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Deconstructed: an Almondmilk

Inner Circle Member Forum >> Food and Diet >> Deconstructed: an Almondmilk

Bob Niland

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Posted: 10/10/2017 1:02:06 PM
Edited: 3/18/2018 10:58:11 AM (1)
 

Contemplating another Almondmilk

Edition: 2018-03-18

Both in this forum and on the Blogs, the topic of almond milk frequently arises. You can safely make your own. I have yet to encounter a commercial product that is satisfactory. Blue Diamond came up on the blog in 2016. Silk came up on the forum in 2017, which prompted me to look at it (below).

If we’re going to use processed foods, we need, alas, to learn how to read Nutrition Facts panels, read Ingredients lists, translate certain terms, and in some cases reverse-engineer key facts the producer did not disclose. Today’s exercise is:
WhiteWave (now Danone) Silk brand “Unsweetened Vanilla Almondmilk

Branding

No, that’s not a typo. There is no space between “Almond” and “milk”. Blue Diamond does the same thing. This is a coined word. Reasons for why they do that might include shooing away dairy industry lawyers (who sometimes sue when a product calls itself milk but is not from a mammary gland), or it might be to control liability if some activist customers figure out what the product really is [not].

Indeed, the largest lettering on the package just says “Silk” and “Almond”, with no “milk” in sight. Depending on package vintage, you may also see, in smaller type, “ALMONDMILK” or “almondmilk”. Use of this coined term is consistent in all the package views I found.

Positioning

Some of the Amazon pages show additional package views. This one (ASIN B00PGXQ68Q) includes these lines of cautionary marketing copy:
  25 unthinkably low calories
  ¼ the calories of lowfat milk
  50% more calcium than dairy milk
  FREE of saturated fat, cholesterol or …

Their priorities are not our priorities.

The product is non-GMO, but there is no claim of organic. A non-GMO claim on an almond beverage has been the subject of at least one lawsuit. There are no GMO almonds {yet}, and the brands apparently aren’t running the product {needlessly} through the actual certification process. The non-GMO would then appear to be pandering, as are, arguably, the gluten-free, and no HFCS.

The lack of Organic, on the other hand, is what it is. In case you care, note also a lack of a vegan claim. That sort of implies that something in here is animal-sourced. What that might be isn’t obvious.

Nutrition Facts

There’s nothing troubling about the macronutrients, and declared micronutrients (other than the calcium and D2). The product is, after all, apparently 96% water (they don’t tell you this, of course).

A couple of problems arise in the micros shown only as %DV:

  • Calcium 45%: That’s 450 mg of calcium. This is a number that needs to be zero, yet these clowns brag about it being twice what you get from dairy milk.
  • Vitamin D 25%: Yes, but. Check the Ingredients list.

Ingredients

From the brand’s page:
INGREDIENTS: ALMONDMILK (FILTERED WATER, ALMONDS), CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF: VITAMIN & MINERAL BLEND (CALCIUM CARBONATE, VITAMIN E ACETATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D2), SEA SALT, NATURAL FLAVOR, LOCUST BEAN GUM, GELLAN GUM, ASCORBIC ACID (TO PROTECT FRESHNESS).

ALMONDMILK (FILTERED WATER, ALMONDS)

There’s that coined word again. Notice that they hide the almonds inside that. Anyway, there really isn’t any such thing as “almond milk”. Almonds can’t be processed into a liquid form (a butter is about as close as you can get), so some liquid has to be added. And pulverized almonds typically don’t dissolve in, nor even remain suspended in, random liquids including water.

Filtered water is nice to see. With any luck it means they removed any chloramine. If so, they really need to say so.

On the almond content, based on standard values for magnesium and protein in whole almonds, 1 cup of this beverage (240 mL or ~240 grams if we assume the density of water) cannot contain more than about 5 grams of actual almond. That would be about 4 almonds per serving.

It’s not clear why they do this ingredient dithering, because as I calculate it, even if listed separately, almonds would still be the #2 ingredient. It may just be that they specifically didn’t want it to be so obvious that water is #1.

CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF:

I’m still pondering why this appears. My suspicion is that they are getting some push back about the junk ingredients, so their near-term posture might be: well, there’s not much of it.

However, this does tell us that there’s less than 4.8 grams of this stuff. So, 240g minus 5g almonds, minus 5g other leaves 230g water.

VITAMIN & MINERAL BLEND

The usual reason for doing this bunching is that if they listed all the components separately, some of them would fall way down the list, perhaps after the emulsifiers, and maybe even after the ascorbic acid.

CALCIUM CARBONATE

This is limestone, and not the form of calcium found in mammal milk or human bone. It is at the very least needless, if not hazardous.

Why did they use twice as much as you’d get in cows milk? My guess is to make the final product look like cow’s milk — opaque, very white, and not like dirty tap water.

VITAMIN E ACETATE

This may be here to extend shelf life, and not because you need it. It (and the vitamins A and D2 below) do help puff up the vitamin list.

VITAMIN A PALMITATE

Another possible anti-oxidant to extend shelf life. Probably not hazardous, unless you are getting generous other amounts of pre-formed vitamin A, in which case be watchful for hypervitaminosis A.

VITAMIN D2

This (ergocalciferol) is not the D you’re looking for (that would be D3, cholecalciferol). Unless D2 has some useful property in formulating milk-like beverages, I’m inclined to think that this is an effort to pretend to provide as much vitamin D as typical dairy milk does. In any case, ignore it in your calculation of daily D supplementation.

SEA SALT

Pandering — all salt is sea salt. It’s just a question of how long ago it was sea water, what’s been added, and what’s been removed. Salt from modern sea water has issues no matter how processed. Ancient mined unrefined salt is preferable. When they don’t use that, I’d rather they just said “salt”.

NATURAL FLAVOR

This could be anything, and not necessarily benign, from a program perspective. When this phrase is used, rather than detailing the flavorants, it may be presumed to be because they don’t think we’d like what we’d read.

In this specific case, this item would contain the vanilla flavoring, at least. Whether the vanillin (or molecular mimic) is actually extracted from real vanilla beans, or is some other thing that games the FDA’s loose definition of “natural”, is left as an exercise for the student.

LOCUST BEAN GUM, GELLAN GUM

These are emulsifiers, and the program counsels avoiding added emulsifiers, as they are suspected gut antagonists.

Why are they here? This is essentially the glue that holds the whole concoction together. Without some kinds of emulsifier or thickener, the almonds would separate out and stratify in short order.

ASCORBIC ACID (TO PROTECT FRESHNESS)

Since the label says “VITAMIN C 0%”, there’s clearly not much present, and what’s present is for shelf life, and not your life. Because this product is often sold unrefrigerated, product lifespan is a challenge. I’m less sure about their goals for consumer lifespan.

Bottom line for my family

We used to use this product, but now avoid it, due to the calcium, emulsifiers, and being an expensive form of water.

None of the commercial almondmilks would seem to be ideal for use in making yogurt. The unsweetened products lack sufficient substrate for the bacteria to metabolize, and the various preservatives may be expected to prevent bacterial growth (that’s what they’re there for, after all).
___________
Bob Niland [disclosures] [topics] [abbreviations]

Tags: almond,almondmilk,milk

Dr. Davis

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Posted: 10/10/2017 3:57:20 PM
Edited: 10/10/2017 3:57:57 PM (1)
 
Sad, but true, Bob. I’ve not been able to locate an almond milk that did not have emulsifying agents, also.

Thankfully, making your own is very easy and yields a far tastier result, though it only keeps 24-48 hours.


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bluefish

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Posted: 10/12/2017 3:45:01 PM
 
Is there a post giving directions for making your own almond "milk"?
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Bob Niland

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Posted: 3/6/2019 9:47:53 AM
 
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Posted: 3/6/2019 11:37:10 AM
 
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JenB

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Posted: 3/11/2019 4:39:22 PM
 
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JenB

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Posted: 3/11/2019 4:45:01 PM
 
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JenB

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Posted: 3/11/2019 4:59:22 PM
 
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Bob Niland

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Posted: 3/11/2019 8:59:57 PM
 
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ramand

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Posted: 3/25/2019 5:29:28 PM
 
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Bob Niland

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Posted: 11/14/2019 10:49:28 AM
Edited: 11/18/2019 1:02:19 PM (1)
 
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JenB

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Posted: 11/18/2019 10:01:17 AM
 
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JenB

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Posted: 11/18/2019 10:02:57 AM
 
And here’s how it’s done:
https://www.facebook.com/9gag/videos/736165103413430/?v=736165103413430

(for a Monday laugh) ;))
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NancyJ

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Posted: 11/18/2019 12:56:39 PM
 
Quoted From JenB: And here’s how it’s done:
https://www.facebook.com/9gag/videos/736165103413430/?v=736165103413430

(for a Monday laugh) ;))
Whoa, you said it!!


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Rodney D

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Posted: 11/18/2019 1:49:20 PM
 
Good one Jen! I often wondered how they "milk" almonds...and now I know.
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