Almond milk is one of those uniquely common alternatives to not-so-awesome cow’s milk that’s somehow became coveted by both vegans and non-vegans alike. Not often do you find a vegan food item beloved by all that not only boasts a plethora of health benefits but is, in actuality, pretty damn delicious.
Somehow, almond milk’s achieved that, and more.
Growing up, there were no cartons or jars of almond milk littering my grocery store’s shelves. Our mothers didn’t buy $7 jars of vanilla chai milk alternatives or give us glasses filled with hemp milk to accompany our Oreos. We had bagged cow’s milk, something both my brother and I grew up on but which we now both choose to avoid as much as possible – myself more than him. I’m a little more committed to avoiding dairy products like milk after having watched a documentary or two which outlined clearly for me the horrors of the dairy and, more specifically, milk industry(ies). But it wasn’t until the past five years or so that I began seeing cow’s milk alternatives crop up in my local markets and grocery stores. Suddenly, new brands such as Silk and Almond Dream were readily available to consumers, allowing those of us wanting to avoid cow’s milk a so-called “healthy” alternative in the form of almond, soy, hemp, rice, coconut, and other plant-based milk beverages. I hopped aboard that almond milk train and never looked back. Until about a year ago.
See, while the milk alternatives we can so easily pick up from our local superstore make it easier on us non-dairy drinkers to enjoy “milk” in all it’s plant-y glory, you might be surprised to discover that most of the almond milk you find produced in mass quantities for grocery store chains are actually filled with synthetic vitamins and weird, sometimes unpronounceable ingredients added to help preserve the beverage for weeks on end until you come along and snatch it up for smoothies, ice creams, and other vegan recipes. Back in August 2015, I wrote a piece for Selva Beat Magazine which discussed the secret ingredients hidden in almond and other vegan kinds of milk – things like palm oil derivatives and fake vitamins. During the process of pasteurization, for instance, many milk alternatives like almond milk lose a lot of their essential proteins, fatty acids, and vitamins, which means by the time they arrive at your grocery store and head home with you, there’s little to no value in the milk. This also leads these brands to add synthetic vitamins to their “milks” so that you as the consumer get at least some benefit from drinking the product – even if it’s fake. Some brands don’t even utilize a number of almonds you’d need in a carton in order to benefit from the natural health properties of almonds.
So, store bought almond milk may not be as wonderful as we once thought, but what’s the alternative and how do we get it?
When it comes to consuming almond milk, everyone has their own preferences, however, I recommend getting your almond milk fix in one (or both) of two ways: make it or buy it. And by “buy it,” I don’t mean purchasing those generic brands stuffed with synthetics. I’m talking small-scale, cold-pressed juice brands. Still with me?
Often, cold-pressed juice brands which make their own fresh-pressed juices will also offer a small selection of almond milk. These brands will typically produce their juices and “milk” in small batches in independent facilities, which means their “milk” isn’t mass produced and does not include synthetic vitamins or palm derivatives. Of course, you should always check with a cold-pressed juice brand about their “milk” first, but chances are you’ll be surprised by the lack of artificial ingredients. I’m based in Hamilton, Ontario and a 500mL bottle of cold-pressed almond milk here runs between $10-$15. A bit pricey? Absolutely. But better than the “milk” filled with fake vitamins? I’d say so.