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Almond milk is becoming increasingly popular as a reasonable alternative to cow’s milk or soy milk. However, almond milk doesn’t provide enough protein to be direct substitute for those products. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, but if you do, be sure that you get adequate protein from other sources.
If you’re trying to get away from cow’s milk, I usually recommend switching to soy milk. It is widely available and provides more protein than other “milks” on the market. It also has a creamy texture, but you need to be aware that some brands contain additives and thickeners, including carrageenan, which should be avoided. If you are allergic to soy or dislike soy milk, almond milk is a good choice as long as you pay attention to your protein intake.
Commercially available almond milk is often enriched with vitamins A and D, as well as calcium, to make it seem more like regular milk. (Almonds provide some calcium, but not as much as cow’s milk.) Almond milk is low in calories compared to other milk substitutes and contains some heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Be sure to check the labels of almond milk before you buy, because some brands contain preservatives, and other additives. Note that you can make almond milk at home – an easy process, requiring only organic raw almonds, water and a little sugar or other sweetener. You can find many recipes online.
You might also try oat, hemp or rice milk. Oat milk provides more fiber than other milk substitutes and was shown in a Swedish study to help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and total cholesterol.
Hemp milk, made by pulverizing the seeds, blending them with water and straining out the solid residue, provides both omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids in a healthy three-to-one ratio. Other nutrients in hemp milk include magnesium, phytosterols, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, niacin and thiamin. The milk also contains 10 essential amino acids, making it a decent vegetarian source of protein. Hemp seeds and nuts are not allergens, so the milk is a safe option for those allergic to tree nuts or soy.
Rice milk is my least favorite dairy substitute because it offers few nutritional benefits unless it is fortified. It also typically contains many additives to improve its texture. I recommend it only to those with soy, gluten or tree-nut allergies or sensitivities who cannot tolerate cow’s milk.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
- Embracing an anti-inflammatory diet: Part one
- The Dairy-Inflammation Connection
- Is Almond Milk Causing You Inflammation?
- Is almond milk dairy?
- How long does almond milk last?
- Nutritional profile: almond milk vs. almonds
- Nutritional profile: almond milk vs. cow’s milk
- Benefits of almond milk
- Who should not drink almond milk?
- Risks of drinking almond milk
- Additional resources
Embracing an anti-inflammatory diet: Part one
When one is struck with an autoimmune condition such as one of the numerous forms of arthritis, the question of diet is part of the battle plan. At first, you try to embrace the many changes you are faced with such as daily chronic pain, changes in lifestyle, fatigue, secondary effects on your family, to name only a few of the challenges. It’s sort of like finding yourself at war. You’re not sure how you got there. You’re certain you don’t like it. You want to get over it so you can get the heck out of there before you lose anything else and you hope you come out of it a “winner.”
The chances are that eventually, you will read something about dietary influence on inflammation; a doctor will say something about it, or someone will give you advice. One has to be careful about taking “willy-nilly” advice because the assortment of stories can be kind of scary. Old wives tales run rampant so I always make it a policy to only take advice from someone I respect, value or has a proven track record. Try to steer away from those who are trying to sell you something, as the Internet is especially rife with those trying to make a buck off your condition. If you visit a health food store, you have to also be very careful. Don’t get me wrong, because I love the local health food stores but you have to be armed with some knowledge or you will become so confused your little head will spin and money will fly out of your wallet. This whole business of living with chronic pain can be confusing and overwhelming therefore I’ve found it best to take it one step at a time, one new bit of information at a time.
You’re out there trying to live your life while dragging this pain along with you while you’re forced to “learn on the job.” Life doesn’t stop while you read, learn and absorb information. I guess that’s why people like me share what we have learned. I have been at this whole chronic pain and illness business for 20 years and have read just about everything I could get my pain-filled hands on. One thing I discovered right away was that traditional medicine offered very little about inflammation and diet. They seem to have their hands full with keeping up on all the newest medications. Most doctors will also freely admit they had very little education about nutrition.
I began by reading all the books by Dr. Andrew Weil, an integrative M.D., a Harvard graduate who has traveled the world and has taken a broad view of illness and food. Dr. Dean Ornish also has some great things to share in his books. Simply put, we would do well to keep our food basic and simple. It is believed that some patients with inflammatory disease are reacting to food allergies, the most common of which are: corn, wheat, dairy, meat and some of the omega-6 oils made from sunflower seeds, corn and safflower. Through an elimination diet and patience you can try reducing your diet of these things, one at a time, and see if it helps you. Remember one rule does not apply to all. Each of us is different. You may reach the conclusion your DNA is at fault and simply alter your diet to give yourself more energy and maintain the health you have left.
The first thing I added to my diet was omega-6 essential fatty acids in the form of evening primrose oil, borage oil or black currant oil. I hesitate to tell you where I got this idea before reading Dr.Weil, but oh heck, why not. I got the idea from our veterinarian. We had a St. Bernard with terrible skin and arthritis. She improved when given the GLA, gamma linoleic acid. One of my first symptoms was problems with my skin with rashes due to photosensitivity. I learned from the dog; does that show you how desperate I was 20 years ago for advice? I still take GLA today in one of those forms, choosing the one on sale, which is usually evening primrose oil.
The best advice for inflammation is to do your best to avoid animal sources such as dairy and meat and eat more vegetables and fruits. Some individuals do best when they avoid evening shade veggies such as tomatoes and eggplant. Watch how much processed food you’re eating. Read labels! All those additives and chemicals aren’t there for you, they’re there to make that food taste better, last forever or appeal to your palate. All the oils I use are vegetable based and my favorite is extra virgin olive oil. I keep canola oil on hand for bigger jobs due to the cost of extra virgin olive oil. If lard is still available for that pie crust your grandma used to make I suggest you avoid it. Saturated animal fat is not going to do you any good and may harm you. I trim all meat so it is very lean, buy only ground beef that is natural (hormone free) and choose the one that is the most lean, usually 7% fat. I limit the intake of dairy and use milk only with cereal or in my one cup of coffee in the morning. Caffeinated drinks are a no, no such as colas, Mountain Dew, etc. Many of the milk substitutes such as soy (which tastes a bit strange to me), rice milk which is very good and almond milk are all so much better for you. We still eat butter at our house because we prefer the flavor and haven’t found a margarine that isn’t loaded with chemicals. Moderation is the word with butter. Fish oils, flax seed and other sources of omega three oils are purported to be good for us, also. Fresh water fish is very good for you, such as sardines and salmon.
Three substances which have proven to help some arthritis patients are: turmeric, found in mustard and pickles, fresh ginger and fresh garlic. I try to incorporate all three of these whenever possible. Fresh garlic is at its most helpful if you peel it and let it rest for a few minutes before cooking with it. There are some interesting varieties of garlic available at the farmer’s markets. Some varieties bake beautifully and are delicious on French bread while other varieties are wonderful in pesto with fresh basil, nuts and olive oil. My goal is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day and avoid processed foods. I avoid fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed, choosing instead those labeled organic. If I have any doubts, I wash them thoroughly in a sink of water, sometimes with a drop of detergent in it and rinse and dry them thoroughly. Imported fruits are a special concern because they can only inspect so many of those shipments coming into this country. I know from a family member who imports vegetables that the inspection standards in some countries is very inconsistent.
It would be impossible for me to cover this subject as thoroughly as I would like to. There simply isn’t space. I suggest you grab some of those books and read. Next week, we’ll talk about specific recipes, foods and hopefully, you’ll all be salivating as we chat about delicious ways to find good daily nutrition. Today, I’m going to include one of my favorite chicken recipes. Since my husband will only eat chicken if it’s fried, I find this oven fried chicken recipe a great substitute with half the calories and one third the fat of regular fried chicken. Bear with me as I am one of those “pinch of this, pinch of that” type of cooks.
Tonight, there is a HealthTalk webcast called, What to Eat When You Have RA, with yours truly, Katherine Tallmadge, a nutritionist and our host, Ross Reynolds. Tune in and see what we’ll share.
OVEN FRIED CHICKEN
Chicken pieces with skin removed, if you prefer
2-3 cups fresh buttermilk
Two good pinches of kosher salt
Mix the above and place in the refrigerator overnight or for several hours. Be sure all of the chicken is covered with the buttermilk.
About an hour before dinner, turn on the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet or line one with foil. Mix up the coating for the chicken which is:
2-3 cups panko bread crumbs or corn flakes
1 cup bread crumbs
1-2 tsp. poultry seasoning or just rubbed sage, if you prefer
½ tsp. paprika or cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
Dash black pepper
Or any other seasoning or herb your family likes with chicken
Place in a plastic bag and whack it a few times to mix and break up the larger corn flakes.
Add 2 or 3 tbsp. olive oil and squeeze it into the other ingredients in the bag. It is designed to moisturize and hold all the dry ingredients together.
Place the moist chicken you have soaked in the buttermilk in the bag, shaking loose any excess buttermilk and roll it in the mixture, pressing it onto each piece of chicken. Be sure to leave a space around each piece of chicken so it will be able to brown all around. Place sheet of chicken in the middle of the oven so top and bottom will brown. Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes. No need to turn as it will brown all around.
By Amy Paturel
For many Americans, dairy is a star player at every meal. However, you may be left wondering how milk (and its many cousins) fit into the mix with an anti-inflammatory diet. “Unfortunately, there is no easy answer,” says Frank Hu, MD, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. Researchers exploring the link between dairy and inflammation have turned up conflicting evidence. “The picture is murky, and the results are not very consistent,” he says.
It’s clear that a diet high in saturated fats – which are plentiful in cheese and full-fat dairy products – can increase inflammation. But other fatty acids found in dairy have been linked to health benefits such as a reduced risk of diabetes, says Dr. Hu.
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2015 found that eating dairy foods increased low-grade inflammation in a small sample of German adults. And a study of more than 40,000 people with osteoarthritis (OA) found that those who ate more dairy products were more likely to need hip replacement surgery. On the other hand, several studies have found that drinking milk and eating yogurt can lower the risk of gout.
Despite conflicting information, overall, research paints a positive picture for milk-based products. A 2017 review of 52 clinical studies, published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, concluded that dairy generally has anti-inflammatory effects, except in people allergic to cow’s milk. Still, the authors of that review noted there’s surprisingly little known about what components of dairy products might be helpful versus harmful. Milk-based products contain all sorts of nutrients and active compounds, including calcium, vitamin D and a variety of fats and proteins. And the proportions of those nutrients vary from food to food.
It’s hard to draw conclusions, Dr. Hu says, for an important reason: “Dairy isn’t a single food.” Dairy covers everything from yogurt to cheese to ice cream. Even liquid milk differs from glass to glass (i.e., skim options versus full-fat varieties). So far, the research hasn’t drilled down to say which components of which dairy products might be most healthful (or harmful).
The most consistent evidence so far centers on yogurt. “Yogurt is associated with decreased inflammation, decreased insulin resistance and it may prevent type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Hu says. Nutrition researchers believe yogurt’s anti-inflammatory power comes from the probiotics it contains, but that has yet to be confirmed with rigorous trials, he says.
Given the conflicting research findings, you might be wondering what types of dairy (if any) you should include in your diet. The short answer: It depends.
Some people are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar naturally present in milk products. If you’re lactose intolerant, you probably know it already. Symptoms include gas, diarrhea and bloating after drinking milk or eating dairy products.
Some people who can digest lactose might be sensitive to other components of dairy. For example, researchers are exploring a type of protein called A1 beta-casein protein, which is found in most milk in the U.S. Some breeds of cattle, however, produce milk with only the A2 version of beta-casein. A handful of small studies have suggested that people who drink A2-only milk may be less likely to experience digestive upset and might have lower levels of systemic inflammation. But the research is still preliminary, so conclusions can’t be drawn about how A1 might affect people with inflammatory arthritis.
Dairy Elimination Diet
Anecdotally, some people with arthritis and related conditions find that avoiding certain foods can reduce flares. For others, dietary choices don’t seem to make much difference. To find out if you’re sensitive to cow’s milk, you might consider an elimination diet. You simply cut out dairy for a while and then reintroduce it to see how you respond.
If you don’t notice any negative symptoms, you can likely resume shopping in the dairy aisle without worry, says Simin Meydani, PhD, a senior scientist at the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. If you aren’t lactose intolerant or dairy sensitive, Meydani recommends eating yogurt to reap the probiotic benefits.
Yet as with just about everything in life, moderation matters for dairy, too, she says. Overeating full-fat dairy or sugar-sweetened dairy can contribute to weight gain – and obesity itself is associated with chronic inflammation. “Controlling weight is important in terms of reducing inflammation,” she says. Sticking to low-fat dairy choices can help control weight and help reduce inflammation.
If you decide to cut back on dairy, make sure you’re choosing other foods with those nutrients. Good sources of calcium include collard greens; kale; soybeans; chickpeas; almonds; and calcium-fortified juices and non-dairy milks (soy, almond, hemp, rice). For Vitamin D, look to eggs and fortified juices, cereals and non-dairy milks.
Make sure to check the label of milk substitutes. Some of them have a lot of added sugars, so you may want to opt for unsweetened varieties. Plus, if you eliminate dairy, pay attention to what you’re replacing it with, says Dr. Hu. Reaching for a donut instead of plain yogurt for breakfast might set you up for bigger health problems.
The Dairy-Inflammation Connection
By: Jacqueline Nochisaki
The buzziest word in wellness right now? Inflammation. No doubt you know of it as the possible root cause for just about every health issue you can think of, but what’s the dairy-inflammation connection? And how do we eliminate it? Read on to explore how traditional dairy products cause inflammation in the body.
“Inflammation is the normal response of the body’s defense—or immune—system,” says Dr. Uma Naidoo, psychiatrist, director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, a professional chef, culinary instructor, and nutrition consultant. “It helps our body heal itself from infection or an injury and maintain the integrity of our body systems. We need this response to live.”
Your immune system kicks into gear when you’re injured or sick, and you notice this as redness, swelling or pain at the site of the injury or illness, which encourages the healing process. And when the paper cut heals or the flu is beaten, that inflammation subsides. But the immune system can also be activated by a number of factors that cause chronic or ongoing inflammation—the kind that doesn’t subside. “And it’s this hidden version that may lead to disease,” Naidoo says.
The most common causes of chronic inflammation today are sensitivities to food and toxins, a poor diet, stress and a lack of exercise, Naidoo says. And for some, dairy is right at the top of the food-sensitivity list alongside gluten and sugar.
Stemming from difficulties in digesting milk products, a dairy sensitivity may be due to an intolerance to lactose, a type of sugar found in milk, or to its casein proteins. Theories on what exactly causes the digestion issues with these components is still debated, but many experts agree that often what dairy cows are fed and how they are medicated are cause for concern. Diets of grain and corn result in dairy products that contain high levels of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Conventional dairy cows are often injected with growth hormones, to increase milk production, and antibiotics—which make their way into the products we consume, Naidoo says.
According to Naidoo, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea and acne—to name just a few fun side effects—may indicate that going dairy-free might be the way to go. “One way to test if dairy is causing inflammation is to cut it out of your diet for about two to three weeks, and see how you feel,” Naidoo says. “Be aware of any changes. Do your sinuses feel clearer? Are your headaches gone? Do you have more energy? Note what feels different.” An improvement in symptoms often means you’re on the way to decreasing dairy-induced inflammation.
After a few weeks, slowly reintroduce dairy and see what happens, Naidoo says. If your symptoms return, it may be time to think about going dairy-free for good.
Whether you decide to cut dairy out to reduce inflammation, investigate a potential intolerance, or because you feel compassion for environmental and animal welfare, here are some simple (and delicious!) swaps you can make.
Swap cheese for: Follow Your Heart cheese slices. You’ll find all varieties, from Smoked Gouda to Parmesan. We repeat: SMOKED. GOUDA.
Swap ice cream for: So Delicious, featuring cashew-, coconut-, almond- and soy-based pints, ice cream bars and sandwiches. You just can’t go wrong.
Swap yogurt for: Kite Hill. Almond milk-based and delicious, our pick is the peach flavor, which is soy free and made with fresh peaches.
Swap milk for: Oatly’s Oat Drink. Made from Swedish oats and enriched with calcium, it totally nails the creamy consistency you’re hoping for.
Swap coffee creamer for: Nutpods. Made from almonds and coconuts, the flavors include much-loved French Vanilla and Hazelnut as well as original—all sans carrageenan.
Swap butter for: Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread. Works for baking just as well as on toast.
Millions of people are drinking packaged almond milk because they believe it is a ‘healthy alternative.’ Find out why it is better to make your own almond milk.
Are you one of the 65% of the world population that is lactose intolerant? There are almost 90% of the East Asian population who are lactose intolerant. This is the reason many are looking for dairy free, yet still creamy, vegan alternatives.
As one of those people, to begin with, I started with soy milk as a dairy-free alternative. Very soon I realized that it did not agree with me. I was delighted to discover almond milk and it tasted great in my smoothies, puddings, soups and sauces. Being a label reader, I made sure to get unsweetened almond milk and thought that the carrageenan in it was okay as it is a seaweed and I knew how good seaweed is for us. While I continued to use store-bought almond milk, I soon realized that the best/healthiest alternative was to make my own.
Why It Is Best Not to Buy Packaged Almond Milk
The Carrageenan Controversy
It is used as a thickener and stabilizer in many foods and is now in most commercial almond milk mixtures. Originally it was considered safe, now there is growing scientific evidence that it causes inflammation in the body. This is of particular concern to individuals with digestive disorders (as I had) as no one wants to add more inflammation to their system. Read 10 Reasons to Avoid Carrageenan
“Carrageenan exposure clearly causes inflammation; the amount of carrageenan in food products is sufficient to cause inflammation, and degraded carrageenan and food-grade carrageenan are both harmful.”—Dr. Joanne Tobacman, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Almond Milk Has Very Few Almonds in it
A half-gallon of almond milk (Silk or Almond Breeze, original unsweetened) has 240 calories.
One pound of almonds has 2,624 calories. If you assume there are no other major sources of calories and nothing is removed, that means a whole half gallon carton of almond milk has less than a handful of almonds.(about 1.5 ounces)
There is Very Little Nutritional Value
We have already figured out that almond milk has very few almonds in it. This means every benefit you would expect from almonds is available only in limited quantities.
We often assume, for example, that ‘milk’ will give us plenty of protein BUT 1 cup Almond Breeze provides only 1 gram protein. This is because that cup only has the protein from 4 almonds.
Tapioca Starch Added!
At some point, manufacturers began to add tapioca starch to the almond mixture. Starch is a highly processed carbohydrate that quickly breaks down into sugars. I do not need sugar added to my diet when I can avoid it.
Processed Foods Are Not Healthy – Eat Real Food
My daily food is unprocessed food. I prepare all of my food from real food, not from cans and packaged meals.
Best to make your own out of real unblanched almonds. But when I bought packed almond milk, there was an obvious discrepancy. Every day I was consuming a factory processed food with the carrageenan additive. All those cartons of organic almond milk stood out in my grocery shopping cart which was otherwise full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Almond Milk Recipe
Check out my easy to make Almond Milk Recipe – I love my homemade almond milk and it is healthier than what you can buy in the store and much more cost-effective. You can easily learn how to make almond milk from scratch at home and use all-natural healthy ingredients, no sugar, and only Organic Unpasteurized Almonds
You can also try making these other healthy and easy to make milk:
Hemp Heart Milk – This hemp heart milk is made with hemp hearts which are the hemp seeds hulled. I was very surprised at how quickly it was made and how creamy it was!
Delicious Creamy Brazil Nut Milk – These nuts make a very healthy Brazil nut milk; they are high in selenium, thiamin (Vitamin B1, phosphorus, and magnesium. This is very easy and simple nut milk to make.
Is Almond Milk Causing You Inflammation?
There is some evidence that Carrageenan, an ingredient often found in store bought almond milk, as well as other processed foods, laxatives, medications and even certain toothpastes may produce an inflammatory response in the intestines. Some researchers even report it as a possible carcinogen.
As of yet the majority of the research has been limited to animal studies. But a review of these studies raises major concerns of the potentially harm this common food additive can have. It is important to note that the effects differ significantly between species but that some of these harmful effects include intestinal inflammation, lesions, ulcerations and malignant tumors.
Carageenan comes from red seaweed and is mostly used as a binding or thickening agent in liquids; preventing separation and improving texture. This product, though natural, can be altered into a different form, poligeenan. Poligeenan or degraded Carigeenan is what has been found to be the most dangerous form of this additive though some studies have also found a correlation between inflammation and non degraded carigeenan.
One recent study (on mice) suggests that Carigeenan, when part of a high fat diet, may increase blood sugar problems and heighten the potential for diabetes.
Another study (on humans this time) did show an immune response of inflammation when given carrageenan. Though many more human trials are necessary to determine whether their is a causal effect and if so, just how serious it is, it seems worthwhile to stear clear of Carigeenan when possible.
There are almond milk brands out there that do not use carrageenan as a thickening agent. I use Natura’s unsweetened, fortified version. Or if you prefer to make your own, there are plenty of easy recipes that take out all unnecessary additives, here is one that I like.
As for all other processed foods that us Carageenan, maybe just try and cut back on as many of these as possible. Besides this particular additive, there is plenty else to be avoiding in frozen pizzas, prepared shakes, deli meats and other processed goods. Otherwise just scan the label and see if you have an option without Carageenan. The less ingredients the better!
Want help with a nutritional plan that will eliminate as many harmful ingredients as possible and help optimize blood sugar levels, maintain weight, lower inflammation and balance hormones? Contact us for our on-line nutritional program.
At its most basic, almond milk is a drink made from ground almonds and water. It is a popular plant-based alternative to cow’s milk.
“Almond milk has been around for several years,” said Jenny Heap, a registered dietician with the Almond Board of California. In fact, almond milk has existed since at least the Middle Ages, when noble households favored it over animal milk, according to “Food in Medieval Times” (Greenwood, 2004), by Melitta Weiss Adamson. But, said Heap, almond milk “has gained particular momentum in the past three to five years, appearing now in the cold dairy case as well as in ice cream and frozen novelty products.”
In 2014, almond milk surpassed soymilk as the most popular non-animal milk product, according to the Boston Globe.
Is almond milk dairy?
It may be called milk and found in the dairy aisle, but almond milk is not dairy. It is “a tasty dairy-free, soy-free lactose-free alternative,” said Heap.
According to Heap, almond milk is made by blending almonds with water and straining them. Sweeteners or salts may then be added. Commercial almond milk manufacturers also usually add vitamins and other nutrient fortifications, as well as thickening agents like carrageenan, a seaweed derivative commonly used as a beverage stabilizer.
It is easy to make almond milk yourself, not to mention cheaper. Heap recommended the following recipe:
- Soak 1 cup of almonds uncovered in water for one-two days.
- Drain and discard the soaking water.
- Rinse the almonds.
- Blend them on high with 2 cups of fresh water.
- Strain well using cheesecloth.
- Add a little vanilla, sweetener or cinnamon.
How long does almond milk last?
Both commercial and homemade almond milk can go bad. Commercial almond milk has a use-by date on its packaging and should be used within seven days after opening, according to the Almond Breeze brand website. Heap recommends using homemade almond milk within two days.
Nutritional profile: almond milk vs. almonds
Almond milk contains some of the same benefits as super-healthy almonds, like vitamin E and riboflavin, but in general, almond milk’s nutrient levels are vastly lower than almonds’. When it comes to almonds, Heap said, “Every one-ounce serving (about 23 almonds) provides 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, plus vitamin E (35 percent DV ), magnesium (20 percent DV), riboflavin (20 percent DV), calcium (8 percent DV) and potassium (6 percent DV).”
It is unclear exactly how many almonds go into a quart of almond milk, as it depends on the brand or, if it’s homemade, the recipe. But it’s unquestionably a small amount. A carton of the British brand Alpro’s almond milk is only 2 percent almonds. The rest of it is water and added vitamins, minerals and thickening agents. And according to an article by Business Insider, commercial almond milk recipes are pretty similar from brand to brand. The ingredient list on most commercial brands lists almonds as the second or third ingredient, after water and sweeteners, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Therefore, when it comes to eating whole almonds or drinking almond milk, The George Mateljan Foundation’s World’s Healthiest Foods website states that eating almonds provides more nutritional benefits. A comparison of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrient value charts shows that one 8-ounce glass of almond milk contains only 1 gram of protein, compared to 6 grams in a serving of almonds. It also has only 1 gram of fiber, compared to 4 grams in a serving of almonds. Almond milk has 17 grams of magnesium vs. 77 in almonds and 1.5 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats vs. almost 9 in almonds.
Almond milk does contain much larger amounts of calcium and vitamins A and D than whole almonds, but that is because the manufacturers fortify it with those nutrients, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. Additionally, the vitamin E found in almond milk is added; the vitamin E from raw almonds doesn’t make its way into almond milk.
If you make your own almond milk, these nutrient values will likely go up. Heap recommends using one cup of almonds per two cups of water, which would yield milk with a much higher nut percentage than the commercially available options.
Nutritional profile: almond milk vs. cow’s milk
It’s no wonder that commercial almond milk has vitamins A and D while raw almonds don’t — manufacturers are trying to make almond milk as cow-like as possible. After all, most people use it as a dairy substitute. So how does milk made from almonds and water stack up against milk from an udder?
According to the USDA, while almond milk has only 1 gram of protein per cup, cow’s milk has 8. If you buy calcium-fortified almond milk, the calcium levels will likely match or surpass cow’s milk. That is not the case if you make it at home. The levels of vitamins A, D, E and B12 in fortified almond milk also significantly surpass those in non-fortified cow’s milk. On the other hand, cow’s milk has more than double the amount of phosphorus and potassium than almond milk, while almond milk has slightly more sodium.
One notable difference is that while almond milk is free of cholesterol and saturated fats, cow’s milk contains these to different degrees depending on the type of milk. The Washington Postreported that the fat in almond milk is all healthy, which cannot be said of cow’s milk unless it is skim and has no fat. Also, almond milk generally has fewer calories than cow’s milk, though again that depends on if you’re drinking heavily sweetened almond milk or skim cow’s milk.
Here are the nutrition facts for almond milk, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act:
|Nutrition Facts Almond milk, sweetened, vanilla flavor Serving size: 8 ounces (240 g) Calories 90 Calories from Fat 25 *Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.||Amt per Serving||%DV*||Amt per Serving||%DV*|
|Total Fat 2.5g||4%||Total Carbohydrate 16g||5%|
|Cholesterol 0mg||0%||Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Sodium 140mg||6%||Sugars 14g|
|Protein 1g||Potassium 140mg||4%|
Benefits of almond milk
Depending on the vitamin and mineral fortifications your almond milk includes, there may be other benefits from nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamins A, D, E and B12.
Since almond milk is dairy-free, it can be a good option for those with dairy or lactose intolerances looking for something to put on their cereal. According to a recent article on plant-based milk substitutes published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 75 percent of the world’s population suffers from lactose intolerance and may benefit from products like almond milk. It can also be a good option for vegans and vegetarians. The article cautions, however, that consumers must remain aware that dairy alternatives usually do not contain anywhere close to the same amounts of calcium and protein as cow’s milk.
Not only is almond-milk cholesterol free, according to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats, such as those found in almond milk, are good for your heart if you substitute them for saturated fats, such as those found in cow’s milk. In a 1999 review published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports, researchers looked at the Nurses’ Health Study and estimated that substituting nuts for saturated fats resulted in a 45 percent estimated reduced risk of heart disease.
Almond milk is popular with dieters. Heap said, “It’s really had strong appeal to calorie-watchers since many varieties have just 30-60 calories per cup.” A study published in 2003 in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders suggested that combining almonds with a low-calorie, high-monounsaturated fat diet led to more weight loss than did a low-calorie diet with lots of complex carbohydrates.
Some of the riboflavin in almonds makes it into almond milk. Riboflavin is also known as vitamin B2, and it helps produce red blood cells and release energy from the carbohydrates you eat, according to the National Institutes of Health.
In 2011, a study published in Nutrition and Cancer suggested that almond milk might be helpful in suppressing prostate cancer cells. The study compared the growth of prostate and breast cancer cells in samples that digested organic cow’s, soy and almond milk. Unlike cow’s milk, which “stimulated” the growth of prostate cancer cells, almond milk suppressed the growth of prostate cancer cells by more than 30 percent. It had no affect on breast cancer cells, though soymilk encouraged their growth.
Who should not drink almond milk?
As almond milk rises in popularity, more and more parents are giving it to their infants. Studies have shown that this can be quite dangerous. In a 2014 study in the French journal Archives of Pediatrics, infants who were given plant-based milks between ages 4 and 14 months showed signs of protein-calorie malnutrition, edema, hypoalbuminemia (low blood levels of albumin, an important protein), iron deficiency anemia, low growth rate, vitamin D deficiencies and several other problems. The article recommends statutory measures forbidding plant-based milks for young infants.
Tree nut allergy-sufferers
Almond milk may not contain a lot of almonds, but it’s enough to set off serious allergy attacks for those with almond allergies. An almond allergy is typically grouped with a tree nut allergy (including cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts and others), and is usually severe. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, tree nut allergies are among the allergies most likely to cause anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms of an almond allergy include abdominal pain, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, nasal congestion or a runny nose, nausea, shortness of breath and itching.
Risks of drinking almond milk
Some brands of almond milk contain carrageenan, a common and controversial thickener derived from seaweed. It’s often used for texture in things like ice cream. According to one review published in Environmental Health Perspectives, several studies have linked it to increased inflammation as well as inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal malignancy. If you’re concerned about carrageenan, check the labels on your almond milk to select a brand that does not include it.
Given almond milk’s low protein content, and, if unfortified, low calcium content, those substituting almond milk for dairy should be careful to get protein and calcium from other sources.
- Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Recommendation of Nutritional Alternatives for Children Between 1 and 2 Years of Age with Cow’s Milk Allergy
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Foods for Special Dietary Needs: Non-Dairy Plant Based Milk Substitutes and Fermented Dairy Type Products
- Nutrition and Cancer: Milk stimulates growth of prostate cancer cells in culture