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Almond milk is the most popular plant milk in the United States.
It is rich in several healthful nutrients, but compared with whole almonds, it is watered down and missing most of the fiber.
While researchers have not directly studied its health effects in controlled studies, some of its components have undergone extensive study.
This is a review of almond milk and its health benefits.
Almond milk is made by blending almonds with water and then straining the mixture to remove the solids. You can also make it by adding water to almond butter.
It has a pleasant, nutty flavor and a creamy texture similar to that of regular milk. For this reason, it is a popular choice for people following a vegan diet and those who are allergic or intolerant to dairy.
You can find almond milk in most supermarkets, usually in the health food section. It is also very easy to make at home.
Commercial almond milk comes in a variety of brands and flavors. For health reasons, it is best to choose almond milk that does not contain added sugar.
Controlled studies have linked whole almonds to a variety of health benefits, but many of these may not apply to almond milk.
This is because manufacturers usually make the milk out of blanched (skinless) almonds, and they strain the liquid. This removes most of the fiber and a large portion of the almonds’ antioxidants.
Also, almond milk is watered down. It is a much less concentrated source of nutrients than whole almonds.
The concentration of nutrients in almond milk depends on how many almonds went into making it, the amount of added water it contains, and whether or not it contains any added vitamins and minerals.
For instance, many online recipes recommend making 2 cups of almond milk from 1 cup (143 grams [g]) of almonds, whereas commercial almond milk may be much more diluted (1).
Here are the seven main health benefits of drinking almond milk.
1. It is nutritious
Although almond milk is not nearly as nutritious as cow’s milk, enriched products come close.
They frequently contain added vitamin D, calcium, and protein, making them more similar to regular milk in nutritional content.
However, almond milk is naturally rich in several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E.
For comparison, the table below shows the amounts of a few nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in a cup of enriched commercial almond milk and low fat cow’s milk, along with some daily values (DV) (2, 3).
|Almond milk||Cow’s milk|
|Protein||1.05 g||8.22 g|
|Fat||2.52 g||2.37 g|
|Carbohydrates||3.43 g||12.2 g|
|Vitamin E||over 100% DV||0% DV|
|Calcium||37% DV||23% DV|
|Potassium||4% DV||8% DV|
|Magnesium||4% DV||6% DV|
|Riboflavin||2% DV||35% DV|
|Phosphorus||2% DV||19% DV|
The body does not absorb some minerals in almond milk as well as it does those in milk. This is partly because almonds contain phytic acid, an antinutrient that reduces the absorption of iron, zinc, and magnesium (4, 5, 6).
Since almond milk is lacking in many nutrients, it is not suitable as a milk replacement for infants.
Bottom line: Almond milk is naturally rich in several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E.
2. It is low in calories
This means that you can drink a lot of it without it causing weight gain. It is also rich in some nutrients relative to its calorie content.
Producers of almond milk dilute it with water to make its fat content similar to that of low fat milk, which is around 1% fat.
One cup of almond milk contains only 39 calories, which is half the amount of calories in a cup of skim milk.
However, not all almond milk is the same. Homemade almond milk and certain brands might contain a much higher number of calories, depending on how many almonds they contain per cup.
Additionally, some products contain added sugar, which people should avoid for the maximum health benefits.
Bottom line: Factory-made almond milk may contain even fewer calories than a glass of skim milk. However, this might not apply to all brands, so be sure to check the nutrient labels.
3. Unsweetened almond milk doesn’t raise blood sugar
Many almond milks on the market are loaded with added sugar.
Sugar-free almond milk, on the other hand, is a low carb beverage, made up of less than 2% carbs, or 3.43 g of carbs in 1 cup (2).
In comparison, low fat cow’s milk contains 5% carbs, totaling 12 g in 1 cup (3).
Almond milk is also high in fat and protein relative to its carb content. For this reason, it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels, making it suitable for people with diabetes, as well as those who are following a low carb diet.
However, be sure to read the ingredient lists and select products that are as pure as possible.
Bottom line: Almond milk is a low carb beverage, making it a perfect choice for people on a low carb diet and those who need to keep a check on their blood sugar levels.
4. It is dairy-free
Almond milk contains no cow’s milk or other animal products, making it a great option for people following a vegan diet and those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk.
Many people are intolerant to milk sugar (lactose) and unable to completely digest it. In these people, undigested lactose passes down to the colon, where it is fermented by the resident bacteria, leading to excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea, and associated discomfort.
Being dairy-free, almond milk contains no lactose at all, making it a suitable milk replacement for people with lactose intolerance.
Bottom line: Almond milk is an imitation milk and doesn’t contain any dairy at all, which makes it a popular milk alternative for vegans and people with lactose intolerance or milk allergies.
5. Enriched almond milk may strengthen your bones
Dairy products are the richest dietary source of calcium. In contrast, almonds are a poor source of this nutrient.
To make almond milk more similar to real milk, producers often enrich it with calcium. For instance, a cup of commercial almond milk may contain 37% or more of your daily need, depending on the type and brand.
In comparison, the calcium content in a cup of cow’s milk may contain around 23% of your daily need, depending on the type and brand.
As a result, enriched almond milk is an excellent calcium source for people who don’t consume dairy products, such as vegans and those who are intolerant to lactose or allergic to milk.
Bottom line: Producers often enrich almond milk with calcium, making it an excellent source of the nutrient. Regular consumption of enriched almond milk may reduce the risk of osteoporosis among those who don’t consume dairy products.
6. It may reduce the risk of heart disease
Almond milk is 1% oil by weight, around 90% of which is unsaturated (2).
Research has linked oleic acid, which is the main fatty acid in almond oil, to beneficial changes in blood lipids (9).
One study in healthy adults showed that eating 66 g of almonds or almond oil every day for 6 weeks reduced their levels of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol by 6% and triglycerides by 14%. It also increased their high-density lipoprotein, or “good,” cholesterol by 6% (10).
These beneficial changes in the blood lipid profile are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease (11).
Although about 50% of the calories in almond milk come from fat, it is generally a low fat product and probably doesn’t have a significant impact on your blood lipid profile.
Nutritionists believe that vitamin E, along with bioactive plant compounds including polyphenols, are responsible for many of the health benefits of almonds. These compounds have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that are good for heart health (12).
Bottom line: Almond milk is high in vitamin E and contains healthful fats. Drinking it regularly may benefit your heart.
7. Enriched almond milk is high in vitamin D
There are few good sources of vitamin D in the human diet. That’s why a common public health strategy is to enrich certain foods with vitamin D. This especially applies to milk products.
Just like regular milk, almond milk often contains added vitamin D. The amount of vitamin D varies between products. For example, 1 cup of almond milk may contain 2.62 micrograms, which is 13% of your DV. A cup of vitamin-enriched cow’s milk contains similar amounts (2).
This makes enriched almond milk a useful source of vitamin D that can prevent deficiency if you consume it regularly.
Bottom line: Almond milk is often enriched with vitamin D, and consuming it often may help prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Almond milk is widely available in supermarkets.
First, remove the skin. You can do this by soaking the almonds in water for 8–12 hours or overnight. The soak softens the skin, allowing you to peel it off easily when you rinse the almonds.
Next, put the almonds in a blender with 4 cups of water and mix until smooth. Finally, remove the solids by straining the mixture through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag.
Here are some healthful recipes:
Bottom line: Almond milk is one of the most popular plant milks, and it is available in most supermarkets. It is also easy to make at home.
Just like regular milk, almond milk is incredibly versatile. Below are a few ideas of how you can use it as a milk replacement:
- Splash it over your cereal instead of regular milk.
- Add it to your coffee or tea.
- Mix it into smoothies.
- Make a dairy-free rice pudding or ice-cream.
- Use it in soups, sauces, and salad dressings.
- Use it as a milk replacement in many baked foods.
Some people are also concerned about carrageenan, a thickener that some producers add to commercial almond milk products. However, most scientists agree that the type and amount of carrageenan used in food products are safe (15).
Bottom line: Almond milk is a great replacement for regular milk. However, people prone to kidney stones should avoid drinking it in high amounts.
Almond milk is a highly versatile product and a great milk substitute for vegans and people who are allergic or intolerant to dairy.
Being naturally rich in several important nutrients, almond milk is an excellent addition to a healthful diet.