dairy free / FODMAP friendly / gluten free / gum free / paleo/primal / vegetarian

Recipe: Almond Milk

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Edit: As was pointed out in the comments by “Debbie”, the FDA has determined that carrageenan is probably not carcinogenic (but poligeenan likely is). I have no clue how we, as consumers, distinguish between the two at the grocery store. That being said, I still get GI problems from carageenan, in any form, so I will continue to avoid the additive. Your mileage may vary.

I had a great post all typed up about the dangers of all of the gums the food companies are putting into gluten- and dairy-free foods. But I lost it. Boooo.

Basically, if you’re sensitive to gluten or dairy, there’s a really good chance you’re sensitive to gums.

What am I talking about?

Well, the three biggest offenders are:

  • Xanthan gum
  • Guar gum
  • Carrageenan

You can google these and find out all about them.

In summary, they’re polysaccharides that ferment in your gut, if you’re sensitive to them. If you have fructose malabsorption or gluten sensitivity, you’re almost certainly sensitive to them. If you’re on a FODMAP diet, you’ll recall that fructans are a fermentable fiber (basically a fructose sugar attached to a polymer) that causes GI distress. These are pretty much the same thing. I don’t know why some polysaccharides are bad, and others are no problem, but stay away from these if you’re sensitive at all.

Other fun facts: xanthan and guar gums are used in oil drilling mud; carageenan is linked to ulcerative colitis and tumors. Yay!

Okay, so what does this have to do with almond milk? Well, any of the commercially available dairy substitute milks (soy, almond, hemp, etc.) all have carageenan or guar gum in them. I couldn’t figure out why, when I gave up dairy and switched to almond milk, my GI issues increased. I was like, “Seriously?!” Realistically, I don’t have a major issue with dairy, but my doc seems to think it’ll help some of my health issues, so I’ve given it up for the time being.

I didn’t want more GI issues, and I don’t really like rice milk (the only commercially available non-dairy milk without gums), so I decided to take on making my own almond milk! It’s a bit of work at first, but once you figure it out, it’s pretty quick.

Here’s the recipe I used: You’re Doing It Wrong: Almond Milk

Basically, you soak your raw almonds overnight. In the morning, you drain them, puree them in the blender with a cup of water (note: it’s a bit like grinding up meat in the blender…use caution to not burn out your motor), add some hot water and steep, then strain through some cheesecloth. You’ll have the creamiest dairy-free milk you’ve ever had!

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Only downside is that it’s more expensive than the cheap stuff thickened with the gums. But it’s so much better tasting and better for you. Give it a whirl!

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4 thoughts on “Recipe: Almond Milk

  1. SO MUCH FOR THE MYTHS
    CONSIDER THE FACTS ON CARRAGEENAN FOR A CHANGE

    Q. What is Carrageenan??

    A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste.
    Q. Why the controversy?
    A. Self-appointed consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption. On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.
    Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?
    A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.

    Q. What brings poligeenan into a discussion of carrageenan?
    A. Poligeenan (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans; carrageenan is not. The only relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods.
    Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan?
    A. The production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter. In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000. The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health.
    Q. What is the importance of these molecular weight differences?
    A. Poligeenan contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high enough that this penetration is impossible. Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.

    Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track?
    A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet.
    Summary
    Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan.
    Closing Remarks
    The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media frenzy that rewards controversy.
    Additional information available:
    On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
    On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies.
    If you would like to read the full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347

    • Debbie,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Interesting information about carrageenan versus poligeenan. For purposes of me, the average person, consuming one of these products, is there a labeling difference at the grocery store level between the two?

      In general, I get nasty GI symptoms from carrageenan, so I’ll continue to avoid the stuff and make my own almond milk. But nice to know at least one form of what’s labeled “carrageenan” is probably not a carcinogen.

      • Poligeenan is not used in food processing. It does not give the results manufacturers are looking for when they use carrageenan. Even if it was in food, which it is not, EVER, it would not be allowed to be labeled as carrageenan.
        You can be absolutely certain that you will never buy a food product that is labeled carrageenan but actually contains poligeenan, it simply is not permitted.
        More information on the difference between poligeenan and carrageenan can be found at the following link;
        http://www.carrageenan.info/ClaimsvsFacts.aspx

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