Almond milk is the most widely consumed plant-based milk in the United States. It serves as a nutritious and low-calorie alternative to dairy milk, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.
Although almond milk contains several beneficial nutrients, it is essential to note that it is diluted and lacks most fiber content compared to whole almonds.
While there haven’t been specific controlled studies on the direct health effects of almond milk, specific components of almond milk have been extensively researched.
This article provides an overview of almond milk and its potential health benefits.
What Is Almond Milk?
Almonds are native to the Middle East, but they are enjoyed worldwide. The almonds are consumed as treats, pulverized into flour, and occasionally processed into dairy-free milk.
Almond milk is one of the most popular almond products because it is lactose-free, an essential quality. Vegans and those with lactose intolerance consume almond milk as a healthy substitute for dairy beverages. Others adore its nuttiness.
Almond milk can be consumed unadulterated or used instead of animal or other plant-based milk in recipes. In addition to its delicious flavor, almond milk has some remarkable health benefits.
Almond Milk Benefits
Almond milk is dairy-free.
Since almond milk is not an animal product, it does not contain lactose, a natural sugar in dairy milk. Therefore, it is a suitable milk substitute for lactose-intolerant individuals. It is also suitable for vegans (those who do not consume animal products).
It’s a good source of magnesium.
Magnesium is a deficiency mineral in many American diets, but almond milk is abundant. Magnesium is essential for muscle function, blood sugar regulation, blood pressure, bone, protein, and DNA synthesis.
It’s rich in antioxidant vitamin E.
Almond milk is an excellent vitamin E source, essential for a healthy immune system and cardiovascular system. Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between a high vitamin E intake and a reduced risk of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cells from the damaging effects of molecules known as free radicals.
It may contain bone-building calcium.
Many brands of almond milk sold in stores are enriched with calcium. This is because calcium plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health, as it contributes to the formation and strength of the skeletal structure. Consuming an adequate amount of calcium helps keep your bones strong and may assist in preventing osteoporosis.
It can be low in calories and carbs.
Compared to animal milk, unsweetened almond milk—precisely the unsweetened variety—contains lower amounts of sugar and carbohydrates. It typically has 50% to 80% fewer calories than dairy milk. Moreover, almond milk is considered a low glycemic index food, meaning it is less likely to cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.
Almond Milk Nutrition
Depending on the brand, almond milk can also serve as an excellent source of several nutrients, including phosphorus, manganese, iron, and copper.
In terms of nutritional content per serving, an 8-ounce (1 cup) serving of unsweetened almond milk typically contains the following:
- Calories: 40
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: 0 grams
On the other hand, a 1-cup serving of sweetened almond milk contains:
- Calories: 73
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 10.5 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: 10 grams
The exact composition of almond milk may vary depending on the brand. However, commercially available almond milk generally includes water, almonds, salt, added vitamins and minerals, stabilizers, and preservatives to enhance its shelf life. Sweetened varieties may also contain sugar or other types of sweeteners.
For optimal nutritional value, it is recommended to opt for unsweetened almond milk fortified with essential nutrients such as vitamin D and phosphorus. These additions can contribute to energy levels and promote bone health.
Risks Associated With Almond Milk
While almond milk offers various health benefits, certain drawbacks should be taken into consideration:
Nut allergies: Individuals with tree nuts should avoid consuming almond milk, which can trigger an allergic reaction.
Low protein content: Almond milk contains less protein than cow’s or soy’s, with just 1 gram of protein per 8-ounce serving. Therefore, it is essential to ensure an adequate protein intake from other sources if you switch to almond milk.
Not suitable for infants: Due to low protein levels, almond milk is not recommended for infants during their first year. It is advisable to opt for appropriate infant formula or breast milk instead.
Always consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have specific dietary needs or medical conditions.
What Is sweetened almond milk?
Sweetened almond milk typically contains additional sweeteners, such as stevia, cane sugar, dates, maple syrup, or honey. It is available in various flavors like vanilla and chocolate for those who prefer a sweeter taste.
Difference Between Sweetened Almond Milk and Unsweetened Almond Milk
Many individuals have a preference for the taste of sweetened almond milk in comparison to unsweetened almond milk. However, it is crucial to note another significant difference between the two.
A cup of sweetened almond milk contains 10 grams of added sugar and 73 calories, whereas a cup of unsweetened almond milk contains only 37 calories and no sugar. The sweetened variant has more than double the number of calories compared to the unsweetened one.
Consuming excessive amounts of sweetened almond milk, or any other sweetened beverage, may contribute to weight gain. When consuming sweetened almond milk or similar products, it is essential to be mindful of your overall calorie intake.
How to Prepare Almond Milk
Almond milk can be used in the same way as cow’s milk or any other plant-based milk. It is readily available in most supermarkets or bulk-food stores, typically located alongside traditional dairy products. Certain brands of store-bought almond milk can remain shelf-stable until opened.
To prepare almond milk at home, follow these steps:
- Blend a cup of soaked almonds with some water in a blender (you may peel the almonds or leave them as is).
- Strain the mixture to separate the solids (or keep them for a thicker consistency). The resulting smooth liquid is almond milk.
- If you prefer a thinner consistency, add more water.
- For sweetened almond milk, incorporate your preferred sweeteners, such as maple syrup, sugar, dates, or honey.
Almond milk can be consumed as it is or used in various recipes and food preparations that require milk. Here are some versatile uses for this beverage:
- Substitute almond milk for dairy milk or water in your favorite pancake recipe.
- Use almond milk instead of cow’s milk in hot chocolate.
- Pour it over cereal.
- Create homemade almond ice cream.
- Add almond milk to smoothies or shakes.
- Utilize almond milk as a coffee creamer option.
Enjoy experimenting and incorporating almond milk into your culinary endeavors!
How to make almond milk at home
Almond milk is widely accessible in supermarkets but can also be effortlessly made at home. To make almond milk at home, you only need a blender, water, and a cup of almonds. Blenders and almonds can be purchased online.
Here’s how to make almond milk at home:
- Begin by soaking 1/2 cup (65 grams) of raw almonds overnight.
- Removing the skin from the almonds. Soak the almonds in water for 8–12 hours or overnight. This process softens the skin, making it easier to peel off when rinsing the almonds.
- Combine the soaked almonds with 2 cups (473 mL) of water in a blender until the mixture becomes creamy and milky.
- Pour the mixture into a nut milk bag over a large jug or bowl. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag to separate the solids from the liquid.
- If desired, adjust the thickness or consistency of your almond milk by adding more or less water.
- Consider adding a pinch of salt or a drizzle of honey for enhanced flavor.
- Refrigerate the almond milk, which can be kept for up to 5 days.
Here are some healthy recipes using almond milk:
- Basic almond milk
- Vanilla almond milk
- Strawberry almond milk
In conclusion, almond milk is one of the supermarkets’ most popular plant-based milk. It can also be easily prepared at home.
How to use almond milk
Like regular milk, almond milk is highly versatile and can be used as a substitute in various ways.
- Pour it over your cereal as an alternative to regular milk.
- Add it to coffee or tea for a dairy-free option.
- Blend it into smoothies for a creamy texture.
- Use it to make dairy-free rice pudding or ice cream.
- Incorporate it into soups, sauces, and salad dressings.
- Substitute it for milk in many baked goods.
Individuals susceptible to kidney stones should avoid consuming excessive amounts of almond milk due to its high calcium oxalate content. This is particularly relevant when using homemade almond milk.
Some people express concerns about carrageenan, a thickening agent added to certain commercial almond milk products. However, most scientists agree that the type and quantity of carrageenan used in food products are safe for consumption.
In summary, almond milk serves as an excellent replacement for regular milk. However, individuals prone to kidney stones should exercise caution when consuming large quantities.
The bottom line
Almond milk is a popular, nutritious alternative to dairy milk and has gained popularity over the years. It offers a delicious taste and may benefit skin and heart health.
Many brands of almond milk available on the market are enriched with essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin D. This fortification benefits individuals who switch from dairy milk to almond milk, as they can still obtain essential nutrients.
Moreover, almond milk is suitable for people with lactose intolerance, dairy allergies, kidney disease, or those following a vegan lifestyle or avoiding dairy for other reasons.
You can enjoy almond milk by adding it to cereal or coffee, blending it into smoothies, or using it in various recipes such as ice cream, soups, and sauces.