Is Vanilla-Sweetened Almond Milk Healthy

Image Credit: t-dubisme / Flickr

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

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Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling 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.


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