In the early 2000s, most people had never heard of almond milk and sales of the product were virtually non-existent. But as more people became aware of food allergies and intolerances and began seeking “plant-based” alternatives to traditional dairy products, sales took off.
By 2016, the market for almond milk reached $1 billion. And its popularity continues to grow. Sales are expected to surpass $2.7 billion in the next four years.
But despite surging popularity, commercial almond milk is not all it’s cracked up to be. Considering the amount of almonds in each carton, the product is rather expensive. And many brands contain questionable ingredients that could harm your health.
So, let’s have a look at some of those ingredients – and why you might want to leave most commercial brands of almond milk on the shelf.
Then, I’ll show you the easiest way to enjoy almond milk without the questionable ingredients and with greater nutritional value… all while keeping more money in your pocket!
Synthetic Nutrients: You Can’t Mimic Mother Nature
If you’ve read the back of an almond milk carton, you might have noticed a list of ingredients on the nutrition panel that aren’t “foods” – they are synthetic vitamins. The most common include Vitamin A Palmitate and Vitamin D2.
At first glance, this might appear to be a good thing. But synthetic nutrients are not in the form your body needs for optimal absorption. Even worse, these copycat versions can cause genetic damage and promote cancer. (ref, ref, ref)
- Vitamin A Palmitate (Retinol Palmitate, Retinyl Palmitate): The FDA has classified this synthetic form of vitamin A as a “known human reproductive toxicant.” Animal studies show reproductive effects and tumor formation even at very low doses. Conversely, natural food sources of vitamin A (from animal foods like liver, egg yolks, and bone marrow) are well-absorbed and tolerated even in high doses.
- Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol): While vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is vital and backed by reams of research, vitamin D2 is an entirely different (and potentially toxic) form that should be avoided. In fact, veterinarians no longer use vitamin D2 on animals for this reason. What’s more, studies show that taking vitamin D2 can actually reduce your vitamin D status. (ref, ref, ref)
- Zinc Oxide – This is the same white substance used in mineral sunscreens. It is added to almond milk to create an “opaque” look (as only 2% of almond milk is actually almonds – a fact that prompted a lawsuit against Blue Diamond for false advertising). (ref)
And adding synthetic vitamins and “whitening” their product isn’t the only way that manufacturers deceive (and potentially harm) their customers…
The Sneaky Ingredients Manufacturers Use to “Thicken” Almond Milk
The “creamy” mouthfeel you might experience when drinking almond milk isn’t from the small amount of almonds contained in the product. Rather, it is the result of vegetable gums.
Gums are a class of substances known as hydrocolloids. These compounds absorb up to 20 times their weight in water. They help to thicken liquids and provide a creamy mouthfeel. And while this might be good for the bottom line, it may not be so good for you.
Many manufacturers use the ingredient carrageenan, derived from seaweed, to thicken their products. Carrageenan is so inflammatory and potentially toxic that the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies it as a potential human carcinogen. (ref) This additive has also been found to promote leaky gut and damage the cells that line the intestines.(ref)
Other gums, including gellan, guar and locust bean gum, are also commonly used in commercial almond milks. These ingredients can alter healthy levels of intestinal bacteria and cause changes in the mucous layer that lines the gut. They contribute to low-level inflammation that promotes changes in cells of the digestive tract, including in the colon. (ref)
In addition, people with SIBO or IBS often experience digestive distress from consuming gums. If commercial almond milk doesn’t seem to “agree” with your belly – it is likely the result of gums added to the product.
Until now, the alternative to purchasing commercial almond milk has been to make your own. But this takes planning and a good bit of waiting, because most recipes call for the almonds to soak for 18 to 24 hours. But there is another way that is MUCH faster and easier…
Thick & Creamy Homemade Instant Pot Almond Milk in 20 Minutes
In a recent experiment with my beloved Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker (which turns out mouthwatering meals like Fork-Tender Whole Pressure Cooker Chicken and Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pot Roast in a fraction of the time of traditional methods), I discovered a very simple way to produce thick, creamy and highly-bioavailable almond milk – in just 20 minutes!
The process is easy. The results are superior. And if you opt for conventional almonds, the cost will be about $1.50 per quart (25% less than store bought). If you use organic almonds, the cost will be about the same as what you would pay in the store. For what it’s worth, conventional almonds are just fine as almonds are a low-pesticide crop and the nuts are protected in the shell while on the tree.
And these are not the only benefits, because the almond milk you make using the Instant Pot will provide more nutrients, fewer anti-nutrients… and you won’t have to be concerned with the added “ingredients” in commercial brands.
You see, soaking almonds doesn’t just prepare the nuts for “milking.” It is also very helpful for reducing anti-nutrients, like phytic acid and lectins. According to Weston A. Price Foundation, soaking nuts for 18 hours can eliminate most of the phytates. (ref) And that’s a good thing, considering that we absorb approximately 20 percent more zinc and 60 percent more magnesium from our food when phytic acid is absent. (ref)
But when you soak the nuts under pressure, you can achieve even better results in minutes.
Pressure cooking is well known to significantly reduce anti-nutrients in everything from beans and peas to grains and seeds. (ref) And while the pressure cooker reduces anti-nutrients, studies show it actually increases antioxidant concentration. (ref, ref) Pressure cooking has also been found to reduce the allergenicity of foods like soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, cashews and pistachios by binding to IgE compounds. (ref, ref, ref, ref, ref)
Now that you know the benefits of making almond milk in your pressure cooker, here’s how you do it…
Instant Pot Almond Milk: The Simple (and Fast!) Step by Step
To make this recipe, you will need:
- Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
- Stainless steel strainer
- Nut milk bag (this is the one I like to use)
- Large stainless steel bowl
- Quart-sized Mason jar (for storing your almond milk)
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 5 cups of water
If you wish to add a bit of flavor or sweetness to your almond milk, you may also want to include organic vanilla extract, sea salt and a sweetener (like stevia extract).
Begin by adding one cup of water and one cup of almonds to the Instant Pot vessel…
Close and lock the lid. Set the pressure to high and the time to 1 minute.
When the time elapses, do a quick release or natural release.
Pour the almonds into the strainer and rinse well.
Discard the cooking liquid. Your pressure-soaked almonds will be plump and soft…
Add the pressure soaked almonds to a high-powered blender with 4 cups of water.
Blend on HIGH for 2 minutes. It will look like this…
Pour almond mixture through the nut milk bag…
Then squeeze well (with clean hands!) to extract all of the nut milk.
Transfer to your lidded glass storage container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
For longer term storage, consider freezing in smaller containers or making “almond milk ice cubes” that are at the ready for your favorite smoothie or creamy recipe.
- 1 cup raw organic almonds
- 5 cups spring or filtered water
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional, to taste)
- ¼ tsp. Himalayan sea salt (optional, to taste)
- 10 drops stevia extract (optional, to taste)
- Add 1 cup almonds and 1 cup water to the Instant Pot.
- Close and lock the lid. Set pressure to HIGH and time to 1 minute.
- When time is up, do a quick or natural release.
- Strain almonds and rinse well under cold water.
- Transfer rinsed almonds to high-powered blender. Add 4 cups water.
- Blend on high for 2 minutes. Add optional ingredients and blend for 20 seconds.
- Set nut milk bag over large bowl. Pour almond milk through bag, squeezing to get all liquid extracted.
- Transfer to a quart-sized Mason jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.