Monday, May 23, 2011

Results First- Milk Alternatives

We are picking up our Results First series on milk alternatives... because it's very hot topic. There are so many different choices out there and knowing which is best for our health get's tricky. How do we get through the label claims, ingredient lists, taste and more? In the end don't we just want a good clean product that provides us with all we are looking for?

For starters, I have personally tried nearly every dairy alternative out there. At about age 9, I found out that I couldn't handle cow milk. I would leave class everyday after lunch with horrible stomach pains with an unclear reason as to why. Being that lactose intolerance wasn't as quick to diagnose back then, it took a while before we really figured it out. I later learned it was the quality of the milk that made the difference in my digestion. I can consume raw, whole milk without my body responding poorly. I still have to be careful with amount, but it doesn't usually take much anyhow. In the between time I tried soy, almond, oat, rice, coconut, goat and any other form of 'milk' out there. I was particularly attracted to almond and soy because they tasted good without losing the consistency I missed from cow milk. Before I was into 'real' food, I would eat anything that had a healthy claim to it without much question. I thought that places like Whole Foods and Central Market would do the work for me, giving me the best products that could be found. Unfortunately I was wrong, and it wasn't necessarily their fault. It turns out the natural foods industry is big business and in order to make their products profitable certain measures where taken to reduce costs. The problem is most of these 'costs' are not immediately picked up on and can make us worse. In some cases, without prior background in food biochemistry or labeling, it's hard to decipher what certain ingredients truly are or aren't! Many of these costs are things that are detrimental over time. A few exposures are not necessarily the problem (like many things), but over the course of months/years they can be. So what are the facts? In a world where no food is perfect we have to choose the best of the bunch. Below is a list of potential negatives associated with non-dairy milks and some options for better.

Soy - Let's first start with food quality. Being that 99.9% of soy in this country is most likely genetically modified (GMO) and is among the highest sprayed, pesticide laden of all crops, I might not need to go on any further. But for those that would like more, I will. Soy in milk form is NOT a food, it's a food product. The process of the milk and bean is
not pretty and involves high temperature extraction, acid washing and neutralizing solutions that are left to sit in large aluminum tanks (potentially leaching). Now to the effects on us. Soy mimics phytoestrogens in the body, linking it to the growth of tumors in the breast, endometrium and uterus. Soy is also high in phytic acid which is known to block the body’s absorption of minerals such as calcium, zinc magnesium and iron. Fermentation is known to reduce phytates, but I have never seen fermented soy milk (blah). So what about Asian cultures? They are eating REAL soy, typically fermented in the form of tempeh, miso, natto, not some food product. Don't believe the mass marketing hype. Soy is NO GOOD! If you're trying to lose bodyfat, it can make it much harder to shed it. (I had to find out the hard way).

Almond - I love almond milk, and thought this was a sure fire way to not get soy, not get stomach bloating and get what I was looking for... a smooth, consistent milk taste. It is... or was. I was unaware of the potential long term costs until it was pointed out to me. The first knock is that almonds are almost always pasteurized either via steam or chemicals, and most likely with it's the latter. It's easier to do in large batches and there's less room for error. Almonds themselves aren't my favorite, so I am okay with not eating large amounts. But the milk I love. Well, come to find out there are some added 'bonuses' that we might not consider so good. The main one that I what to point out for this article is VITAMIN D2. This is also the reason I will not consume the newly produced COCONUT milk in the carton as well as OAT and RICE milks that are out there. I originally thought this was a good thing. The logic, no vitamin D (because no dairy) so we must add it = must be good. WRONG! Vitamin D2 is the synthetic form of Vit D. Our body wants Vit D3 which is the naturally occurring version. What is the purpose of Vitamin D3? To help make our bones strong. What have studies shown regarding Vitamin D2? Quite the opposite. IT MAKES SOFT TISSUE (joints, ligaments) HARD AND HARD TISSUE (bones) SOFT. Not what we are looking for! Here is some research to back this up RESEARCH. It clearly states that D2 should not be considered in the fortification of foods. Remember too, that if something must be fortified, it's not real.

Other ingredients that can potentially wreak havoc-
CARRAGEENAN - a polysaccharide made from a type of seaweed that was once recognized as a dangerous allergen. It's used to create the smoothness that we all love. The flip side is that it is also used to create inflammatory tumors, immunodeficiency and other inflammatory responses in lab animals.

SOY LECITHIN - Why they would put this in non-soy products, I don't know. It is used as an emulsifier to prevent sticking. The largest problem is that the chemical hexane is used in the extraction process. 

TRI CALCIUM PHOSPHATE - Used for anti-caking. Naturally occurring in bone, but for most products the poorly utilized carbonate or citrate version are used (read- ground up rock). 

There are others, but I think you get the point. These are non-foods that potentially have health leaching, vitality sucking effects. If you're still finding some of these in your rotation, try and limit your exposure as much as possible.

So what are some alternatives? Here are a few that I have tried.

COCONUT MILK - ingredients should have coconut milk and guar gum. Anything else and it's too much. I do limit my consumption as BPA is a concern with canned products. I recently added a Vitamix to my kitchen tools so am now making my own with ease (and without harmful byproducts). Other companies like Wilderness Family Naturals carry coconut milk in aseptic boxes that are free from BPA. 

ALMOND MILK - Make you own. Get a nut milk bag, a good blender and some quality water. It's super easy, more affordable and there's no hidden anything.  

RAW COW'S MILK - If you use dairy alternatives because your lactose intolerant, have you tried raw milk? Or non-homogenized milk? Many people have issues because the other bacteria that help digestion are destroyed during the heating process. Others have issues with their bodies reacting to the homogenization process. Find and test these alternatives if you're open to it. I once thought I couldn't, but raw has changed things for me. For more information on raw dairy please shoot me an email

I truly hope this helps you make and informed decision that is best for YOU. With our collective awareness to the hidden costs of some foods we create more demand for what we truly want benefiting others in the process.



  1. You didn't say much about goats milk. What is your view on it?

  2. Yes. I should have mentioned, but didn't add it because it's a real animal milk source. My thoughts on goat milk relate to that of cow's milk. If you can find a raw source, or even a low temp/non-homogenized source, that's ideal. The argument with goats milk is that it's more easily digestible than cows. The jury is still out, but base it on your results. I have tried it and the taste wasn't agreeable for me. But if you have a wonderful source and you like it, rock on! It's full of wonderful life giving properties :)

    Thanks for the comment.