete
  13. Tree House almond milk is a very pure brand and the only commercial I can ingest.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Medications that slow blood clotting (Coumadin) interact w/ Carrageenan----increases chances of bruising & bleeding as well. So I have gone back to Silk Soymilk that is Carrageenan free & no more INR reading problems.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Trader Joe's Unsweetened Vanilla is the BEST!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Blue Diamond Almond Breeze does contain xanthan gum!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Whole foods 365 brand almond milk just reduced its calcium content from 30-45% to 10%. I'm so disappointed because I drink almond milk for its calcium content and healthy bones. I loved making my own but stopped because I don't think the calcium content is as reliable, since I had no way of measuring it. Your thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for the great tips, readers! Still recommend making your own and don't worry too much about calcium. Absorption of calcium is enhanced with an alkaline diet and can also be found in leafy greens and other foods. Magnesium, Vitamin D, phosphorus and other minerals may be equally important for optimal bone health.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Here's more on carrageenan from Chris Kresser... http://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-harmless-carrageenan

    ReplyDelete
  20. No offense, Carla, but using dates is as bad as using white sugar (worse, actually, according to its place on the glycemic index). If a child is showing any signs of juvenile diabetes, making an almond milk with dates would surely cause their blood sugar to soar...

    ReplyDelete
  21. I tried making almond milk on my Omega Auger Juicer to use in my coffee as a cheaper alternative to buying Almond Silk Milk. I have been using Vanilla Almond Silk Milk and I do love it in my coffee! But my homemade almond milk tasted terrible! I even tried adding some vanilla and some sweetener. It was too thin as well! I was VERY disappointed!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Why is natural flavors in my silk almond milk . Doing research im finding out natural flavors are MSG! And its in organic foods also. They say NO GMO but it has MSG. why is it everytime you turn around something is bad in the stuff we eat

    ReplyDelete
  23. I saw that you mentioned using coconut milk as dairy alternative. Which brand would you recommend? I recently discovered the harmful additives that are in Almond Breeze almond milk. I do plan to start making my own almond milk but would also like to know of a quick alternative source i can buy when i dont have the time to make it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Remy, I recommend So Delicious brand plain unsweetened or unsweetened vanilla coconut milk. If you prefer absolutely no additives, you an also get Aroy-D brand thick coconut milk.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Chris Kresser notes at least two brands of coconut milk -- Native Forest (Organic Non-GMO) and Aroy-D -- use BPA-free cans. Kresser is a "little suspicious" of Aroy-D, however, due to appearance of some ingredients he's unable to identify (in Thai language).
    Amazon offers Native Forest (13.5 oz, pack of 12 = $36 == $3 each).
    A lowest price of $2.49 (list $3.39 & $4.29) is available from both DrVIta.com and Swansonvitamins.com, with frequent promotions & Free Ship offers by each. The two vendors - both with warehouses in Nevada - seem to be "going at it" competitively, each offering aggressive, "retaliatory" response promotions. For example: Swanson recently offered 10% OFF & Free Ship on $25 (!) orders (usually $50 is the minimum). Earlier that week DrVIta had offered $10 off $75 orders, FS, PLUS additional 5% off coconut products. Swanson further responded later the next week with $15 off $75, FS...on and on it seems to go. Both vendors start with the lowest prices anywhere, it appears, and discount from there. Received packages to SF Bay area from each vendor in 1 and 2 days (!), no charge shipping(!!) -- the latter being a 16.6 lb package from Las Vegas(!!!). (First time I'd tried DrVita.com, after seeing prices a little lower than Swanson (usually the lowest) -- and was further impressed by bubble-wrap+tape around some coconut product items, in conscientious response, no doubt, to multiple complaints I'd read re other vendor shipments of Coconut Aminos (a naturally-fermented product) arriving leaking.

    (Kresser article re coconut mlik:
    http://chriskresser.com/3-reasons-why-coconut-milk-may-not-be-your-friend )

    ReplyDelete
  26. I drink a lot of store bought almond milk to help w/ my calcium related hand cramps. I think it helps, and I don't notice any side effects as above mentioned. But after reading all the comments, now I am a bit hesitate in drinking so much almond milk. I tried coconut milk when it first became "popular" but then someone said it's too fatty & other negative effects so I stopped that too. I also used to love orange juice w/ calcium & D but then found out how OJ were treated. Now I have nothing to drink but water.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Try real 100% coconut milk or make your own almond - both great options if unprocessed :-)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Dr. Carnahan, you mentioned cutting edge lab testing to identify triggers. I live across the country. Would you share what tests these are? Much appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  29. You can get tested with Genova Diagnostics, Cyrex Labs or US Biotek ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Dr. Carnahan, is there a specific test/tests that you would recommend for identifying triggers? Thanks ever so much.

    ReplyDelete
  31. If I contact them, will it be obvious as to which tests are for identifying triggers? Thank you Dr. Carnahan.

    ReplyDelete
  32. You will need to work with a functional medicine physician to order lab testing ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Do you know anything about the Califia brand almond milk?

    ReplyDelete
  34. Yes I bought Califia almond milk last week. Ingredients look to only have almonds, filtered water and pure cane sugar....till you read further past the space... Carrageenan, gellan gum and the popular mystery ingredient 'natural flavors'. No wonder my stomach was so bloated!!! Very disappointed in what people call all natural!!!

    ReplyDelete
  35. I bought Califia almond milk. It looked to only have almonds, filtered water, and pure cane sugar. Then below a very big space it had carrageenan, gellan gum, and the popular mystery ingredient "natural flavor". No wonder I was so bloated. Very disappointed as to what is called "all natural"

    ReplyDelete
  36. Earlier a comments was made about an Israeli Almond milk containing maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is a corn derivative.

    ReplyDelete