The “healthy” dairy alternative, almond milk, could be causing catastrophic damage to your GI system and colon due to a little red intruder.
I’m sure, like me, if you made the switch from dairy or soy to almond milk, you thought you were making a healthy choice… but most commercial brands contain an additive known as carrageenan, which is just downright bad for your bod.
When I started experimenting with my body’s reaction to different foods, I realized that my beloved dairy (yes – I have a very emotional bond with dairy) was turning my face into the human version of the Colorado Rockies. I initially switched to soy milk, but based on the heated GMO debate and the hormone-mimicking substances in soy, I now use almond milk almost exclusively. Little did I know that my almond milk was including an uninvited guest. Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed and is used in dairy and dairy alternatives, as well as deli meats, as a thickening agent, stabilizer and/or emulsifier.
The food grade version of carageenan (aka undegraded) has been shown to cause inflammation, lesions, and cancer in the colon.
This is just a step above the non-food grade version, which is classified as a “possible human carcinogen” by the International Agency on Cancer Research. It’s labeled “possible” because it’s caused cancer in lab animals during studies, but (I guess) hasn’t been tested on humans yet… it never felt so good to be a human “lab rat”, did it?
The degraded carrageenan also causes inflammation. How do we know that, you ask? It’s actually been used for DECADES to INDUCE acute inflammation for lab trials. Seriously! I can’t make this stuff up.
Now, you’re probably asking why you should care about the degraded carrageenan – that stuff should not be in your food, right? WRONG. The food-grade version has been shown to contain up to 25% non-food grade (i.e. degraded) carrageenan. What’s worse (yes, it gets worse)… because your bod is a powerhouse digestive system, it actually breaks down the “good” carageenan to the degraded carrageenan in your GI tract – YIKES!
So what can you do about it?
1. Make a statement with your $$
I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways for us, collectively, to fight for a better food system is to put our money where our mouths are. There, in fact, are several alternatives to carrageenan that won’t give you cancer. For a list of carrageenan-free dairy products/brands, check out this resource from Cornucopia.org.
2. Make your own almond milk
This week I experimented with my first batch of homemade almond milk. I seriously can’t believe how easy it was to make! This will definitely become a weekly staple in my house.
Homemade Almond Milk
1 cup almonds
3.5 cups filtered water
Vanilla extract or chocolate flavoring (optional)
1. Soak almonds in water overnight (add vanilla or chocolate here if you’re using that)
2. Blend almond and water mixture for approximately 1 minute
3. Strain using cheesecloth or a fine mesh filter
4. Gently squeeze the strained almond meal to get extra milk out
This should keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. Admittedly, it’s a bit thinner than the store-bought stuff; I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s probably because it doesn’t contain a cancer-causing thickener.
In the comments, I’d love to know – do you drink dairy or a dairy alternative? What will you do to be carrageenan free?