Are non-dairy beverages really that healthy?
Back in the days of my sugar-free honeymoon, I went on the search for a sugar-free, dairy-free beverage. My favourite brand, So Good, had 15 grams of sugar in it! The unsweetened alternative contained Sucrolose. It turns out that brand wasn’t ‘So Good’ after all.
The good news is that most brands have an unsweetened version that contains no artificial sweeteners. These can easily be sweetened with a few drops of stevia or used in a smoothie that contains natural fruit as a sweetener.
The bad news? Most non-dairy beverages contain extra ingredients we don't want. Here are the ingredients in my favourite non-dairy beverage:
One of the problems with non-dairy beverages is the addition of synthetic vitamins, like Vitamin A Palminate. Also, most non-dairy beverages contain Carrageenan. This is added to thicken and emulsify the product. Companies claim that it’s natural because it comes from seaweed. However, several studies have linked long term use of carrageenan to various cancers and stomach disorders. Most studies have focused on degraded forms of carrageenan, but some researchers believe un-degraded carrageenan may become partly degraded during the digestion process. There are excellent articles giving more details here and here.
The fact that some manufacturers DON’T use this controversial ingredient shows that it’s unnecessary. Let your favourite non-dairy beverage manufacturer know that you want this ingredient removed. Gellan and other gums appear in some of the non-dairy beverages. These can also cause abdominal discomfort in those who are sensitive to it or it’s sources.
Many non-dairy beverages are made from soy. There is growing research and concern regarding the over-consumption of processed soy products. Doing my own personal research led me to eliminate almost all unfermented soy products. This helped me with a woman's health issue I had been struggling for years.
Ideally, everyone would make their own almond milk using a powerful blender like a vitamix, but I know that is not realistic. The path to eating healthy is full of choices based on what we can and can’t live without, and what equipment we have. I still occasionally drink Almond Breeze Unsweetened Chocolate beverage (sweetened with a bit of stevia), but since learning about the risks associated with carrageenan, I've drastically cut my consumption.
Remember that most non-dairy beverages are not a “health” food, but rather a processed food. If you do choose to consume these products, notice if they cause you stomach discomfort. If they do, most likely you have a sensitivity to the thickeners used.
Carrageenan-free non-dairy alternatives:
- YU organic rice beverage (shelf stable) (please note this product is high in natural sugar)
Ingredients: Filtered water, Organic brown basmati rice, Organic sunflower oil, Vitamins and minerals (tricalcium phosphate, zinc gluconate, vitamin A, vitamin D2, riboflavin, vitamin B12), Sodium bicarbonate, Enzymes (amylase, protease)
- RICE DREAM Enriched Refrigerated Original (please note this product is high in natural sugar)
Ingredients: filtered water, brown rice (partially milled), expeller pressed high oleic safflower oil, tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2, vitamin B12.
- Silk True Almond Unsweetened Original (Refrigerated and Shelf Stable)
Ingredients: Filtered Water, Natural Almonds, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Natural Flavour, Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Zinc Gluconate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D2
- Silk True Almond Unsweetened Vanilla (Refrigerated and Shelf Stable)
Ingredients: Natural Almond Base (Filtered Water, Almonds) Calcium Carbonate, Natural Flavour, Sea Salt, Locust Bean Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Gellan Gum, Zinc Gluconate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12
- Natur-a Organic Fortified Soy Unsweetened (shelf stable)
Ingredients: Filtered water, Organic soybeans, calcium carbonate, Natural Flavour, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12, Thiamine (B1), Niacin (B3), Vitamin B6, Pantothenate (B5) .
- So Nice – “Natural” (shelf stable) (not labelled as unsweetened, but this product only contains 1 gram of natural sugar)
Ingredients: Filtered Water, Organic Whole Soybeans. Sodium Bicarbonate