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Is vanilla almond milk healthy?

How about Almond Milk? Been drinking as replacement for cow milk, love the taste, etc. However, I do buy the Vanilla sweetened flavor…is that bad? Am I taking away from the good of it all?

mercman40 / Originally asked in The Best Nut

Answer:

Almond milk is certainly superior to calf’s milk, if only because of the lack of saturated animal fat, cholesterol, and hormones (see, for example, my videos Acne & Cancer Connection and Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero), but is unflavored, unsweetened almond milk preferable to sweetened vanilla? In general, I’m in favor of cutting down on intake of empty calories whenever possible. We get only about 2,000 in the calorie bank every day–why not try to make them count? So almond milk versus almond milk with added sugar is a no-brainer decision for me, but I guess it depends on what you’re using it for. If the only way you would drink green tea is with the sweetened variety, then overall it would be healthier for you to stick with the added sugar (though your taste buds would probably adapt to the unsweetened variety, or you could try adding a harmless noncaloric sweetener such as erythritol (see A Harmless Artificial Sweetener)).

The vanilla question is interesting, though. Given its popularity, I was surprised there wasn’t more science published on the health effects of vanilla orchid fruit phytonutrients. There are two in vitro studies that suggest vanillin, one of the many aromatic compounds in vanilla, may be protective against colorectal and cervical cancer, but no clinical or epidemiological studies have been published to my knowledge. There was also a study showing that vanilla extract may interfere with bacterial communication, concluding vanilla “might promote human health by…preventing bacterial pathogenesis.”

The most unusual vanilla study may be one published out of Germany in 1999. Researchers wanted to know if our olfactory memory goes back even further than our verbal memory. Do we subconsciously remember tastes and smells from our infancy before we could even put them into words? They realized that there was a time certain German infant formulas were flavored with vanilla, so they challenged a group of adults with a vanilla-containing food. But they couldn’t just use your typical vanilla flavored confection because it could introduce too many other new variables. They had to choose something that no one would have ever associated with vanilla. So they concocted… vanilla-flavored ketchup! And guess what? Two-thirds of those bottle fed with vanilla as infants preferred the vanilla ketchup, whereas two thirds of the rest were like “blech!” and chose the regular ketchup. The moral of the story is that perhaps if breastfeeding women eat lots of healthy foods, their broccoli-flavored breast milk might get remembered years down the road! And indeed I even have a new video about that: The Best Baby Formula.

Image Credit: t-dubisme / Flickr

Dr. Michael Greger

About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

View all videos by Michael Greger M.D.

  • popparocket

    Almond milk comes in 4 varieties in my store, plain unsweetened, vanilla unsweetened (both 40 cal/serving), plain semi-sweet (60 cal/serving) and fully sweetened vanilla (90 cal/serving). We, like mercman40, like the vanilla flavor, but don’t really care for the unsweetened version and the fully sweet version taste like we are drinking melted ice cream (good in a horrific kind a way). The semi-sweet is “just right” on the sweet scale, so we remedy the lack of vanilla by adding a teaspoon of our own vanilla extract to each half gallon. But I might have to try adding some non-calorie sweetener to the unsweetened vanilla and skip the extra teaspoon of sugar.

    • r h

      please consider that when you are drinking store bought almond milk, you are most likely consuming added synthetic vitamins. it is high-time the consumer demanded (suggested kindly) to the producer to stop adding synthetic vitamins to our almond milk, as well as tons of other vegan products.

  • OneHipMamaJS

    You mentioned erythritol, what about mannitol as a sweetener- is it safe?

  • sugarfree

    One of my Neuro Psychology professors told us that artificial sweeteners aren’t the best because they can cause you to crave more sweetner than if you at regular sugar.
    I use Stevia, but am sugar free totally, and noticed a new product called “Truvia”.
    I looked Splenda etc in the FDA book that is really informational about all the additives, the studies done,etc and it says has caused cancer in rats..like what doesn’t right?

    • beccadoggie10

      I urge you to read Dr. Mercola’s research on Splenda. I would not trust Truvia either,nor would I true Nu-stevia, which is made from corn.

      I have lots of Green Leaf stevia, but no longer use it, because the teas I buy are already sweet, and I’m fine with plain purified water and eating lots of fresh fruit. Hence, I no longer crave extra sweetening agents.

      I nearly lost my vision from aspartame and don’t trust any artificial sweetener, as a result.

      • NotRappaport

        Mr. Mercola is not a doctor.

        • Susan

          Dr. Mercola is an Osteopathic physician. Osteopaths are licensed to practice medicine in all 50 states and are recognized in sixty other countries, including all Canadian provinces.

          http://www.aacom.org/about/osteomed/Pages/default.aspx

          You may not agree with some of his positions, but he is still a doctor.

    • beccadoggie10

      Not everything causes cancer. But Splenda was created to be a pesticide. However the “tester” misunderstood when told to “test” it. He thought he was told to “taste” it. And when tasting Splenda, it was found to be sweet. Hence, instead of being marketed to kill weeds, fungi, bacteria, or insects, it was labeled as an artificial sweetener. This according to research gathered by Dr. Mercola.

      Not everything solely causes cancer. Something may damage your immune system (which I believe is 70% of your gut), it may cause neurological damage and damage the brain and central or peripheral nervous system before it builds up enough in your body to actually cause cancer.

      This makes me wonder why you have come to Dr. Greger’s web site if you don’t care about your health in the first place.

      I don’t have cancer to my knowledge, but I have osteoporosis, which has serious consequences so I’m eating more healthy than ever before and am doing more weight bearing exercise.

    • beccadoggie10

      Given how many artificial sweeteners made their way into the marketplace, I avoid them all together. Splenda was originally created to be a pesticide, but when the tester was told to test it, he misunderstood and tasted it, found it to be sweet, and hence the product which was designed to kill or cause harm to pests, was created as an artificial sweetener.

      Truvia has an equally sordid history.

      I have re-educated my taste buds by eating more nutrition fruit and occasionally adding small amounts dried fruit to sweeten beverages.

      Rats are used as surrogates for humans. For example, and recent study by

      CRIIGEN Study Links GM Maize and Roundup to Premature Death and Cancer.

      http://sustainablepulse.com/2012/09/19/criigen-study-links-gm-maize-roundup-premature-death-cancer/#.UlSiKhCL01o

      The variety of GMO maize (corn) used in this study has been deregulated and is in the marketplace (grocery stores and supermarkets) in the USA, and around the world. No peer reviewed safety testing has been published in the USA. The FDA and USDA have ignored the studies of this esteemed French research facility and the scientists who meticulously did the studies.

      For more about CRIIGEN, see:
      http://criigen.org/SiteEn/

      I no longer buy corn, since this sweet corn is grown in southeastern and northeastern U.S.A. and GMO corn and soy has been illegally planted in National Wildlife Refuges with the approval of the US government under the Obama-Monsanto administration so that the pollen would contaminate farms, fields, and backyard gardens throughout the country and continent.

      Get involved. Support the Right to Know about GMO’s in Food. I contributed to the YES on 522 in Washington State. Hurry before there is no safe food to eat anywhere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/darryl.roy.752 Darryl Roy

    I regularly use unflavored unsweetened almond milk in recipes. Ideally I’d like to make my own (amygdalate recipes date back to the 14th century Le Viandier de Taillevent, where its the primary “milk”), but most often just use the prepared versions for convenience.

    For those who don’t care for the chalky taste added by calcium carbonate supplementation in the Silk and Almond Breeze brands, the Whole Foods 360 private label uses tricalcium phosphate, which I find less objectionable in creamy soups.

    • symbas

      Why not just make your own!.
      Go to “Straight up foods.com” Cathy Fischer has recipes on her site for all non-dairy milks..I have been making my own rice milk for a few years now…brown rice and H20

    • Susan

      Silk is one of the companies who contributed to give American citizens NO RIGHT TO KNOW whether or not there food is genetically engineered to resist more toxic herbicides, such as Round-up, Dicamba or 2,4-D –the last know known to be contaminated with dioxins, the most toxic chemical every created by humankind and 2,4-D is an Agent Orange ingredient from the Vietnam war.
      I drink purified water because don’t trust drinking products made by corporations who want to keep the public controlled and ignorant.

  • veganlinda

    All the nondairy milks we have available to us (unless we make our own) have vitamin a palmitate as an ingredient. Shouldn’t we be avoiding vitamin a supplements?

  • BCFotos

    I found in Silk, only the unsweetened, original flavor contain
    no Carrageenan. Wish Dr. Greger would do a piece on this subject.

    • beccadoggie10

      I don’t know if this matters to you. But the corporation which makes Silk, Dean Foods, Inc., contributed to the Right (Not) to Know if Genetically Modified Organisms are in their Food. Dean Foods weighed in financially opposed to both States and the federal government’s labeling GMO’s in food.

      I take this as they have something to hide!

      I realize that Silk is sold as both organic and non-GMO, but it is not verified by the Non-GMO Project, to my knowledge.

      The USDA has allowed some foods to contain some GMO’s, as well as synthetic ingredients. The USDA has ignored the public in favor of big business on this stance as well as claiming Carrageenan is safe because the FDA said it was. They have ignored the health effects that people are experiencing. This to me is not surprising, given the revolving doors at the FDA.

      Numerous recent studies on GMO soy have uncovered very severe health damage to test animals, livestock, and humans. Look at the severe birth defects as a result of ingesting GMO soy in Danish pigs, and an infant in Argentina at:
      http://gmoevidence.com/

      Given the games played at the U.S. FDA with Monsanto’s Michael Taylor as Food Czar, and the coziness of the Secretary of Agriculture to Monsanto, I have chosen to avoid all Silk soy in particular, and all but Eden Organic soy in general.

      Eden Organic tests their soy beans to make certain they do not contain GMO’s. They are double certified organic, but not certified by the USDA because the USDA has undermined the Rule of the Law, the National Organic Foods and Production Act of 1990.

      With regards to Carrageenan, the Cornucopia Institute has put out this report, “How a “Natural” Food Additive is Making Us Sick.”
      http://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Carrageenan-Report1.pdf

      They have tried to get the USDA and FDA to take Carrageean out of organic food, but to no avail.

      Our health is a political football putted back and forth between the USDA and US FDA, regardless of administration in the White House.

  • dob bylan

    Could you please do a video on which dairy-free milk is healthiest?

  • Pamela Joy

    What about the carageenan in commercially-prepared almond milk? I have not been able to find any source for almond milk that does not contain this artificially altered seaweed derivative, other than my own kitchen.

    • jesse_grimes

      The wholefoods and traderjoes brand do not contain carageenan, but unfortunately they only sell them at their own stores. The wholefoods one is also organic.

      • pambyard

        Thank you, Jesse_grimes, I’ll have to check it out next time I am at Whole Foods. Unfortunately, the nearest store is almost 2 hours away from me. In the meantime, I make my own almond milk at home and it is pretty tasty.

  • beccadoggie10

    My daughter bought a Vita-Mix blender which has a high speed motor and uses an polyester plastic jar which I find questionable. But, she makes her own almond milk with water that has been purified through RO and carbon filtration and raw “certified organic” almonds. The best almonds are those grown and produced by the organic method under the law, but the USDA often does not follow the rule of the law.

  • Kelley

    I just looked at the ingredients list on my 2 favorite milk substitutes (Blue Diamond Vanilla Almond Breeze & Pacific Original Hemp) and noticed they both have vitamin a palmitate added to them. In another video Dr. Greger mentioned that vitamin a palmitate added to skim milk is suspected in weakening people’s bones. I wonder if there was any confirmation on that theory?

  • keleee

    I have a question to ask about my loss of appetite. I have chronic pain from Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Over the past 10 years I slowly lost my appetite for meat, fish, fast food, restaurant food and frozen foods. I pretty much live on just a few types of foods now. My typical daily meals consist of zero percent fat Greek Yogurt with cut up apples or grapes mixed in a couple times a day. I sometimes will have a bowl of Organic shredded wheat with low fat organic milk with Hemp hearts and Flax on top. I really don’t eat much more then that except for fresh fruit. Do you know what would cause this? Can medication ruin your appetite? I don’t cook anymore because the smell bothers me unless it is apple pie or something I like. I am still about 20 lbs overweight and I’m not dieting. My bloodwork is normal except I am a bit iron deficient and my Vitamin D is low and has been for years. I have never been able to donate blood because of my low iron. I take a vitamin daily. Is what I am eating dangerous? It is the only thing that appeals to me other then sweet things which I try and stay away from.

  • Lalla

    Commercial milk, almond or cow, is pasteurized – no enzymes – basically a non-food with heat-damaged minerals and vitamins, difficult for digestion and acid forming in the body. In fact your body will draw calcium from your bones to neutralise the acid and correct the PH to more alkaline (osteoporosis). Baby cow’s die when fed pasteurized cow’s milk. Research Dr Tim O’Shea / Dr Robert Young for further information and stop drinking commercial milk … and BTW your commercial fruit juice organic or not, freshly squeezed or not is also pasteurized! Squeeze your own oranges at home and make your own nut milk from raw sprouted nuts and drink raw unpasteurized dairy from an organic source.

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