First post of the blog, so why not start off with some basics. I often get asked what I do about milk as a vegan. For me, dairy was never a big part of my diet anyway so I guess I cope well without it because I don’t see it as an everyday staple like a lot of people do. Even though I don’t heavily rely on it, I still like to have some plant-based milks around to use in recipes or even just for days I feel like having granola.
When I started looking for dairy-free milks in the supermarket, me being me I read all the ingredients on the cartons and realised a few things, especially with the popular brands (unless you’re buying organic). Firstly, there are TOO many unnecessary ingredients. Having made my own milks at home I know that the only ingredients needed are the nut or bean and water – 2 ingredients!! Why these milks have a list of 8-10 ingredients with words that I didn’t then understand (but now do) and only a ridiculously small percentage of the nut or bean itself baffles me. These extra ingredients are used to cut costs and imitate qualities like thickness and texture, but if you’re trying to eat a healthy and natural diet and you blindly consume these ingredients without knowing what they are, you might not be feeding your body with the best ingredients after all – especially if you consume it every. single. day.
So without naming names, here are the ingredients listed in actual sold brands followed by a breakdown of red-flag ones I avoid. I’m basing this on UK brands as those are the ones I’m familiar with, but these aren’t uncommon ingredients so you can still apply it.
- Vitamin D2 – deceivingly a healthy looking ingredient (because duh vitamins), there is a fine line between D2 being an effective source of vitamin D and it being toxic when it comes to dosage. Vitamin D toxicity can affect your bones and organs and lead to symptoms such as fatigue amongst other side-effects. Because it’s easier for a low dosage of D2 to become toxic to your body, it can be harmful for children and even for adults in the long run when you are ingesting it everyday in your milk. The best source of vitamin D is still through sun exposure.
- Carrageenan – also sometimes found in by-products like yoghurt and ice cream, carrageenan is widely used as a thickening agent and stabiliser. There are two forms – degraded and undegraded. Degraded carrageenan has a tarnished reputation because it causes adverse inflammation and ulceration, which can lead to other diseases. Whilst it is the undegraded type that is used in food products, studies have shown they can also lead to similar negative effects depending on exposure.
- [If you’d like to read more click here and here.]
Small doses of these ingredients are obviously not going to cause much harm to your body; if I’m at a cafe or a friend buys it for me when I’m at theirs I’ll drink it but what I’m saying is avoid buying milks that contain these ingredients for everyday use. The long list of ingredients indicate how processed and unnatural they are and should scare you off anyway but think about the cumulative effect it can have when they become a part of your everyday diet, especially when it’s not needed in the first place! (That’s not to say dairy is any better, dairy is unhealthy on another level but that will come in its own post…)
I avoid these milks because they are processed, and processed foods and drinks are something I make an effort to avoid. If that’s not a big concern for you then by all means, ignore my post… But the point I’m trying to make is this. I hear so many people talk about these milks as if they’re healthy, but as with any processed food I’m asking you to realise it isn’t and to find a natural, unprocessed alternative especially (I cannot emphasise this enough) if it’s an everyday staple for you. Next time you’re in the supermarket read the ingredients and question what you don’t know; I can guarantee most non-organic milks will contain a list of unnecessary ingredients like the ones I’ve shown above.
My suggestion is to make your own plant-based milks which as I’ll show in my next post is cheaper, super easy to do and tastes so much better! If you’ve not got the time or equipment, make sure you read the labels of what you’re buying and always get the organic stuff. Some brands I know don’t have these excess ingredients are Rude Health, Provamel, Holland & Barrett, and Oatly but I’m sure there are more in other countries. Also have a look in markets or for stalls that do it fresh (like the soya milk vans and coconut milk stalls in Malaysia) and always get it unsweetened! Sorry about the lecture but this needs to be talked about more!
Edit: Home-made Almond Milk (2 Ways) Recipes here