Following a vegan or vegetarian diet is becoming increasingly popular as more people, especially the millennial’s, are turning to a plant-based diet. Vegans, in particular, will abstain from consuming any animal products, this includes dairy products. Unfortunately, some people have not been granted the choice in their dietary changes and may be lactose intolerant and unable to consume any dairy products. When I was pregnant, I became lactose intolerant and shared the frustration with others who needed an alternative to cow’s milk: my coffee would not be the same without milk. I could not consume any dairy products, and this meant that I had to search for alternatives. I turned to vegan family members and lactose-intolerant friends to find out what I could use as a replacement for cow’s milk. Almond milk was a popular answer.
Almond milk is becoming a product that is readily stocked and more available throughout a variety of stores and no longer in specific health stores only. In the United States, the most popular plant-based milk product is almond milk. It is a great go-to, and all-natural product for those following a plant-based diet, are lactose intolerant or prefer the health benefits and taste of almond milk instead of regular cow’s milk. For those who are environmentally conscious, almond milk is a great choice because the greenhouse gas emissions used in the production of almond milk is a lot lower than for dairy milk, but with all this said, is almond milk healthy for you?
What is almond milk ?
Most almond milk only contains two percent almonds, the balance of the ingredients include water, added vitamins, minerals, sweeteners, and thickening agents. It is made by blending almonds with water and straining the mixture to remove any solids. It can also be made by adding water to almond butter. Commercial milk, that is store-bought, comes in various flavors, however, it is best to select regular almond milk, without any flavors added, because it contains less sugar and offers more health benefits as a result.
The concentration of the nutrients contained in almond milk depends on the number of almonds used to make the milk, the amount of water added, and whether it has been fortified with additional vitamins and minerals. Almond milk made at home uses 143 grams of almonds, however, commercial production may not use as many almonds and manufacturers tend to dilute the milk with more water. Most brands on the supermarket shelves only contain 2% almonds.
If you want to make your own almond milk at home then blend half a cup of soaked, skinless almonds with one cup of water. Then use a nut bag to strain and remove the solids from the mixture. If you want to make it a little thicker or thinner, then adjust the quantity of water. This milk can only be kept for up to two days in the refrigerator.
Almond milk differs from cow’s milk
Not everyone can tolerate the lactose that is present in cow’s milk. In fact, lactose intolerance is estimated to affect up to 75% of people worldwide. Lactose is the sugar that is in the milk. People who have lactose intolerance lack the enzyme, beta-galactosidase, or lactase, which is needed to breakdown lactose in cow’s milk and turn it into glucose and galactose. Because almond milk does not contain lactose, it is a suitable replacement for cow’s milk for people with lactose intolerance.
A cup of almond milk contains approximately 39.3 calories, whereas cow’s milk contains 102 calories. For those focused on their weight management, almond milk is the preferred choice. If you are trying to lose weight, most moderate weight-loss strategies recommend eliminating at least 500 calories for your daily diet, by replacing two to three daily servings of dairy with almond milk, it will help you eliminate up to 348 calories. Make sure that you are purchasing natural, regular almond milk that has no added sugar if you want the benefits of low calories for weight loss.
Almond milk is an extraordinarily rich source of naturally occurring Vitamin E which is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect the body from damage from free radicals. Vitamin E helps fight inflammation and stress in the body, helps protect against heart disease and cancer, and studies have shown that improves mental performance and benefits brain health. In one cup of almond milk, there is 100% of the Vitamin E needed for daily consumption. Cow’s milk does not contain any Vitamin E.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium is an important nutrient that aids the development and overall health of bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. It is also necessary for the proper functioning of the heart, nerves, and muscles. Almond milk has a higher percentage value of calcium compared to that of cow’s milk. Almond milk contains 37% of the daily value, and cow’s milk contains 23% of the daily value. Many varieties of almond milk are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D which makes it a richer source of nutrients for bone health compared to that of regular milk which does not contain any Vitamin D. Most almond milk is fortified with Vitamin D2, which is also known as ergocalciferol. One cup of fortified almond milk will provide 25% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D.
One cup of almond milk contains 3.43g of carbohydrates while one cup of cow’s milk contains 12.2g of carbohydrates. The lower carbohydrate count in almond milk is a better choice for those who are monitoring their blood sugar levels, especially diabetics. Low-fat cow’s milk still contains 5% carbohydrates which is higher than that of almond milk. People suffering from diabetes need to limit their carbohydrate intake, replacing dairy milk with almond milk is an excellent way to monitor and achieve daily carbs intake.
Almond milk was produced to resemble regular cow’s milk. The fat and salt content are virtually the same, however, cow’s milk does have slightly more protein, but the variance in protein quantity is too small to make an impact on the diet. Almond milk is, however, free of the proteins that cause milk allergy that is found in cow’s milk.
Phosphorus and Potassium
Those who suffer from chronic kidney disease are not able to remove phosphorus and potassium from their kidneys, if these nutrients are consumed in excess, there is an increased risk that they will build up in the blood. If you suffer from this disease, then you need to avoid cow’s milk because it contains high levels of both phosphorus and potassium. One cup of cow’s milk contains 233mg of phosphorus and 366mg of potassium. Almond milk, however, only contains 20mg of phosphorus and 160mg of potassium making it the ideal alternative for those suffering from chronic kidney disease.
Even those who are healthy need to be mindful of the high levels of these nutrients in regular milk. Too much phosphorus in the blood can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, bone disease, and hyperparathyroidism. Too much potassium increases the risk of heart attack and irregular heart rhythm.
How is almond milk used ?
Almond milk is versatile and can be used in any way that regular cow’s milk can be used.
Below are some ways in which almond milk can be used:
- – In healthy, all-natural smoothies
- – In cooking and baking (I like to add almond milk to my recipes for pancakes and muffins)
- – In your tea, coffee, or hot chocolate
- – On its own as a low-calorie, refreshing beverage
- – In cereal, oats, or muesli
- – In soups, dressings, and sauces
- – In homemade ice-cream (this is my favorite and a win for creamy ice-cream)
- – In homemade almond yogurt
Almond milk, a great healthy alternative !
Almond milk has a delicious nutty flavor and resembles the creamy texture of regular milk, because the texture is the same, it makes almond milk an ideal choice for those transitioning from cow’s milk to the plant-based product of almond milk. This great alternative to regular milk is low in calories and sugar and is a great source of Vitamin E, calcium, and Vitamin D which makes it a healthy option, not to mention that it is antibiotic and growth-hormone free too. A healthy daily intake is around 250ml, but there are no known limitations except for those suffering from thyroid problems. Almonds are a goitrogenic food, if they are consumed in excess, they can suppress the function of the thyroid gland, causing an enlargement of the thyroid. If you have thyroid problems, then it may be best to avoid almond milk. If you have a nut allergy, then this milk will not be suitable for consumption.
The plant-based nature of almond milk makes it suitable for people with lactose intolerance, kidney disease, dairy allergies, and vegans. The versatility of this delicious alternative means it can be added to most foods or drinks that would have contained regular milk. Try making a tasty smoothie or pancake mix with this creamy, nutty milk or make your own almond milk at home to enjoy all the wonderful health benefits.
Leave a comment below and let me know how you incorporated Almond milk in your daily routine.
Until next time