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Jan 8, 2012 05:18 PM

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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    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.

          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

                  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 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 -- AND

            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)