A healthy milk substitute such as homemade almond milk is an important drink to know how to make yourself in light of the skyrocketing cases of dairy allergies today.
Almond milk made at home can also be fermented to add probiotics and beneficial enzymes that enhance the digestive process and boost the immune system in much the same way as grassfed raw milk. While homemade almond milk is high quality, nutritious and digestible, industrialized versions at the store even if organic should be avoided. The reasons for this are threefold:
- Synthetic vitamins
- Dangerous additives
- Toxic packaging
Synthetic Vitamins in Store Almond Milk
First, Vitamin A Palmitate is typically added, the synthetic version of Vitamin A. Synthetic vitamins are the chemical mirror images of the real, natural versions. They can cause imbalances over time. Even small amounts of the synthetic fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A can prove toxic and should be strictly avoided.
The Organic Consumers Association warns that isolated vitamins such as those produced synthetically cannot be recognized or metabolized by the body in the same way as the natural version. On the other hand, large doses of natural vitamin A are well tolerated by the body as established by researchers decades ago. Traditional diets contain 10 times or more of the RDA of this nutrient with no ill effect. However, synthetic vitamin A is associated with birth defects and bone fractures. It has no benefit in the diet whatsoever.
The second dangerous synthetic vitamin that is commonly found in store bought almond milk is vitamin D2. Vitamin D2 is a form of the wonder vitamin that you should take great pains to avoid. In all known cases of Vitamin D toxicity where the dose was intentional, Vitamin D2 was the culprit. By comparison, Vitamin D3 is much less toxic and requires an enormous or even an accidental dose to produce any toxic effect. Synthetic Vitamin D2 as added to foodstuffs is manufactured industrially by irradiating yeast. It is dangerous for D2 to be added to any food product particularly if this product would be given to children, where toxicity symptoms would appear at much lower dosages.
A common additive to commercial almond milk, rice milk and other milk substitutes is carrageenan. Innocuous enough at first glance, carrageenan is derived from seaweed and is added as a fat replacer and stabilizer to many lowfat and nondairy products. It is even allowed in organic almond milk! Dr. Andrew Weil has been telling people to avoid carrageenan since 2002. Carrageenan is so toxic and inflaming to the human digestive system (think IBS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, etc) that this food additive is formally classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization) as a potential human carcinogen.
The hype from the carrageenan industry claims that “food grade” carrageenan is different from the low molecular weight, i.e., degraded carrageenan that is toxic to human cells. This spin fails to mention that not a single sample of products containing carrageenan that were tested could be said to be free of the degraded form. Some samples contained as much as 25% low molecular weight carrageenan. This testing was conducted as part of a 2003 ruling by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food which required that a maximum of 5% degraded carrageenan be contained in a processed food which includes the additive. Another problem is that research available since the early 1980′s indicated that even food grade carrageenan is probably converted during the digestive process to the degraded, highly toxic form.
More recent research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pinpointed the exact metabolic process by which carrageenan triggers inflammation. Shockingly, this biological event was found to mirror the way pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella wreak havoc in the gut.
Consumer advocate Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Toxic Free, says that the aseptic packaging, called tetrapaks, that almond milk is typically sold in is made from paper (70%), polyethylene plastic (LDPE) (24%), and aluminum (6%), with a tight food-grade polyethylene (plastic) layer inside next to the food.
The food that is packaged in these multi-layered tetrapaks is sterilized via a flash-heating process with a temperature between 195° and 295°F. Food grade polyethylene plastic is considered to be one of the safest plastics to come in contact with food with little to no leaching of toxic chemicals, however, actual research suggests otherwise. In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers measured the presence of nonylphenol (NP), bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol A diglycidyl ether (BADGE) in two brands of milk packed in aseptic, tetrapak containers.
Note that one of the benefits of these containers within the industrialized food system is that they are designed to be stacked on pallets and then on store shelves for long periods of time. All the samples contained measurable levels of endocrine disrupting substances that leaked from the apparently “nontoxic” plastic of the containers, or plastic lining the containers.
While the researchers noted that the levels of the endocrine disrupting compounds in the samples studied did not achieve “the maximum leached level allowed by law”, they concluded that “. . . the impact these compounds may have on organisms and human beings needs to be further studied, especially with regard to accumulation, degradation and possible effects within the endocrine system.”
Best to make your own homemade almond milk? I would say so if just to avoid the packaging concerns let alone issues with additives and synthetic vitamins!
Fermented Homemade Almond Milk
2 cups raw or sprouted almonds (sources)
1/4 cup raw honey, preferably locally sourced (sources)
1 tsp vanilla extract (sources)
1 tsp almond extract (sources)
2 tsp sea salt
Almond milk is best made from skinless almonds. This way, the smooth almond pulp can be retained in the final beverage for extra nutritional value instead of strained out and discarded. Leaving the skins on also greatly increases the chances for mold during fermentation.
If you don’t already have skinless (blanched) almonds, you will need to remove the skins yourself. To do this, place almonds in boiling water for one minute (no longer!). Immediately strain in a colander and rinse with cold filtered water. Pat dry with a towel. Pinch off the skins with your fingers.
The skins will easily slide off. It takes me about 20 minutes start to finish to blanch and then remove the skins from 2 cups of almonds. This is a wonderful fine motor skills activity for young children, by the way.
Soak skinless almonds overnight in filtered water with sea salt. This renders the almonds infinitely more digestible than if the almonds are unsoaked. Drain off soaking water, rinse and process almonds in a food processor until a smooth paste. In a 2 quart glass jug (I like these) mix almond paste with other ingredients and enough filtered water to fill the jug taking care to leave at least one inch at the top.
Cover tightly and leave on the counter for 2 days to ferment which cultures the almond milk, adding probiotics and beneficial enzymes to the mixture.
Refrigerate. Be sure to gently stir homemade almond milk each time before serving.
Enjoy. This recipe for homemade almond milk is absolutely delicious and can be used as a replacement for dairy milk in all your recipes or just to enjoy on its own, sipped from a glass.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sources and More Information
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