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Is commercial almond milk really healthy?

I really like milk but I'm trying to decrease the amount of dairy I consume, so I'm giving almond milk a shot. I just bought half a gallon of the 365 Whole Foods brand, organic and unsweetened. It tastes surprisingly good but I do wonder if it's actually healthy. There seem to be a lot of additives (gelling agents etc.) in it and most of the vitamins seem to also be added to it. Does it have any nutritional value outside of the vitamins it's supplemented with? Is it worth the additives? Are they bad for you? Does anyone have any information on this?

I know the additives could be avoided by making my own almond milk, but I simply don't have that kind of time (or money!) on a regular basis to put into making a food that's a regular staple for me.

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  1. NO IT IS HORRIBLY UNHEALTHY AND YOU WILL DIE A SLOW PAINFUL DEATH SHOULD YOU CONTINUE DRINKING IT

    Just kidding. Almond milk's a good alternative if you're lactose intolerant. You'd probably be better off buying Almond Breeze, which has a few less additives and is shelf-stable, rather than the 365 stuff. It's cheaper too. I don't drink it on a regular basis but once in a while the unsweetened chocolate satisfies a cocoa jones.

    1. Almonds (like many nuts) are rich in omega-3 and antioxidants. Every things are relatives. Almond milk is certainly considered as healthy compared to many other drinks. Yet, individuals are different.

      1. Whether it is "healthy" is all sort of relative.

        It's certainly healthier than Kool-Aid. But probably not as healthy as, say, homemade fresh "squeezed" almond juice.

        10 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          I disagree. We buy the Blue Diamond refrigerated variety and there's nothing "unhealthy" about the ingredients.

          http://www.almondbreeze.com/?navid=32...

          1. re: ferret

            thanks for the link. I don't see anything objectionable. I just bought a container of the shelf stable variety and have been using it to make hot chocolate. How long do you think it's good in the fridge once I open it?

            1. re: danna

              longer than you'd think. keep it in a cold part of the fridge (i.e. not on the door) and it should keep for at least several weeks. i prefer to make my own almond milk for drinking, but i do use the commercial stuff for cooking & baking and i don't think i've ever had an open container go bad on me even when it took me quite a while to use it up.

              1. re: StringerBell

                what's "unhealthy" about a seaweed extract?

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Well, there is a ton of evidence regarding degraded carrageenan (poligeenan) being carcinogenic, a gastrointestinal irritant, and macrophage inhibitor, and producing ulcers. It's regularly used and well known for inducing inflammation, edema, and ulcers in lab rats. Only undegraded carrageenan can be used in food, but some of it gets degraded to the shorter chain poilgeenan during acid hydrolysis (e.g. digestion), and possibly during cooking processes as well. There are a lot of anecdotal reports of people getting headaches and gastrointestinal problems from consuming products that contain carrageenan as well. There have also been studies showing a lot of negative effects on cells in vitro at very low concentrations too, but of course in vitro studies don't necessarily correlate to in vivo effects. I don't think it's terribly bad, but like a lot of somewhat questionable additives I'm going to avoid it because it's unnecessary. I would rather consume natural foods and not someone's science experiment.

                  Andrew Weil recommends avoiding it http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA44833

                  1. re: StringerBell

                    i'm with you on the "science experiment" issue, and like you, i try to avoid any unnecessary additives in my food. i actually make my own almond milk because i prefer the taste & purity.

                    i've seen that Weil link - it's from ten years ago, and i usually only agree with about 70% of his recommendations, give or take a bit - IMO he pushes too much grain & soy. anyway, i'm not disagreeing with you that some people may react negatively to carrageenan. heck, i react badly to even small amounts of guar or xanthan gum, psyllium, inulin fructose, added MSG...so i steer clear of most isolated additives as a rule. but i've never personally had a problem with carrageenan, and it's present in such a negligible amount in Almond Breeze that i guess i'd just rather see someone choose that over soymilk (which also often contains carrageenan but my problem is with the processed soy), or dairy from factory-farmed cows, or rice milk (which, IMO, provides zero nutritional benefit).

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      I've done a lot of searching and there doesn't seem to be much evidence from the last 10 years either way, and little evidence about how much gets degraded during digestion. I couldn't really find any human studies to speak of from any time period. I would rather err on the side of caution with things like that though. Silk brand's almond milk does not contain any carrageenan, and some others don't as well, but I agree it's better to make your own.

                      I personally don't notice any reaction from carrageenan such as headaches or stomach irritation. I don't have any known allergies or sensitivities though, I can eat pretty much anything without reaction. The only foods that I get a bad reaction from are soy sauce and large amounts of HFCS. If I eat anything with a lot of soy sauce or drinks full of HFCS I feel really awful, strange, and run down for several hours afterwards.

                      I'm also not a fan of soy milk, I generally avoid all soy products. I do make rice milk quite a because I love horchata (Mexican style).

                      I disagree with Weil quite a bit, but he is usually pretty reasonable about diet and actually has a fair bit of knowledge about diet and nutrition unlike the great majority of MDs. I have a strong feeling that if I held up a picture of a prickly pear or parsnip or something that 90% of MDs wouldn't be able to identify them. The Harvard School of Public Health is about the only nutrition group I find trustworthy.

                      1. re: StringerBell

                        i haven't had horchata in ages. yum. but making rice milk yourself for that purpose isn't the same as using commercially-produced rice milk as an everyday stand-in for dairy milk.

                        and you're right about the nutritional ignorance of most MDs - it's a sad state of affairs.

              2. re: ferret

                I am nutritionist-- Wrong... it has harmful additives, unfortunately. You can not trust THEIR website. The only one you should drink is SILK brand; unsweetened Almond. The "gelling" agents are natural unlike dangerous carrageenan in the Blue Diamond Almond Breeze. Go to --http://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-ha... AND http://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-ha...

            2. In addition to being a good alternative for the lactose intolerant, it's also a good substitute for diabetics (such as myself). It's lower in carbs than regular milk.

              1. Is it really more expensive to make at home? I do know it's ridiculously easy, since I do it almost every day :-) It certainly tastes much better than commercial brands, IMO.

                The commercial brands add in gelling agents (maybe flavoring agents, also) because they are trying to get away with the highest water:almond ratio as possible, giving you more water with stuff added to trick you into a more pleasant "mouthfeel". So keep in mind what you are paying for, which is less almond goodness and more water.

                I make mine with less water than most recipes and add a touch of pure vanilla and salt. Excellent in coffee! Plus you get the almond grounds. I usually add them to chili or meatloaf. You can use them in baking, too, I just don't really ever bake, so I've never tried it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: 64airstream

                  Any chance you can forward me a recipe?

                  1. re: coroa

                    This is a great step by step guide- be sure to save the almond pulp! (You can freeze it too)
                    http://ohsheglows.com/2013/01/24/my-f...

                2. It depends on why you are drinking almond milk. I use it because I need to limit carbs. Others drink it for other reasons. If you have no probs with dairy, or probs with lactose or carbs, then I don't know why you'd want it. But if you do have some of those concerns, then it is healthy for you.

                  1. I'm gonna guess that you've never had a kidney stone if you're drinking almond milk. And I truly hope you never do.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: AeroDoe

                      almond milk causes kidney stones? well that doesn't sound very healthy.

                      1. re: swerves

                        It depends on a lot of factors, but almonds can cause kidney stones. My evidence is purely anecdotal - I got kidney stones twice, and both times I had been sitting for hours in front of a lame Nintendo game eating chocolate-covered almonds. (Chocolate is also stone-producing) Kidney stones hurt so much that I have not eaten an almond since (And I have NO willpower at all. On "fasting days" I eat more by 11AM than on "feasting days." ) I LOVE almonds, but I will never eat one again!

                        1. re: AeroDoe

                          Given the many months it takes for stones to form, it's hard to isolate any single source as the the cause. I went through about a 15-year period, regular passing kidney stones. The list of foods they tell you to avoid is fairly lengthy and I didn't really stick to a "healthy" diet. If anything, my diet's become less healthy over time with no kidney stones in the last decade. And I probably go through a half pound of almonds a week at work.

                          So unless the OP has a known health condition that would lead her to avoid almonds, I wouldn't warn her away from almond milk.

                          1. re: ferret

                            I can't think of a more uninteresting discussion than this so I'm not gonna defend what I admitted was anecdotal evidence.

                            I'll bow out now, acknowledging that I asked for it.

                            Mea culpa.

                          2. re: AeroDoe

                            <I had been sitting for hours in front of a lame Nintendo game eating chocolate-covered almonds>

                            Probably it is the Nintendo which caused the kidney stones. This is why I had switched from Nintendo to Playstation. Just saying.

                      2. It's supplemented with vitamins because it is used as a milk substitute, and milk is considered a source of calcium, etc. The idea is to prevent nutritional deficiencies (adding vitamin D to milk and iodine to salt is a result of the same idea, and quite effective). I doubt that there is much (if anything) in the way of preservatives, because almond milk has a shockingly long shelf life without any help (it was used in medieval kitchens, because regular milk spoiled so quickly without refrigeration that it was used mostly for butter and cheese).

                        Nutritionally, almond milk is mostly water. It has a bit of fat, sugar, protein, calories, and vitamins from almonds. So, it's not very nutritious in the same way that water isn't very nutritious.

                        I suspect that almond milk is healthier than milk, except for people who are trying to put on weight (almond milk should not be substituted for milk in baby formula because it doesn't provide the calories, fat, or sugar necessary for such intense growth). However, given that most adults really, really don't want to gain weight, almond milk is probably better.

                        1. I recently tried Almond milk (unsweetened)--no matter what I add.. a bit of sweetener, cinnamon, etc. it tastes like corn to me?

                          Anyone else think almond milk tastes like corn?

                          1. I thought that coconut milk as a prepared beverage had the best nutritional profile, with almond milk second and soy a toss up based on the research du jour.

                            We are lucky enough to get grass fed cow's milk this summer so consume neither.

                            1. Hi! I accidentally found this blog while I was searching the almond health benefits. I started to prepare almond milk at home as I wanted to decrease my diary intake (I think I’m a little intolerant – not much, but I do love cheese a lot so I prefer to replace the milk). Preparing the almond milk yourself is less expensive than buying the ready-to-drink product from the supermarket, not to mention that it is pure and without additives - even the organic version will have some additives and preservatives. The fresh almond milk lasts max. 4-5 days in the fridge so I bet they add all kinds of crap to make it last longer and to make it thicket. It is so easy and fast to make that I will never buy it at the supermarket anymore.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Rion71

                                How do you make almond milk and where do you buy the almonds?

                                1. re: Cherylmcg

                                  This step by step guide is excellent for how to make almond milk, also posted upthread:
                                  http://ohsheglows.com/2013/01/24/my-f...

                                  Almonds can be purchased nearly anywhere now, best prices will be found at trader joes, costco, or amazon.com.
                                  Note that making you own is not a significant cost savings.

                              2. Almonds are high in phytic acid - an antinutrient that prevents the proper breakdown and digestion of our food. Phytic acid is deactivated through soaking. There might, somewhere, be a company that sells almond milk from soaked almonds, but you're better off making your own.

                                Plus, as you say, there's all the additives. And supplemental vitamins are generally going to be artificial vitamins that your body can't use as effectively anyways.

                                1. Milk these days is full of antibiotics and non dairy substances If anything, almond milk is way healthier than dairy milk and contains more calcium. Just stay away from carageenen which fortunately is not found in whole foods almond milk.

                                  1. I am nutritionist-- The only one you should drink is SILK brand; unsweetened Almond. The "gelling" agents are natural unlike dangerous carrageenan in the Blue Diamond Almond Breeze. Go to --http://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-ha... AND http://chriskresser.com/harmful-or-ha...

                                    Hope this helps :)

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Laurajeannette

                                      It would help if you stopped calling carrageenan "dangerous." The article you linked says no such thing. It only says that a non-food-approved variant of carrageenan - poligeenan - has had negative test results. Carrageenan has yet to be linked to ay health issues.

                                      And carrageenan, extracted from algae is also "natural."

                                      1. re: ferret

                                        It has been linked to digestive issues and possibly to gi cancer. I figure that if there is an alternative product, might as well go with the carrageenan-free option.

                                        http://www.prevention.com/food/health...

                                        1. re: EM23

                                          Actually, if you read the article Laurajeanette linked to you'll see no such thing (some animal studies found negative effects in some animals, others found none). The only digestive issues are possible gassiness in some people and lots of foods cause that. There is no cancer link.

                                          A lot of this re-reporting is based on flawed reading comprehension because there are studies linking poligeenan to certain digestive issues, but that is not a food additive, it's a variant of a carrageenan that is not used in food processing. But people see "carrageenan" and lump it all together.

                                          1. re: ferret

                                            I don’t know who that author is so I didn’t read it. The article I linked to specifically mentions that food-grade carrageenan has been linked to serious health issues, so skipping it makes sense to me. I’m not insisting that everyone should too, just sharing info. “The more you know.” (cue music)

                                              1. re: EM23

                                                The article refers to lab animal testing. The article Laurajeanette linked said that such tests had contradictory results and thus far no adverse effects have been found in humans.

                                              2. re: ferret

                                                You personally have just re-reported. There are no flaws in my reading comprehension- I've studied hard for many years. One must only look up and study HOW it is made and decide for yourself. Dictionaries and books will offer this.I am in no way ever putting Borax in my system along with so many who find out the process. I became a RD and my degree in Agriculture- food sustainability because of irritants from additives that led to serious almost fatal problems as a child. I am sorry you are offended, however, happy hunting and I wish you well.

                                        2. There are recipes on Youtube, showing how to make it yourself with fresh almonds - but this is rather expensive to just make a small amount of it.