by Caroline Huffstetler
Some of you already know this…and some of you will be in shock when I tell you this. Your typical store-bought nut milk only has around 2% nuts (all Nutty Life mylks contain 20-35% nuts). The store-bought milk is fully loaded with chemicals and additives. You see, they kind of trick you because the milk has a great consistency and looks thick and full-bodied when you pour it into a cup. And it feels super creamy in your mouth. But that’s what the additives do – these big name brands use carrageenan, gellan gum, and locust bean gum to thicken their products. That way they can make a cheap product with very few nuts but still convince you it’s the real deal. What’s so bad about these additives? I will share my research with you below.
- carrageenan: I first decided to look into all of the ingredients in your typical nut milks when I learned that many include carrageenan, the same chemical used to de-ice airplanes on the runway...
Non-food grade carrageenan is a known carcinogen, causing colon cancer & bowel inflammation in lab rats. It is also linked to a depressed immune system. Food grade carrageenan can contain as much as 25 percent of non-food grade carrageenan. Furthermore, it can be used as an ingredient in an organic product…and the product is still considered organic! There is debate around whether the food grade variation causes the same colon and bowel problems as the non-food grade – but again, food grade carrageenan can contain up to 25% of non-food grade carrageenan & still be considered “okay” to use in food. That knowledge is enough to keep me away from carrageenan the carcinogen.
Carrageenan is an alternative to gelatin or gellan gum used to emulsify, stabilize, or thicken a food product. It is produced by exposing red seaweed to an alkali solution. If I wanted to eat red seaweed, I'd eat red seaweed! A lot of people think carrageenan is safe because it is derived from seaweed. However, once the seaweed is altered in a lab, it's no longer seaweed.
- gellan gum: Gellan gum is used as a gelling agent within the U.S. food industry for its ability to thicken, emulsify, and stabilize foods while withstanding high temperatures. The chemical process in which gellan gum is formed is way too complicated for me to even try to summarize it, so if you're curious then you need to google it!
Gellan gum is known to have a laxative effect in high doses, causing intestinal issues in lab rats. Gellan gum is also not generally recognized as safe for food consumption. Somehow, it was deemed "safe" in our foods if the regulations outlined in this link are followed. Seems wrong to me... [Source: USDA]
A purpose of gellan gum in nut milk is so the liquid does not separate & the nut particles stay bound to the water particles. Nutty Life mylks separate & that's because we don't put any thickening or binding agents in our products. It's the real deal & a good shake will properly distribute all of the ingredients in our products.
The other purpose of gellan gum is so the liquid appears thicker than it actually is...why don't you just add more nuts?!
- locust bean gum: Locust bean gum is a galactomannan (again, google it...) vegetable gum that comes from the carob tree. It is used as an alternative to cacao because it has less calories and more flavor. It is also used to thicken food products. It appears to be produced naturally. However, I am still skeptical. Locust bean gum is linked to increased gas, so maybe steer clear of it before a date? Personally, if I want my nut milk to have a sweet cacao-like flavor, then I will add cacao!!! And thickening agents are not needed in nut milk - just add more nuts!!
I could go on for a long time about this topic…hopefully this little post gets you thinking the next time you pick up that typical store-bought nut milk full of additives and chemicals. Read your labels!!!!!
Stay healthy & happy :)