Recipes - Almond Milk
Milk alternative manufacturers are vigorously fighting to keep the word ‘Milk’ on their labels. The producers of almond, oat, soy, and rice ‘milk’ drinks love having them marketed next to dairy products at the grocery store. It has served them well. Two-thirds of consumers believe that these drinks are nutritionally equal to dairy products. Why wouldn’t they? The milk alternative industry markets the products as equivalent and the general public believes them.
Up until this point, the dairy versus milk alternative issue has been a naming rights issue being fought in the courts, but it has now started to affect human health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now positioning itself to take a stand.
What are the potential health issues that have prompted this response?
Many well-intended parents have chosen to substitute milk alternative drinks for dairy milk in their children’s diets, and in so doing have inadvertently deprived their children of vital nutrients. The consequences of these decisions have resulted in numerous published clinical cases of resultant malnutrition, failure to thrive, Rickets and a host of other preventable issues in infants and toddlers.
In response, the FDA is anticipated to take action in 2020 by focusing on nutrition, enforcing existing laws like the Butter Act of 1923, and enforcing established label claim regulations. It is hoped that the term ‘milk’ will once again be legally restricted to the secretions produced by the mammary glands of mammals. Doctors recommend that children under 2 years old be given whole milk as a regular part of their diet. It is hoped that, by specifying what ‘milk’ is, it will alleviate confusion in the market.
Consumers need to make decisions by having access to information from more than just manufacturers of products. With the FDA finally stepping in, parents will be put into a position to make better, more informed decisions about their children’s nutritional health.
Did your mother constantly tell you, ‘Drink your milk; it has lots of calcium.’ Mine sure did.
Calcium is such an important element. A life without calcium would be extremely difficult, as our teeth and entire skeleton is made from it. Without calcium, we wouldn’t be able to walk, move our arms, or chew our food.
Recently, the National Dairy Council publicized a “What’s in your glass” schematic of dairy milk versus soy, almond, coconut and rice beverages. Three of the four non-dairy beverages all had exactly 45% of the daily recommended amount of calcium; dairy only had 30% of the recommended amount.
This seemed odd to me, so I began to research and uncovered that not all calcium is created equally.
Calcium is naturally occurring in dairy milk. The dairy industry also fortifies some types of milk with vitamin D, which aids in the assimilation of the element into our bodies. As the cow eats a perfectly balanced ration of highly nutritious silage, grains, hay and assorted commodities, the bacteria in her stomachs breaks the calcium down and it is absorbed into her blood stream.
After pregnancy, her lactating mammary glands pull the calcium out and add it in high quantities to her milk to support the growth of her baby as calcium hydrogen phosphate, CaHPO4. The CaHPO4 is a molecule that is homogenously mixed and readily available for immediate absorption. It does not come out of suspension and immediately can be assimilated by the human or baby cow body.
By contrast, when tree nuts, oats and rice are squished into liquid beverages, the naturally occurring amount of calcium is around 1-8%. The exception is soy, which is 51%. These beverage producers have to fortify the beverage with calcium to continue to market it as dietary dairy milk replacement, so they add powdered chalk to it. That’s right. Chalk. Like the chalk teachers once used to write on the blackboard. Another name for it is calcium carbonate.
In these non-dairy beverages, after a few days the calcium begins to sink to the bottom of the carton. After a week or two when you finally get to the last glass, the calcium is the chunky stuff you feel on your tongue as you drink it. More important, most of the calcium carbonate gets obliterated by the acid in your stomach, being converted to CaCL2 and thus is not fully absorbed into the body. CaCL2 is what is used to melt ice on your driveway in the winter
Consumers need to understand what they are reading when these nutritional guides are published and have a clear understanding of what they are putting into their bodies. Most people drink these alternative beverages because of the perceived health benefits, but they end up not getting the nutritional benefit for which they paid for.
Clearly, all calcium is not created equally.
The farmer wakes up early and walks out to the almond barn to shovel fertilizer around the base of each tree. He then walks over and using a miniature milking harness attaches it to the bottom of each almond on the branch of every tree in the barn. After about 15 minutes, the harness detaches after each almond has produced a few drops of Grade A, almond milk.
That’s how almond milk is harvested right?
Or maybe almond ‘milk’ is not the correct name, and a more accurate one is ‘almond squishings’ with 98% purified water.
What’s the big deal? It’s a white liquid and it’s in the dairy aisle of my grocery store, right?
Wrong. Dairy milk is harvested from a lactating bovine and is packed with nutrients. The basic breakdown of dairy milk components is protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and a plethora of other nutrients the body needs to grow.
There are only two almonds in each glass of almond milk, which is why it is only 80 calories per serving. There is nothing wrong with drinking almond milk, as it is a great dietary substitute for people with restricted diets. It indeed does have some of the essential nutrients the body needs, but a consumer would need to drink the entire cartoon to see significant nutritional benefits.
The issue is in the naming. Almond milk is riding the popularity and brand recognition of dairy milk and marketing itself as a nondairy alternative. It is buying shelf space right next to the dairy products in the grocery stores and converting customers over, but at what cost? If consumers purchasing the product think that is has the same nutritional value as dairy milk, they are ultimately being swindled
The only thing that society can do is become informed. Almond milk does have some benefits, like blood pressure and hormone regulation and it can be a healthy choice for restricted diets, but let’s be clear.
Almond milk is not ‘milk’. If you want the powerhouse nutrition of whole milk, you will not get it from a glass of 98% purified water and two almonds.
We live in a new world where whoever can pay the most for advertising can directly influence public opinion. Sometimes this new world of mass marketing can be beneficial and improve human health, but other times the messaging is misleading.
Enter the debate over dairy milk vs almond ‘milk’.
First off, almond milk is a misleading name. A better description is filtered water that is clouded with a few almonds that have been squished up. Almonds are extremely nutritious, being packed with anti-oxidants, and Vitamin E. National academic institutes have linked almonds to the lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol, and in increase in bone health and stabilization of blood sugar. These benefits sound incredible, until you realize that there are only roughly two almonds in one cup of almond milk.
Set aside the debate over calling almond milk, ‘milk,’ which is raging in Washington. Is almond milk really the better choice when compared to dairy milk? If you are a fully-grown adult with dietary restrictions or just trying to add specific benefits to your existing nutritional needs, then yes. If we are talking about children, then the answer is a solid no
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) adamantly encourages parents to give children under the age of two years whole Vitamin D fortified dairy milk and then switch to 2% dairy milk until age seven. The reasons are brain development and nutrition. Naturally occurring healthy fats in dairy milk are instrumental in creating myelin sheaths around the cells of the nervous system. The human brain makes up most of the nervous system. Thus, giving children dairy milk equates with healthy brain development. Fortified almond milk may be a decent substitute, if it is sugar free and fortified with calcium. If a child is allergic to dairy, then it is a great replacement, but parents need to account for the lack of some of the nutritional benefits found in dairy milk. Those nutritional benefits include, a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and the perfect balance of protein and healthy fats.
There are many dissenting opinions being published in the media, but when deciding we suggest people do a simple side by side comparison for the age bracket of the consumer. The labels may not provide this information, so follow the recommendations of your pediatrician and not what is perpetuated by the media.