Downfalls of almond milk ~ and new breakfast smoothie :-)

Sooo… I’ve been reading up on one of the key ingredients in my beloved smoothies; almond milk – and it turns out that the shop bought ones may not be all that good for you… booo….

Basically, many almond milks include the ingredient carrageenan in them; which in and of itself, looks innocent enough, as it’s derived from seaweed. However, if we delve a little deeper, there is much evidence that suggests it’s not all that groovy. Here’s an extract from just one of many articles I found:

Dr. Tobacman said that her research has shown that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation and that when we consume processed foods containing it, we ingest enough to cause inflammation in our bodies. She explained that all forms of carrageenan are capable of causing inflammation. This is bad news.

Furthermore:

And she reported further that when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan for 18 days, they develop “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes.

Erm, so, that’s clearly not cool…

There is some debate over whether degraded and non-degraded carrageenan have the same effects; and Blue Diamond Unsweetned Almond Milk (the one I used) do state that they use “food grade” carrageenan; their response to concerns is here:

We understand that there is an enormous amount of negativity on the Internet pertaining to an ingredient called ‘carrageenan’. We would like to take this opportunity to provide you with some information that may help to clear up any misconceptions about the use of this ingredient as a food additive and about the Blue Diamond brand.

As you may know, carrageenan is a food additive naturally extracted from seaweed and is approved for use in foods by the US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) as an emulsifier, thickener or stabilizer.

In June 2012, the FDA confirmed the approval and safety of the use of carrageenan as a food ingredient for human consumption. The FDA has previously considered the inflammatory and ulcerogenic effects of certain forms of carrageenan in animals, and has found that studies demonstrating such effects do not support a reversal of regulatory and ulcerative effects in humans.

The FDA also concluded that available research does not demonstrate that ‘food grade’ carrageenan induces tumor formation. Finally, while some studies and organizations have concluded that the ‘degraded’ form of carrageenan can be carcinogenic, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almondmilks and Coconutmilk Blends do not contain this form of carrageenan. Blue Diamond uses only the highest quality of ‘food grade’ carrageenan in its Almond Breeze product line.

Blue Diamond’s use of carrageenan in its Almond Breeze Almondmilks and Coconutmilk blends as a stabilizer complies with the FDA’s proscribed use and labeling requirements. Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almondmilk and Coconutmilk blends clearly identify carrageenan as one of the ingredients on the product label for all consumer to read and evaluate before purchasing or ingesting.

In summary, there are no inherent safety issues with this product line and we encourage consumer to read and evaluate product labels on any Blue Diamond product to determine it appropriateness for their specific dietary and health considerations and needs.

… so, obvs it’s up to you to do your own research and decide whether you want to continue consuming carrageenan containing products or not; but as I’m a little bit keen to avoid anything that’s possibly inflammatory, and / or contributes to impairments to insulin, I’m gonna steer clear…

But how to replace my beloved smoothies? Well, I could make my own almond milk – it’s actually really easy and not at all time consuming, as I previously thought it might be; however it is pretty costly and works out around £1.50 a time for the amount I like to use in my smoothies… soooo, I experimented with almond butter; which is *just* almonds – and it was yummy!

Recipe is:

  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, soaked in water for at least 20mins, or overnight;
  • 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds;
  • 1, 2.5g scoop of konjac fibre (I use Patrick Holford’s);
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice (I use Waitrose organic which has cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg and caraway – and is delish!);
  • 1 teaspoon of Meridian crunchy almond butter (nb. the almonds in this are roasted – so if you wanted it to be 100% raw you’d have to find a raw almond butter, or make your own almond milk);
  • 1 teaspoon of cacao powder;
  • 300mls water

Whizz in a high speed blender – and enjoy! It’s the perfect blend of protein, fibre, essential fats and a lil juj from the cacao to keep me going till lunch! Plus the lack of carbs plus spices make it a great blood sugar balancer too. You could play around with the spices, and replace the cacao with carob, or try cacao nibs instead… and I imagine a dash of honey or coconut nectar would make it lovely too…

Happy breakfasting, sweet peeps! xo

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10 thoughts on “Downfalls of almond milk ~ and new breakfast smoothie :-)

  1. hmm I’ve been thinking about making almond milk myself for a while, because I can’t find any in the shops unsweetended without sugar, but this a second reason now! Will have to give it a try!

    • Haha, yes definitely! The process is actually really easy (I say this as I thought it was a faff before I tried it, but it takes two seconds to pop the almonds in water before you go to bed, and less than 5 mins to whizz and strain in the morning – so easy!)
      … But as I mentioned, does work out a little more pricey… But if that works for you, is most likely your most nutritious option :-)
      Enjoy! xo

    • Ah, glad it helped! I saw Marie’s interview with the Food Babe too – Marie’s fab isn’t she?! It’s tricky to know which things to exclude and not to, but when I read a little more around it I thought I should at least experiment with something else – as I have a 500mls smoothie everyday! Sometimes even twice… So potentially a lotta carrageenan…! Apparently WholeFoods do one without it, if you’re lucky enough to live nearby one :-)
      … Anyway, glad you found useful, n’ thanks for the follow! xo

      • Yes! She is great! Whole foods is actually my happy place ☺️, we have a couple that are close enough to visit weekly. I found that silk pure almond milk is also free of carrageenan. Wow, you are definitely having enough almond milk each day to consider it… Here’s to being carrageenan free!

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  4. 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

    • Thanks for your post Debbie; it’s never my aim to preach to peeps, merely share my own findings… of course it’s always up to each individual to make up their own minds about their health. Your points may help readers make up their minds on carrageenan – though I would just like them to know that I see from your email address you work for a company who makes / sells carrageenan, so it is possible your views are influenced by that.

      Either way, thank you for the share,
      Nadia xo

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