Written by: Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet
In a past article in this newsletter, I covered the potential health issues related to the synthetic compounds added to most commercial non-dairy milk products. Even though many of these compounds are marketed as “nutrients” and listed as “vitamins” on the nutrition table, they simply don’t behave in your body the same way that real vitamins do, when they are contained in their natural, synergistic state with other nutrients.
The potential risks of these synthetic nutrients can range from DNA damage to reproductive toxicity. And unfortunately, the potential risks of non-dairy milks don’t end there.
In addition to synthetic nutrients, manufacturers add stabilizers, texture enhancers and other compounds to give liquids that would otherwise be clear, a whitish, milk-like texture.
One of these ingredients is guar gum.
Guar Gum: A Safe Stabilizer or Digestive Stressor?
Made from guar beans, guar gum is a polysaccharide that is commonly used in ice cream and other dairy and dairy-like products to improve the texture. However, guar gum also contains compounds – including phytic acid and lectins – that can cause digestive disturbances.
These compounds are actually referred to as “anti-nutrients,” because they can adhere to important minerals (including magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron) and remove them from your body. Lectins are also adhesive molecules that “stick” to the lining of the gut and can eventually compromise its integrity.
Some people tolerate guar gum without issue. However, others experience a range of digestive complications after consumption. If you do choose to consume foods that contain guar gum, take note of how you feel after eating them.
Another questionable additive that is found in non-dairy milks is carrageenan.
Carrageenan: The Seaweed-Derived Ingredient with Some Fishy Effects
Carrageenan is also a polysaccharide that is used as a thickener and stabilizer in many dairy and non-dairy alternatives. It is derived from seaweed. And it’s also found in meat products, beer, desserts and many other foods and personal care products.
While sea vegetables in their whole-food form have a multitude of health benefits, carrageenan is a processed ingredient that interacts strongly with proteins. Of course, this includes human proteins.
Many studies show that carrageenan can promote gastrointestinal inflammation… and even cancer. In fact, because of its potent pro-inflammatory activity, it has even been used in lab studies to test the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Carrageenan is still allowed in organic products and many large companies are lobbying to keep it that way. However, just because it’s organic, doesn’t necessarily make it safe or healthful.
Now that we’ve talked about the synthetic nutrients and additives found in commercial non-dairy milks, there’s another source of contamination we need to address: the containers they’re packaged in.
Cans & Plastics: Packaging that Impacts Hormonal Health
Whether you choose to consume non-dairy milks packaged in cans or plastic containers, you could be impacting your metabolism and hormonal system.
Almost all food-grade cans are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA) – a chemical with strong estrogenic activity. BPA has been linked to diabetes, ADHD, heart disease, infertility and cancer.
And while you might think that the risk of BPA leaching out of the can and into your food (and body) is negligible…. think again. The CDC found BPA in the urine of 93% of adults they tested. And like other endocrine disruptors, BPA is bioactive in amounts as small as a trillionth of a gram!
Unfortunately, the packaging alternatives to canned may not be much better. Plastic packaging – like the common “brick packs” made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – were also recently found to leach estrogenic compounds into their contents. This is according to a study published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.
Safer Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives
If you still don’t want to make your own coconut milk or almond milk (as I showed you in my last article), here are some commercially available options to consider:
1. Native Forest Coconut Milk: This product does contain guar gum… but it is packaged in a BPA-free can.
2. Trader Joe’s Coconut Milk (Lite): Also packed in a BPA-free can. The “lite” version contains no additives, while the regular version contains guar gum.
3. Aroy-D Coconut Milk: Packaged in a SIG Combibloc (made of paperboard and polymers) without any additives.
4. Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate: Pure coconut packaged in inert glass jars. This is a great product, but note that the texture and flavor is not like traditional coconut milks.
The bottom line? Choose whole foods in Mother Nature’s perfect packaging as often as possible. And when buying anything packaged – be sure to read the label for the ingredients and take the packaging material into consideration. The potential ill effects might not be immediate, but they could impact your long term health.
As always, healthy options are out there. You just have to be a smart consumer and choose wisely.
Read more Articles by Kelley here.
Kelley Herring is the author of the brand new book Keto Breads – which includes more information you need to know about why it is so important to avoid wheat and grains in your diet, plus how to use healthy replacements for these foods to create all the breads you love… without the gluten, carbs and health-harming effects. Click here to learn more about Keto Breads…
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