Paleo Plan

Is Almond Milk Paleo?

Almonds are Paleo, so almond milk should be Paleo, too, right? Well, mostly…

First, for what purpose would a Paleo person use almond milk? You could pour it over nuts and seeds and dried fruit and make a cereal type snack. Or you could drink it. One cup of the unsweetened commercial variety contains about 30 calories, 1 gram of protein, 1 gram of carbs, and 2.5 grams of fat. So it’s basically like drinking water. Except it’s not water because there are nuts and all kinds of other weird ingredients in it.

If you were to make your own almond milk, you would simply soak some almonds and blend them up with water and maybe some cinnamon and a little honey. Then you’d strain the nut shards out and BOOM – you have almond milk. Four ingredients.

Now, let’s look at the ingredients in store bought almond milk.

This one is Silk Pure Almond Unsweetened Almond Milk.

Ingredients: All Natural Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds), Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Locust Bean Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Gellan Gum, Natural Flavor, d-alpha-Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D2. 

(The Original version has evaporated cane juice added to it.)

Here’s Blue Diamond’s take on unsweetened almond milk:


Ingredients:
 almondmilk (filtered water, almonds), calcium carbonate, tapioca starch, sea salt, potassium citrate, carrageenan, sunflower lecithin, natural flavor, vitamin a palmitate, vitamin d2 and d-alpha-tocopherol (natural vitamin E).

 

I don’t know why they add Vitamin D2: it’s not the D3 that our bodies actually assimilate, so don’t be fooled by that.  As for the other ingredients – locust bean gum, sunflower lecithin, carrageenan, gellan gum (never even seen that until just now), natural flavor (to make it taste more like almonds?), calcium carbonate (chalk), tapioca starch, and all the rest, what are those?

Locust bean gum (gum extracted from the carob tree), carrageenan (a gel extracted from seaweed), gellan gum (a gel produced by bacteria), and tapioca starch (same as tapioca flour, made from the starchy root cassava) are thickeners. If you ever make your own almond milk, you’ll notice that it’s very thin and watery unless you use a higher almond:water ratio. But that would be very costly for the manufacturer to do. So they use fewer almonds and more weird ingredients to thicken it up so you don’t feel like you’re drinking just water. Then they use the natural flavor to, yes, make it taste more like the almonds they omitted to save money.

Calcium carbonate is used as an anti-caking agent in a lot of products, but they also probably put it in almond milk to ease the minds of the lactose intolerant who sub out almond milk for calcium-rich cow’s milk.

Sunflower lecithin – or any lecithin – is an emulsifier. It keeps the fat from separating from everything else.

Everything else is a vitamin or a mineral because it apparently is a law that synthetic vitamins and minerals must populate pre-packaged, processed foods.

So is commercial almond milk Paleo? In a perfect world, no, and especially not the sweetened kind. Even the unsweetened versions are weird and full of synthetic, chemically processed ingredients. To be honest, even the almonds are now often chemically processed, which is one reason I’m not a huge fan of them. Since 2007, all almonds must be pasteurized either by steaming, roasting, or applying propylene oxide (a probable human carcinogen) to them. That means many of the nutrients are lost and they’re no longer “raw”. Anyway, besides that, calcium carbonate is the main ingredient in Tums and chalk, so on principle I have a problem with it being the second ingredient in a lot of people’s staple beverage.

The verdict is….

In reality, when people ask me if they can drink store bought almond milk on a Paleo diet, I say yes because it falls somewhere between “hell no” and “heck yes” on the Paleo spectrum. I say try to make your own with soaked almonds, so you can at least expel some of the anti-nutrients from them. Homemade almond milk with all Paleo ingredients is perfectly fine.

Just try not to make store bought almond milk an everyday thing. Everything in moderation, right?

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30 Comments

  1. Wow, very interesting! I’m waiting to get a new blender before making almond milk. (Mine died recently, so since then I’ve been purchasing almond milk at the store just like I used to before making it myself.) I never bothered reading the labels on my Almond Breeze Unsweetened Original… whoops! Now I’ve learned! I can’t wait for my new blender to arrive!

    Until then, is [canned] coconut milk a good option for paleo-cereal-eating?

    • Jess – It’s much more calorie dense, so just beware of that. Otherwise it’s perfect for cereal type snacks.

  2. Cyndy M

    I do not eat much red meat as my body does not assimulate it well. I am fine with fowl dark and white meat and all seafood and fish. Can I follow this plas successfully eating those foods with vegies and fruits

  3. So are the almonds that Trader Jo sells as ‘raw’ not really raw?

    • Odile – That’s correct. No almonds are actually raw anymore. It’s been a big deal among raw foodists and the good people in the almond industry. Big bummer…

  4. Awesome information you wrote there. I’m a Paleo diet advocate myself and I’m always in the look out for intelligent articles and postings. Kudos!

  5. Good break down on the ingredients – really helpful!

  6. Wow, I never really bothered reading the label, I am ashamed to say. And now that you mention the ingredients I am sort of grossed out by it anything that is an anti-caking agent, just gives me a bad visual. But thank you for the link on making your own almond milk. Have to try that.

  7. I googled about almond milk and your post came up… so would you say that Almond milk is better than having organic cows milk? Im struggling because my kids love milk with their paleo waffles in the mornings, but i remember almond milk having too much junk in it…

    • Adriana – You should check out my posts on dairy. I’m not a big fan, so I’d probably honestly say to give them coconut milk instead. Water it down and see how they like it – the canned kind. It’ll give them some extra fat in the morning to keep their energy more sustained through the day, too.

  8. I know you just said not to make it an everyday thing, but…I just can’t drink my coffee black. If I’m only using about 1/4 cup each day, it can’t be too bad, right?

    • Lindsay – Try putting canned coconut milk in your coffee instead?

  9. The vast majority of cans are lined with BPA, so be careful with the coconut milk! Where can we find canned coconut milk that is certified BPA free?

  10. I’ve used homemade almond and sesame seed milk for years. I’ve even made a type of mayonnaise with almond milk. It’s just strained homemade almond milke and oil whipped together with some spices.

  11. Wow, I never really bothered reading the label, I am ashamed to say. And now that you mention the ingredients I am sort of grossed out by it anything that is an anti-caking agent, just gives me a bad visual.:benefits of lemon waterWhen life throws you a lemon, here is why you literally must make lemonade!!!

    Most people are fond of decorating water or drink glasses with a slice of lemon. The lemons end up being wasted with all the goodness that their water is rich in. Lemon water hydrates and oxygenates your body leaving you feeling energized and refreshed. Here are more benefits of lemon water.Vitamin Cwhich is known to be a natural anti-oxidant.

  12. So what types of food can you get calcium from on the Paleo diet?

  13. Vanessa rocca

    Hi.. I’m not on a paleo diet… but my diet consists of fish, chicken, salads, light greek vinagrette, and berries. only whole grain ezequiel bread, and brown rice (one serving per day)… I do use almond milk to mix w berries when making my shakes… but will try to make my own almond milk from now on..
    Any links w tips on how to become more paleo. seems that no grains at all are allowed… :/

  14. do you have a recipe for almond milk that you recommend? I have seen Italian raw almonds at Whole Foods and they are said to be really raw. Does Europe also treat almonds? Thank you.

  15. Guillermo Escobar

    Hi, I’m not paleo because I love a couple of slices of bread (hole weed I think you call it in English in Spanish is integral) in the morning with my eggs (boiled) and a little slice of cheese (white). But the resto of the day I eat paleo. Once every 2 weeks I get some pasta. My question is what is the best time to drink the almond milk. Morning afternoon night? Does it makes a difference if I want to drink a glass during the night before I go to sleep or should I only drink it before my workout (crossfit) wich is at 5:00 pm. Thank you greetings from panama.

    • Neely Quinn

      Guillermo Escobar – We call it “whole wheat” bread :) And it doesn’t matter when you drink almond milk. It’s not really a food high in nutrients, especially if you don’t make it yourself. So it’s kind of negligible in terms of calories, carbs, protein, and fat.

  16. Great Info! Exactly what I was looking for. An honest breakdown. I think I will definitely stay away from the store bought stuff. Thank you!!

  17. Would homemade almond milk be okay to bake with substituting in for cow’s milk?

    • Neely Quinn

      Rebekah – Yes, for most things. Not for supplementing baby formula, but pretty much everything else it should work.

  18. Is Hemp Milk Paleo and a good alternative?

  19. Theresa Thomas

    First I have to say your website is very informative and I love reading the information you have I find it human palatable. Non of this crazy science talk.

    My fitness trainer told me today that Almond milk was not good for you in any sense and just to read what’s on the back of the box. So I thought I would research myself. and this little tid bit of information really just made the final decision that I need to throw it out. Cause this grossed me out!

  20. Try unsweetened Califia brand. Ingredients : almonds, filtered water.
    The end. No more making your own voila!

  21. Eddie

    Where can I find a list of all the foods that can be eaten on the Paleo diet? Thanks

  22. flower

    Have been making our own almond milk for 18 months, now…after the alert from Dr. Weil, about negative health impact from “natural” thickeners in commercial blends…carageenan, xanthum gum, locust bean gum, etc; which by the way, are lurking in more products than you might think. YES, read labels, and do personal research, to protect your health, from the corporations that work hand in hand, with the medical establishment to keep you sick.

    Homemade almond milk is WAY superior, in flavor, and nutrition; check out sources that explain and affirm this fact. Easy to make, no special blender necessary. Just be sure to soak almonds for a good length of time, for a variety of reasons…there are good recipes online.

    AND truly raw almonds DO exist…most come from Spain, very few health food stores stock them, but you can order online, from some distributors and if you live in California, near almond growers, you can score raw almonds from them. There is NO point in using pasteurized almonds, and beware of stores that state their almonds are raw; that usually just means un-roasted, not raw.

    I don’t care WHAT commercial almond milk you might use; (I’ve tried them all), even the one without thickeners, etc; still uses so few almonds, it doesn’t make sense to even mention the almond…and once you taste homemade, you won’t want to give up the wonderful taste, either.

    A side note; because homemade almond milk is so creamy, I’ve discovered if I shake the bottle vigorously, it creates a yummy foamy liquid to pour into hot tea. MMM….

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