The Year of Being Vegan: 2012 Lessons Learned Part 4

I have always been a plant-based eater; a vegetarian. Over the last year David and I decided to become vegans. It has been an incredible learning experience! Between now and the end of the years I will share some of the things I learned.

Advanced Label Reading

I was shocked at the things that end up in “healthy” vegan foods. I guess this is really an expansion on unhealthy vegan diet choices.

I started reading labels many years ago when I quit sugar. Over the years I had gotten a little sloppy about really reading labels. I would check for sugar content and if there wasn’t any that seemed good enough. When David discovered that he was wildly reactive to MSG in all it’s forms, I started examining labels again and was shocked at all the forms of MSG that end up in our foods. Follow through on the two MSG links in this paragraph to get more info.

Switching to a primarily whole food diet I had to start examining labels in a whole new way. It didn’t take long to find out I was way over my head. So, I invested in “Food Additives: A Shoppers Guild to What’s Safe and What’s Not.” This book is a very comprehensive list of additives and purpose and safety. The problem is that this little 128 page book added weight and bulk to my purse. Before I long I decided that the best bet was to stick with a simple rule: limit of 5 ingredients; all of which I must be able to recognize and pronounce.

I am, however, curious. So when I hear about some wonderful new vegan food I take a field trip to our local health food store and check it out.  A great example is Hemp Milk.

The only one I could find without added sugar is made by Living Harvest. So far so good. . . now for the ingredients:

  1. Hemp Nut Base (Filtered Water, Hemp Nut [Shelled Hemp Seed])
  2. Natural Flavors
  3. Tricalcium Phosphate
  4. Carrageenan
  5. Sea Salt
  6. Vitamin A Palmitate
  7. Vitamin D2
  8. Riboflavin
  9. Vitamin B12

First red flag? It violates the five ingredient rule. Second red flag? What the hell is Tricalcium Phosphate? So I pulled out my book: “Food Additives: A Shoppers Guild to What’s Safe and What’s Not” and went to work. Here is what I found :

  1. Hemp Nut Base (Filtered Water, Hemp Nut [Shelled Hemp Seed])
    — Exactly what I use when I make nut or seed milk; just the seeds and water. This is OK
  2. Natural Flavors – “may be chemically extracted and processed with other food additives; the only purpose is to add flavor with no nutritional value, often contains free glutamates (MSG ) and GMO ingredients. This would be a big NO
  3. Tricalcium Phosphate – may cause reduced mineral absorption and kidney problems. That would also be a no especially since I didn’t know what it was in the first place
  4. Carrageenan – should not be given to infants; possibly causes cancer and often contains MSG. Another big NO
  5. Sea Salt  — This is fine as far as basic additives go; however it is a mystery why you would need it in milk. The added sodium for no good reason makes it a no.
  6. Vitamin A Palmitate – Another thing I do not recognize (palmitate); it is actually synthetic vitamin A. It probably doesn’t hurt, but I hate the idea of adding synthetic food to anything so this for me is a no
  7. Vitamin D2 – synthetic Vitamin D. Another no because I hate the idea of adding synthetic food to anything
  8. Riboflavin – probably harmless but unnecessary, so I would vote no
  9. Vitamin B12 – the usefulness depends on the kind of vitamin B12 and there is no real information here. It is possibly harmless but I still vote no.

Bottom line?

  • One great ingredient – the Hemp Nut Base
  • Two big NOs – Natural Flavors and Carrageenan
  • Two definite no thank you I don’t want it; might not even be particularly bad but why bother – Tricalcium Phosphate and Sea Salt
  • Four added “vitamins” that might even be harmless but seem to serve very little purpose and I would prefer not to ingest them

Obviously, I didn’t buy it.

What do you think? Does this look like a healthy vegan alternative to milk?  It doesn’t to me!

About Genene Cote

Genene Coté -- Nutrition Advocate, Counselor and Coach who is also a Whole Food Plant Based Eater (vegetarian/vegan), cook and gardener.
This entry was posted in additive-free food, diary-free food, Food Additives, GMO foods, processed food, vegan, vegetarian, Vitamins, Whole Food Plant-Based nutrition and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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