Conscious Consumption: Dairy-free Dilemmas

You may or may not have noticed the plethora of non-dairy options in your local grocery store. Soy, coconut, rice, hemp, almond, cashew, flax, oat (?!?)… so many options. I remember when it was a struggle to choose between skim and 2%. Now this is a first world problem! I recently became aware that my go-to dairy-free milk choice was filled with crap, which in and of itself isn’t surprising. Not even in the “healthier food industry” do brands really care about your health, they care about profit. End of story. So, it’s on us as consumers to READ the labels. And if you want to know why there are more than three ingredients in your dairy-less milk -nut/grain choice + water + salt- well, I’m hoping to release that information here. When I chose to live my life dairy free years ago there weren’t nearly as many options as there are now. It’s both exciting and overwhelming because the market is exploding with dairy-free options from cheese to coffee creamer, but with that comes the task of sorting out which companies are putting out higher quality products. Seeking out the higher quality usually comes with a price hike, but my body is worth it, and really what’s $2 extra dollars. I spend more than that on my Americano. Priorities people.

Let’s start with soy. Soy milk was the first non-dairy option available for consumers who lived with lactose intolerance. And, on paper this looks like great option.


Nutritional value per 100 g
Cow’s milk
Soymilk
Whole Semi-skimmed
Protein
Fat
Carbohydrate
kJ
kcal
3.4 g
3.5 g
4.6 g
269
64
3.5 g
1.5 g
5.4 g
208
49
3.6 g
2.3 g
3.4 g
204
49
Cholesterol 10 mg 5 mg 0
Lactose 4.6 g 5.4 g 0
Fatty acid composition
Saturated
Poly-unsaturated
Mono-unsaturated
63.5%
3.0%
33.5%
63.5%
3.0%
33.5%
14.0%
63.5%
21.6%

Soy has 0 cholesterol, 0 lactose, less sugar, and FAR less saturated fat than its whole and 2% counterparts. Interesting to note that 2% has almost a whole gram more of sugar per serving, and what makes it semi-skimmed is actually the decrease in cholesterol, not the cut in the fat. Those percentages are exactly the same! So, you cut the cholesterol and add back in sugar for flavor, and increasing sugar is to also increase lactose (it is a disaccharide if you want to get technical), and so that value increases as well. Not so “skim” after all, is it?

Soy milk has 1/5 the calcium of cow’s milk, however, and 1/2 that of mother’s, so during the fortification process Vitamin B12 and Calcium are added back in. hpm_0000_0005_0_img0153.jpg

Good quality soybeans are harvested, cleaned, hulled, and pressure cooked. Next, the cooked soybeans are ground by a number of grinders that transform the beans into a milky slurry. The slurry is placed in a centrifuge that extracts any insoluble bits of bean. The separated soy liquid called jun is blended with vitamins, flavorings, and sugar and then sterilized and homogenized. The hot milk is cooled and packaged in such a way that it is never exposed to air.Read more: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Soy-Milk.html#ixzz4YgncEb9x

Here’s the most common soy milk brand in the American market:

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Ingredients: Organic Soymilk (Filtered Water, Organic Soybeans), Contains 2% or less of: Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin [B2], Vitamin B12), Sea Salt, Natural Flavor, Gellan Gum.

In the Original recipe, cane sugar is the second ingredient, & 30 more calories per serving. 

All across the dairy-free options calcium is one of the ingredients that companies believe need to be fortified or added back to make it competitive with regular milks. A common supplement/additive is named calcium carbonate. It is made up of 40% of what is called “elemental calcium”, which means it the closest form to the whole mineral that we can put in a supplement. This, however, leads to some digestive complications that can create unnecessary GI distress like severe constipation and bloating. These direct signs of inflammation and poor absorption in the body have the potential to create other risks, and with with calcium carbonate in particular, heart disease and prostate cancer are the two major risks being studied right now. There are several other calcium supplement varieties, though. One of these is calcium citrate, and while only 21% of elemental calcium, it is absorbed and used in the body a lot easier. However,  the carbonate is cheaper and this is why food companies looking to boost calcium in their products use it. Follow the money right? LAME! Below are lists of other popular brands for dairy-free milks with their ingredient lists pulled from the brand pictured’s website, the calcium supplement version has been emboldened:

new_coco-milk-unsweetened-largeIngredients: ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (FILTERED WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM), CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: VITAMIN AND MINERAL BLEND (CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE, L-SELENOMETHIONINE [SELENIUM], VITAMIN A ACETATE, VITAMIN D2, ZINC OXIDE, VITAMIN B12), SEA SALT, ORGANIC SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, ORGANIC LOCUST BEAN GUM, GELLAN GUM.

cash-milk-unsweetened-qt-1Ingredients: CASHEW MILK (WATER, CASHEWS), NON-GMO CANOLA OIL, CALCIUM PHOSPHATE, MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE, LOCUST BEAN GUM, GELLAN GUM, GUAR GUM, VITAMIN A ACETATE, SEA SALT, VITAMIN D-2, L-SELENOMETHIONINE (SELENIUM), ZINC OXIDE, FOLIC ACID, VITAMIN B-12.

1477611406448_2408843627534768314-1200wIngredients: Almond milk (Water, Almonds), Vitamin/Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, Zinc), Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Potassium Citrate, Natural Flavors, Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum

oat-original-450Ingredients: Water, Oats*, Oat Bran*, Tricalcium Phosphate, Sea Salt, Gellan Gm, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2

hemp-unsw-orig-productIngredients: Hemp nut base (filtered water, hemp nut[shelled hemp seed]), vanilla extract, sunflower lecithin, tricalcium phosphate, gellan gum, sea salt, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D2, riboflavin, vitamin B12

product-rice-dream-original-classic-1024x1024Ingredients: FILTERED WATER, ORGANIC BROWN RICE (PARTIALLY MILLED), ORGANIC EXPELLER PRESSED CANOLA OIL AND/OR ORGANIC SAFFLOWER OIL AND/OR ORGANIC SUNFLOWER OIL, SEA SALT.

So now I need to differentiate between calcium carbonate/phosphate/tricalcium phosphate supplements in these items. Well, I’ve already talked about carbonate so what about the other two? Both phosphates are used in other processed foods as anti-caking agents. As far as milks are concerned, the tricalcium phosphate costs slightly less than the citrate mentioned earlier, but more than carbonate, so you’re getting a little higher quality of an added ingredient. With a solid whole food diet, most people in Western cultures do not need additional calcium supplementation in processed foods. And people treating calcium deficiencies like hypocalcemia are probably already taking specific prescriptions, so it might be less beneficial/more risky to consume anything fortified with extra calcium. Eating too much calcium can potentially lead to hypercalcemia .
The parathyroid gland produces the hormones that regulate calcium in the body. If those hormone levels are out of whack, calcium can be released from the bones into the blood. This will weaken bone structure and can cause other problems too. Symptoms of hypercalcemia include lethargy, mental imbalance, weakness, dehydration, constipation, nausea, diarrhea, and even heart arrhythmia. – Global Healing Center
But if you want my honest opinion, and that’s why you’re here I’m assuming, simple is ALWAYS better. The less ingredients, the less processing, the less chance you have of consuming something that you’ll have a reaction, even if you think it’s something as benign as vanilla extract. If you were to make a nut milk at home with your fancy-shmancy Vitamix blender, you’d just use the nuts and water and salt. So why would you buy something that you can’t make similarly at home and put all the extra crap in your body? I mean really think about that.
There are two new brands in stores right now who are demonstrating you can put a good-quality product on the shelf, charge a little more, and maintain high standards. Malk and Forager are at Whole Foods:
                        vanilla.jpg.pngunsweet.jpg.pngpecan.jpg.pngcashew.jpg.png
nutrition-cashew.png
cashew-milk-unsweetened

Creamy Dairy-free Cashewmilks:
Dariy-free, naturally.

Free of lactose, gluten and soy all of our alternative milks are plant-based, gum free, organic and non-GMO. Our line of creamy dairy-free cashewmilks offers goodness in three delicious flavors
 I’m disappointed this brand’s website didn’t show a nutrition label or ingredient list, but I think it’s raw like the Malk brand.
Now, these do cost quite a bit more than the other over-stocked options (Malk is $6/28 oz at Whole Foods compared to the $2.49/32oz SoDelicious brand). BUT if you consider making it home yourself, and only using the same ingredients the truer brands use, you actually are paying for time saved and convenience that a company has taken the work out for you, and it’s more sanitary to boot. You’re also not buying a carton of true cashew milk daily, so your food costs are most like going up $12/month (or $3/week…which is less than the three or more Starbucks lattes you buy each week, isn’t it).  AND you’re getting something far far healthier for you. I say health isn’t hard, I didn’t say it was always economical. But it won’t always be that way once we start demanding better products from the food industry! And, IMO, spending more now is a lot better than medical bills later. I can’t put a price on giving myself the best nutrients all the time. If my love life isn’t worth settling for, what I put in body definitely isn’t worth settling for.
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