Many people looking for an alternative to cow’s milk have jumped on the almond milk bandwagon. It has been on the rise and deserves a spot on a shelf in your fridge. Almond milk contains about 50% less calories than regular milk, but packs a healthy calcium punch. All of this sounds great, and it is, but there are a few things you need to know before you decide to board the almond milk train.
Eating raw almonds is not the same as drinking almond milk. Almond milk does, however, bring nutritional benefits to the table. We’re talking about getting healthy doses of zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and selenium! There’s no cholesterol, saturated fat, and it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which actually lower cholesterol levels. If you are buying almond milk from the store, it’s imperative to read the labels in order to reap the proper benefits.
One disclaimer: if you have a tree nut allergy, you should avoid almond milk and all other nut milks. When you buy almond milk, you have to take note of the ingredient list. Commercial almond milk brands commonly add thickeners to the milk, the most common being carrageenan. This polysaccharide, which is obtained from red algae, can negatively affect the digestive system by causing gas, bloating, diarrhea, or even fatigue. Two other thickeners, which are used in almond milk, are guar gum and soy lecithin. Although they are safe to consume, they can cause slight discomfort in those who have sensitive digestive systems.
The other big thing you have to notice is whether or not the almond milk is sweetened. We all know that sugar is not healthy and can corrupt the path to a healthier lifestyle. Certain almond milk manufacturers will add cane juice or high fructose corn syrup, and other brands will use toxins like aspartame, sucralose, or acesulfame. Anything that is hard to pronounce is usually beneficial to avoid.
Most commercial brands of almond milk have a minimal amount of almonds, or a lot less than you think the cartons should have. Some research suggests that almonds only make up 2% of an almond milk carton. Doesn’t it seem strange that one serving of almond milk only has 30 calories when one serving of almonds has 160 calories? This is because of the high water content. Most almond milk is primarily water, contains fortified vitamins and minerals, and additional additives.
If you are weary of being led astray or don’t trust the ingredient lists on almond milk cartons, you can easily make your own almond milk. Make sure that when you make your own, however, that you buy truly raw almonds. This is actually a lot more difficult than you think. Most almonds, which are labeled “raw,” in the US have been either dry-roasted, blanched, steamed, or have been treated with Propylene Oxide (a highly flammable chemical compound). Almonds from Peru, for instance, can be truly raw without any sort of flash-pasteurization. It’s hard to find raw almonds, but it is possible if you search for small vendors that sell almonds in small quantities. Look for a waiver from the pasteurization requirement. This way you know exactly what you’re consuming and you can better absorb the benefits of almonds. Making almond milk can be a lengthy process, but waiting for a healthier product is better than polluting your body with artificial ingredients. If you don’t have the time to make your own almond milk, be sure to buy organic, avoid brands that have carrageenan, additives, or sweeteners, and look for those with minimal sodium content (under 5%).