Got Fake Milk?
We all remember those milk commercials, right? Some B-List celebrity gets a milk mustache, a million bucks, and grows up big and strong.
My grandfather would always tell me stories about how his mom made him drink a quart of milk a day. Personally, I love a cold glass of milk and warm chocolate chip cookies. Many of you remember getting a glass of warm milk to help you sleep.
As time goes on, more and more people are deciding not to drink milk and instead use milk alternatives. Apparently, not everyone wants to grow up big and strong. All kidding aside, many people choose to forgo milk for a variety of reasons, from lactose intolerance, allergies, a new fad diet (I’m looking at you Paleo/caveman people), or ethical reasons.
And as such, the vultures of corporate America have created numerous alternatives for people to consume: almond, coconut, hemp, rice, soy, oat, or hazelnut milk… I am sure there are others because the food industry has not met a byproduct they couldn’t convince us to eat.
One of my favorite advertisements for these products is “As much calcium as milk”. Considering many of these milk alternatives naturally do not have much calcium, how do they do it? Black magic? Do they infuse it with the tears of their enemies?
CHALK. Yes, good old chalk, AKA calcium carbonate. The calcium with the most reported long-term complications, most side effects, drug interactions, and worst absorption. Many milk alternatives are fortified with synthetic, cheap, poorly absorbable vitamins so they can advertise it as “just as good as dairy milk.” We all know that foods rich in vitamins are much different than “foods” fortified with vitamins.
If we ever put some chalk in a blender with some liquid and ask you to drink it, call 911 and run. Some people use the same kind of thing, willingly and faithfully, every morning.
Here is the ingredient list from the number-one selling almond milk:
Ingredients: almond milk (filtered water, almonds), evaporated cane juice, calcium carbonate, sea salt, potassium citrate, carrageenan, sunflower lecithin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, d-alpha-tocopherol (natural Vitamin E)
Just in case you haven’t met with us yet, this is what we do. We first read the ingredient list to see what these things are truly made of. Besides the chalk, we see some salt, a little potassium, carrageenan (a thickener derived from seaweed), lecithin (emulsifier), synthetic vitamin A, Vitamin E, and vitamin D2.
They were doing good up until they added all the gross synthetic vitamins (they could have used guar gum instead of the carrageenan, but we digress). The vitamin D2 is the plant form; it’s poorly absorbed and less “active” than vitamin D3.
Let’s cut the charade and stop pretending that a heavily processed food product with chalk and synthetic substances added is a healthy alternative to milk.
Interestingly, this product had the Non-GMO Project seal, even though that the added Vitamin E is made from GMO soy. We’ll be discussing this in the future :)
Of course, we are sensitive to the folks that can’t have milk and even to those who choose not to ingest it. We just ask that the reasons you don’t want to drink milk are based on sound science, not emotions or poorly researched arguments.
True milk allergies are rare; most people who have problems with milk don't have the ability to digest the lactose. As such, you can use lactose-free milk. What they do to make this is simple; they take good, old-fashioned milk and add some lactase enzyme. This breaks it down and allows you to digest it. You’d get the same results if you took a digestive enzyme before eating or drinking dairy. Get all the good stuff without bloating and feeling gross.
For those who have other objections to drinking milk, you should check out our article on making your own almond milk. No processing, no synthetic chemicals. For calcium supplementation, we recommend Vitality True Food Calcium Care. Formulated by us and exclusively manufactured to exceed our strict Vitality Approved standards, it's our top-pick calcium supplement!
Bottom line: milk alternatives are not true alternatives as the vitamins they supply are fortified synthetic, isolated vitamins. They do have other health benefits such as good fats or proteins and they taste good. So, it’s like the juice article last month – drink them, in moderation, and if you can, make your own. Just know that calcium, for one, should be supplemented with good forms such as the MCHA calcium we recommend frequently, not the chalk stuff.
Whatever choice you make - real milk, almond milk, or fake milk fortified with synthetic vitamins - just make sure you have it with cookies because everything is better with cookies.
Just trying to keep it real...
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth