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
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!
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!