Can I still drink almond milk?

almond milk
CC BY 2.0 Montage of images from Keith Williamson and Amy

No one ever said making the right choices is easy. I grew up a milk-fed Midwestern girl and old habits are hard to break. I love milk -- "cow-juice" we called it growing up.

But I have to face the fact that cutting down my meat consumption cannot make a dent if I am drinking milk. Milk requires baby cows, so drinking milk contributes to the problem as surely as ordering a sirloin steak.

I weaned myself from the white stuff with the help of a crutch: almond milk. The lack of lactose sweetness took some getting used to, especially in my coffee, but after a couple weeks my taste buds have picked up the new habit and milk no longer features on my grocery list.

Recently the news on negative health effects of emulsifiers in our foods got me to thinking about that almond milk. My brand doesn't have any of the culprits implicated in potential health risks. For example, some almond milks contain carrageenen, a "natural" emulsifier and texture agent has been implicated in irritation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Nor does it contain polysorbate 80 or carboxymethylcellulose, two synthetic emulsifiers featured in recent reports on animal studies of emulsifiers.

But one does not achieve that silky, smooth commercial texture without the help of some emulsifiers. Even if they are "natural" and "organic," emulsifiers do what they do precisely because they have the chemical properties that help keep parts of the product suspended and evenly distributed when by nature they would rather separate. That same chemical property may act like a transport system for our intestinal bacteria, allowing them to become suspended and distributed into parts of our body where they should not be.

For now, I am drinking my coffee black. I guess I will have to find out just how easy do-it-yourself almond milk really is while I wait for the science to catch up with our modern industrial food supply chain.

Can I still drink almond milk?
Bucking the cow juice habit was hard enough. Do I have to give up emulsifier-laden almond milk too?

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