Everyone seems to want milk in their life. I personally prefer lattes over black coffee and love making a full meal out of them for most days of the week. For the past five years, I’ve been making my own almond milk at home and prefer it over any store-bought version. I know it takes time to do, but I enjoy it and have it down to a science, so it doesn’t take long at all. So what are the main differences between milk you buy and the kind you make at home?
HOMEMADE VS STORE-BOUGHT MYLK
Have you ever looked at the ingredient list of your store-bought milk? If so, you'll notice it's full of additives like stabilizers, thickeners, preservatives, sugars and who the heck knows what else. It's pretty alarming as it only takes 2 ingredients to make yourself — almonds + water. Plus, it tastes way better, none of that chalky flavor that lingers with the store-bought varieties. Don’t you agree?
Since conventional milk is no longer an option, due to unhealthy cows and over-pasteurization, we have to turn somewhere for one of the most critical ingredients in our lattes. I can’t help but think “udder rot” when I picture those poor malnutrition dairy cows that rarely see grass, let alone get the chance to eat it. Truth is there are significant benefits to alternative milk but should you be buying it at the store or making it at home? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
I posted a recipe for almond milk several years ago but wanted to follow up and explain why I very rarely buy it anymore. When I do buy it, out of convenience due to traveling or pure laziness, I only trust certain brands. On one of my last trips, I turned to the store-bought kind and noticed it made my stomach feel heavy and achy afterward. I did some research, and I think it's the carrageenan that caused my discomfort.
SO WHAT’S IN Store-Bought Mylk?
Let’s start with almond milk, as it seems to be the most popular alternative. Aside from the extra junk found in most store-bought ‘mylks,’ recent studies show that there aren't many almonds in there at all. Seriously! I recently read an article that highlighted how there's only a handful of almonds in an entire carton. Sources claim that almonds make up just 2% of the beverage (2). I don’t know about you, but it takes several handfuls of almonds for me to make a carton's worth, and it's never as thick and creamy as the store-bought. But it does taste much better and knowing that it’s pure with no unnecessary additives keeps me smiling from the inside.
WHAT TO AVOID
When buying alternative milk, several things should be avoided. I’ve listed them down below.
BPA - Bisphenol-A is still used in the lining of many canned and boxed foods. The higher in fat, salt and acidity the ingredients are will make the BPA leach quicker. Choose boxes over cans when possible.
Titanium Dioxide - This alternative to BPA can cause inflammation in the small intestine which can ultimately lead to Crohn’s disease and other issues. It’s also listed as a possible carcinogenic, meaning it can cause cancer, so stay away.
Carrageenan - Carrageenan comes from red seaweed and is commonly used as a thickening agent. However, it’s also known to cause a plethora of digestive issues (1). It's a shock they're even allowed to put it in food as it's been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, which we all know leads to leaky gut. Even the World Health Organization lists a type of carrageenan as "possible human carcinogen" meaning that it can cause cancer. Seriously, WTF?
Guar Gum - In small amounts, it should be fine, but avoid if you have digestive issues. It may be the culprit.
Added Sugar - Stay away from mylks marked ‘original’ as these are typically loaded with sugar. Always go for the ‘unsweetened’ option. If you need a little sweetness just add your own.
Calcium - Don’t buy the mylks that have calcium added. This version is fortified with calcium carbonate which is much harder for our bodies to absorb and can ultimately end up in our arteries as well as cause kidney stones. The British Medical Journal did an 11-year study with 24,000 people from 35 to 64 years of age and found 139% greater risk of heart attack for those taking calcium supplements over those getting calcium naturally through their diet (3).
Sulfites - Some mylks contain sulfites which can cause allergies, headaches, hives and more. Be sure to steer away from this preservative often listed as sodium metabisulfite.
Alternative Milk Options
My everyday go-to for milk is definitely almond. I just love the taste. It does take 8-12 hours of soaking time so be sure to get them in water the night before you make it. If you prefer to buy it I recommend Malk since the unsweetened only has three ingredients in it.
One of my favorite things about coconut milk is that it doesn’t take long to make. Sometimes I forget to soak my almonds overnight, and I’m dazed in the kitchen craving my latte. I’ve found the best solution is a quick batch of coconut milk since it doesn’t take long to soak. It’s a real lifesaver for those panic moments when all you want is your coffee. Plus, it tastes good AF!
One of the great things about coconut milk is that it’s high in MCT’s (medium-chain triglycerides). These saturated fatty acids can be quickly burned as fuel for the body without having to be metabolized first. If you’re confused about saturated fats or want to learn more about the importance of fats in your diet, check out my post — ‘I Heart Fats’.
Rice milk is delicious, but it’s also high in carbohydrates which can impact your blood sugar since it turns to glucose in your body. Unfortunately, it’s been proven challenging to find rice that doesn’t contain trace amounts of arsenic, so be wary of this when drinking rice milk. Since it’s low in fat, be sure to add some butter or coconut oil. You can see the benefits of this in my ‘Coffee Talk’ post.
More people are turning to oat milk. In traditional Chinese medicine it’s used to lower blood pressure and improved consistency in stool. It seems to have a naturally sweet flavor and is a little thinner than almond milk but can be thickened with some heat. I have a growing interest that will eventually lead me to try it so I’ll keep you posted.
I know this was the first popular milk alternative, but we’ve since learned a lot about the issues with soy, so it’s not one that I recommend. Most soy is genetically modified. It’s also heavily sprayed with pesticides. Most importantly is that phytoestrogens in soy can mess with hormones, thyroid function and can lead to infertility, so just stay away from soy.