Non-dairy milk alternatives are some of the most popular beverages on the market. With increasing dairy sensitivities and a greater interest in plant-based diets, people turn to dairy-free milks. Macadamia nut milk, almond milk, oat milk, hemp seed milk, and more plant-based milks are available at grocery stores, coffee shops, and smoothie shops across the country.
One report claims that sales of non-dairy milks experienced a 60% increase since 2012. Roughly one in five Americans claims that they consume less dairy for health reasons. Out of all the non-dairy milk alternatives, almond milk reigns supreme. A 2020 report found that almond milk sales grossed $1.5 billion. Just because it is the most popular, does that mean it is the healthiest non-dairy milk? Continue reading to find out.
What Is Almond Milk?
Pure almond milk contains two ingredients: almonds and water. To make almond milk, blend almonds and water together, pour this mixture through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag, and strain the liquid. You can add sweeteners or flavorings as you please. Store bought almond milks can contain more chemicals, gums, emulsifiers, preservatives, or sweeteners to extend shelf life. Some varieties are also fortified with vitamins and minerals.
A Nutritional Breakdown Of Almond Milk
The nutritional profile of almond milk will vary depending on the formulation. Vanilla almond milk that contains sugar is unhealthier than unsweetened almond milk. That isn’t to say that unsweetened almond milk is super healthy. Many unsweetened varieties contain gums, thickeners, and preservatives to remain shelf stable. Homemade almond milk, however, is much healthier for you. The difference is that homemade almond milk goes bad in about three days. On average, though, one cup of unsweetened almond milk contains:
- Calories: 39
- Fat: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbohydrations: 3.5 grams
- Fiber: 0.5 grams
- Calcium: 24% of the recommended daily intake (RDI)
- Potassium: 4% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 110% of the RDI
- Vitamin D: 18% of the RDI
Almond Milk Vs. Dairy Milk
Some people refuse to accept plant-based milks. They are steadfast in their belief that cow’s milk is the best liquid for healthy bones. Despite scientific reports claiming this as false, people are familiar with cow’s milk and less familiar with almond milk. Almond milk is much lower in calories and it is naturally lactose-free. About 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose, meaning they are lactose intolerant. This can lead to digestive issues, mucus accumulation, and inflammation. On the other hand, some people cannot digest almond milk because it contains carrageenan. Others are simply allergic to tree nuts. Cow’s milk is also high in fat and there are many ethical concerns about modern dairy farming practices. The hope is that dairy lovers come around to experiment with plant-based dairy alternatives like almond milk.
How Healthy Is Almond Milk?
As we discussed earlier, not all almond milks are created equal. Sugary, chocolate, or vanilla almond milks will have excess sugar and preservatives. One cup of these varieties can contain up to 12 grams of added sugar, which is about three teaspoons. That’s half of the RDI for adult women, according to the American Heart Association. Almond milk can be healthy, though, especially if you make your own. There are also varieties that only contain almonds, water, and sea salt. One of those brands is MALK, which is excellent!
If you make your own almond milk (click here for the recipe), you’ll be better off. All you need are almonds, a blender, water, vanilla extract (optional), sea salt, raw agave syrup (optional) and a nut milk bag or cheesecloth. Making almond milk is a very easy process that takes ten minutes or less. You know what’s going into your beverage and it won’t contain any added gums, thickeners, emulsifiers, or sweeteners that can make it unhealthy.
Almond milk has the potential to contain unwanted, harmful ingredients to your health. Think of almond milk like reusable bottles: some are cheap and made from plastic, while others have better insulation and are stainless steel. If you want to purchase almond milk in the store, make sure to purchase varieties with simple, recognizable ingredients. Otherwise, it’s better to make your own. And finally, drinking almond milk helps to cut down on your consumption of dairy, which will only benefit your health in the long run.