Plant-based milk alternatives have gained popularity as dairy milk substitutes, but some commercial varieties may contain additives that individuals might want to avoid. Here are five common harmful additives and why they should be avoided:
- Carrageenan: Carrageenan is a common additive used to thicken and stabilize plant-based milks. It has been associated with gastrointestinal inflammation and digestive issues in some individuals. While some studies suggest that degraded carrageenan may be harmful, the food-grade carrageenan used in most products is considered safe in small quantities. Still, if you are sensitive to it or prefer to err on the side of caution, choose products without carrageenan.
- Added Sugars: Many plant-based milk products contain added sugars to enhance flavor. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to various health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dental problems. Opt for unsweetened varieties or those sweetened with healthier alternatives like natural fruit extracts or dates.
- Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals: Some plant-based milks are fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals. While fortification can be beneficial, excessive consumption of synthetic nutrients may not be as effective as getting these nutrients from whole foods. It’s essential to maintain a balanced diet with whole foods to avoid over reliance on fortified products.
- Natural Flavors: “Natural flavors” on ingredient labels can be vague, making it challenging to determine what’s actually in the product. Manufacturers use this term to protect their proprietary flavor formulas. If you prefer transparency in your food choices, opt for plant-based milks with no or minimal added flavors.
- Gums and Stabilizers: Many plant-based milks contain additives like guar gum, xanthan gum, or carrageenan to improve texture and consistency. While these additives are generally recognized as safe, some individuals may experience digestive discomfort when consuming large quantities. If you have sensitivities, choosing products with fewer or no gums and stabilizers might be a better option.
- Synthetic Phosphate: Excessive phosphate intake have been linked to various health issues, including kidney disease, heart disease, osteoporosis and digestive issues, such as gas and bloating. Individuals with kidney problems, in particular, need to monitor their phosphate intake because their kidneys may not effectively regulate phosphate levels. Consuming too many phosphates can disrupt the balance of essential minerals in the body, such as calcium and magnesium. An imbalance can lead to weakened bones, calcification of soft tissues, and an increased risk of developing kidney stones. You’ll find phosphates EVERYWHERE. They are prevalent in fast food, processed meats, baked goods, and carbonated beverages and of course, plant based milk.
It’s essential to read ingredient labels carefully and choose plant-based milk products that align with your dietary preferences and health goals. Many brands offer additive-free or minimal-ingredient options to cater to consumers looking for cleaner alternatives. Additionally, making homemade plant-based milk using simple ingredients like nuts, seeds, or grains allows you to have complete control over what goes into your milk and can be a healthier choice for those concerned about additives.