My husband recently sent me an email titled "Almond Breeze is Crap". For those of you who don't know, Almond Breeze is a widely stocked brand of Almond Milk in most grocery stores. It's the brand I have been drinking for years now. The reason for my husbands harsh words were due a blog he had read about an ingredient called carrageenan. Now to be fair, Almond Breeze is not the only company who uses this ingredient. There are in fact a lot of "crappy" almond milks out there. It is found in all of the brands available at my local grocery stores. You'll find it in the coconut and soy milks too. Interesting side note: This morning while brushing my teeth, I decided to check out the ingredients on my Tom's of Maine Fluoride-free toothpaste and guess what I found? Yes, carrageenan is in that as well. I suppose my next project is to find a new toothpaste or make my own.
Carrageenan is extracted from a red seaweed, Chondrus crispus, or Irish moss. The carrageenan found in your processed foods is in an un-degraded form and is chemically processed. It has no nutritional value and is primarily used as a binder and thickening agent to improve texture in foods like ice cream, yogurt, almond milks, coconut milks, etc... When researching carrageenan on the internet, you'll find both the pro and cons as to whether or not this ingredient is thought to be "good" for us to consume. The key arguments for the cons were what spoke to me, and in particular the research studies on laboratory mice which have shown this type of carrageenan to be linked to malignancies, inflammation of the GI tract, glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action among other things. Since a properly working digestive system is my primary health goal, the inflammation of the GI tract findings really worries me, enough to immediately make a dietary change. There is a lot of nasty stuff out there in our foods and beauty products. It is sure hard to avoid them all, but I am always happy when I become more aware of them. Knowing more about carrageenan can only help me make better informed choices for myself. Since I drink almond milk every morning, I know making my own is a surefire way to help me avoid this nasty ingredient in my daily morning drink!
PLEASE NOTE: This is only a very short synopsis of my own internet research findings, but the blog post my husband sent me which inspired me to dig a bit deeper and then make a change can be found on the blog Higher Purpose Living. Please read it, as it has really great and detailed information about Carrageenan.
Homemade Almond Milk:
The best thing about making almond milk is it's not hard to do. The most time consuming part is soaking your almonds. You'll want to make sure and soak them overnight for optimal results. The worst thing about making almond milk is there are a few pieces of essential equipment you'll also need:
1. a high powered blender, and
2. a nut milk strainer bag. I tend to do a lot of my on-line shopping at Amazon, where there are a variety of options for $6-8.
Once your almonds are sufficiently soaked and rinsed off well, toss them in a blender. Add 3-4 cups water, sweetener (i.e. dates) and anything else you may want, like vanilla or cinnamon. Blend at high speed. Transfer to your nut milk bag and strain into a large bowl. That's it, you're all done. It is so easy to make and tastes so much more fresh and delicious then the store bought variety that you won't want to go back to store bought anymore, carrageenan or not, anyway, which is kind of the point. Right? :)
You can find the full recipe with step by step directions at Oh She Glows. Enjoy!!!