Whether you or your child is allergic to milk, lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply in search of a non-dairy option, you’re in luck. Alternatives to cow’s milk have never been more numerous or popular. Your local grocery store is likely stocked with alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, oat milk and hemp milk. While these non-dairy milk alternatives are marketed to sound good according to the claims made on the packaging, the nasty additives tell a different story. These additives are in no way beneficial or health promoting. In fact, they are potentially harmful, particularly for developing children. Let’s take a closer look at some of them:
This seaweed-based additive is extremely inflammatory and should be avoided by all means. Carrageenan is given to lab animals to produce inflammatory symptoms in order to test anti-inflammatory drugs. As much as 25% of the carregeenan on the market is characterized as “degraded.” In fact, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Research Council of the United States have deemed degraded carrageenan to be a potential human carcinogen. Furthermore, all carrageenan can degrade in the body, in the gastrointestinal tract and liver, where it causes serious inflammation and intestinal abnormalities.
This term conveniently eliminates the need to list unsavory additives on the ingredient list. “Natural flavors” can mean forms of MSG, which is an excitotoxin that damages and kills cells, causing brain damage to varying degrees, and potentially triggers or worsens learning disabilities. “Natural flavors” can also include artificial sweeteners which have been created in a lab and been linked to many diseases.
Most plant-based milks contain canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, palm oil sunflower seed oil, and/or soybean oil, all of which are damaging to your health. Vegetable oils are extracted with toxic solvents as well as high heat and pressure, agents that rancidify the delicate chemical structure of the fatty acids. Further, most of them are GMO.
- Xanthan gum is a thickener and stabilizer, which is the product of bacterial fermentation; specifically, it is the polysaccharide secreted by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. It can be derived from common allergens, such as corn, soy or wheat. Xanthan gum seems to be less harmful to the body than carrageenan, but can cause intestinal irritation, including bloating and diarrhea.
- Gellan gum is similar to xanthan gum. It is a polysaccharide produced by bacterial fermentation and has been shown to negatively effect the intestinal tract of rats.
- Unlike xanthan gum, guar gum is made from a whole food. It is the ground endosperm of guar beans. In non-dairy milks it is used to thicken milk and maintain homogeneity and texture. Guar gum is capable of reducing the body’s ability to absorb dietary minerals from the food consumed alongside it. Guar gum is soluble fiber and can therefore have a laxative effect and may be irritating for people with intestinal sensitivities.
Soy contains high amounts of phytoestrogens which may cause estrogen dominance. Pre-pubescent boys are most susceptible to (often irreversible) hormone damage by consuming soy products and parents should make a careful effort to never feed their babies soy-based formulas. Soy also impairs thyroid function which lowers metabolism and leads to hair thinning, skin problems, and weight gain. Soy contains substances that interfere with protein digestion and can cause serious pancreas problems, including pancreatic cancer.
Your body does not recognize or metabolize synthetic (man-made) ingredients in vitamins and supplements. When you ingest a synthetically produced vitamin, your body reacts as if you have swallowed some foreign toxic chemical. This means that your immune system must combat the enemy invasion. If you keep stressing your immune system in this way it will eventually become too weak to protect you from illness or disease.
- Most non dairy types of milk are fortified with vitamin D, but what the manufacturers often fail to state is what type of vitamin D they have added. Vitamin D in whole-food form is called D3. Non-dairy milk alternatives contain D2 which is a cheap, synthetic and isolated form of the vitamin and, as a result, is extremely poorly absorbed. Just a single dose of 50mg or greater is toxic for adults. The immediate effects of toxicity include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle weakness and bone pain. This is especially a concern for children who consume products that are “fortified” with this chemical.
- Calcium carbonate is derived from non-organic, non-living mineral sources such as chalk and eggshells. Calcium supplementation is also associated with cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer and kidney stones. Recent studies are finding that it may even increase the rate of hip fractures in older women. Further, calcium can only be absorbed by the body if conditions are right. Vitamin D3 is needed for the absorption of calcium, not vitamin D2.
- Vitamin A Palmitate is associated with birth defects and bone fractures while providing zero health benefits. While naturally-occuring food-sourced vitamin A only creates toxicity in extreme doses, moderate overdoses of synthetic vitamin A can cause toxicity because the body cannot assimilate the synthetic version of the vitamin. Other side effects of this isolated chemical form of vitamin A include tumor enhancement, joint disorders, osteoporosis, extreme dryness of eyes, mouth and skin, enlargement of liver and spleen, irritability, drowsiness, fatigue, insomnia, abdominal pain, blurred vision, headache, hair loss, muscle pain with weakness, menstrual abnormalities, seizures, nausea, and immune suppression.
- Dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (vitamin E) is a petroleum-derived version of vitamin E. After absorption, a protein in the liver recognizes only the naturally occurring forms of Vitamin E, while the unrecognized synthetic forms are excreted. The Toxicology Data Network provides a list of the numerous health problems related to synthetic vitamin E including skin rashes, GI irritation, blurred vision, breast enlargement in males and females, diarrhea, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, headache, nausea, stomach cramps and weakness. It has also been shown to increase the risk of prostate cancer in healthy men.
- For a truly healthy and cost-effective non-dairy milk, make your own! I no longer advocate the consumption of almonds or almond milk due to recent information that claims one almond takes one gallon of water to grow. Although I live in California which is experiencing a historical drought, the Golden State grows one-third of the vegetables, two-thirds of the nuts and fruits, and ninety percent of the wine cultivated in the United States each year. Additionally, almonds are usually pasteurized using a process which uses a chemical called propylene oxide (PPO) labeled a potential carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- If you don’t have time to make your own, Aroy-D 100% Coconut Milk contains no additives, preservatives, or gums and is Gluten-Free, Vegan, Soy-Free and Dairy-Free. The package it comes in is also BPA-free.
- Simply Hemp Milk is organic, has no preservatives and no additives.