With the rise of plant-based diets and dairy sensitivities, many people look for an alternative to cow’s milk.
Almond milk is one of the top-selling plant-based milk because of its rich texture and flavor.
However, since it’s a processed beverage, you may wonder whether it’s a nutritious and safe option.
This article reviews almond milk and whether it’s good or bad for your health.
What is almond milk?
Almond milk is made of ground almonds and water but can include other ingredients depending on the type.
Most people purchase it premade, though it’s fairly easy to make at home as well.
During processing, almonds and water are blended and then strained to remove pulp. This leaves a smooth liquid.
In most commercial almond milk, thickeners, preservatives, and flavorings are usually added to improve flavor, texture, and shelf life.
Almond milk is naturally dairy-free, meaning it’s suitable for vegans, as well as people with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance.
Still, you should avoid it if you’re allergic to tree nuts.
Summary: Almond milk is a plant-based beverage made from filtered almonds and water. It is naturally dairy- and lactose-free, making it a good option for those avoiding dairy.
Almond milk nutrition
With only 39 calories per cup (240 ml), almond milk is very low in calories compared with cow’s milk and other plant-based beverages. It also contains various nutrients.
One cup (240 ml) of commercial almond milk provides:
- Calories: 39
- Fat: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 3.5 grams
- Fiber: 0.5 grams
- Calcium: 24% of the recommended daily intake
- Potassium: 4% of the recommended daily intake
- Vitamin D: 18% of the recommended daily intake
- Vitamin E: 110% of the recommended daily intake
Almond milk is an excellent and natural source of vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect your body from free radical damage.
Some varieties are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which are important nutrients for bone health. Homemade versions are not a good source of these nutrients.
Finally, almond milk is low in protein, with 1 cup (240 ml) providing only 1 gram.
Summary: Almond milk is naturally high in vitamin E, a disease-fighting antioxidant. During processing, it’s commonly fortified with calcium and vitamin D. However, it’s not a good source of protein.
Health benefits of almond milk
Almond milk may provide certain health benefits.
Almond milk is High in vitamin E
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble vitamin important for protecting your cells from free radical damage.
Vitamin E promotes eye and skin health and may play a role in protecting against conditions like heart disease.
One cup (240 ml) of commercial almond milk provides 110% of the DV for vitamin E, making it an easy and affordable way to meet your daily needs.
Unsweetened varieties of almond milk are low in sugar
Most people eat too much added sugar in the form of desserts, drinks, and sweeteners. Thus, choosing food and beverages naturally low in sugar can help you manage weight and limit your risk of certain chronic diseases.
Many plant-based kinds of milk are flavored and sweetened. 1 cup (240 ml) of chocolate-flavored almond milk can pack upwards of 21 grams of added sugar — more than 5 teaspoons.
If you’re trying to limit your sugar intake, unsweetened almond milk is a great choice. It’s naturally low in sugar, providing a total of 2 grams per cup (240 ml).
Summary: Unsweetened almond milk is naturally low in sugar and high in vitamin E, a strong disease-fighting antioxidant. However, sweetened almond milk can be loaded with sugar.
Potential downsides of almond milk
While almond milk has many benefits, there are some important downsides to consider.
Almond milk lacks in protein
Almond milk provides only 1 gram of protein per cup (240 ml) while cow’s and soy milk provide 8 and 7 grams, respectively.
Protein is essential for many bodily functions, including muscle growth, skin and bone structure, and enzyme and hormone production.
Many dairy-free and plant-based foods are high in protein, including beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and hemp seeds.
If you don’t avoid animal products, eggs, fish, chicken, and beef are all excellent protein sources.
Almond milk is unsuitable for infants
Children younger than 1 year should not drink cow’s or plant-based milk, as these can prevent iron absorption. Breastfeed or use infant formula exclusively until 4–6 months of age when solid food can be introduced.
At 6 months of age, offer water as a healthy beverage choice in addition to breast milk or formula. After the age of 1, cow’s milk can be introduced to your infant’s diet.
Except for soy milk, plant-based drinks are naturally low in protein, fat, calories, and many vitamins and minerals, such as iron, vitamin D, and calcium. These nutrients are essential for growth and development.
Almond milk only provides 39 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 1 gram of protein per cup (240 ml). This is not enough for a growing infant.
If you don’t want your baby to drink cow’s milk, continue to breastfeed or consult your doctor for the best non-dairy formula.
Almond milk may contain additives
Processed almond milk can contain many additives, such as sugar, salt, gums, flavors, and lecithin, and carrageenan (types of emulsifiers).
Certain ingredients like emulsifiers and gums are used for texture and consistency. They’re safe unless consumed in extremely high amounts.
Still, one test-tube study found that carrageenan, which is commonly added to almond milk as an emulsifier and recognized as safe, may disrupt gut health. However, more robust research is needed before any conclusions can be made.
Nevertheless, many companies avoid this additive altogether due to these concerns.
Additionally, many flavored and sweetened almond milk are high in sugar. Too much sugar can increase your risk of weight gain, dental cavities, and other chronic conditions.
To avoid this, choose unsweetened and unflavored almond milk.
Summary: Almond milk is a poor source of protein, fat, and nutrients important for an infant’s growth and development. What’s more, many processed varieties contain additives like sugar, salt, flavors, gums, and carrageenan.
How to choose the best almond milk
Most local grocery stores offer a variety of almond milk.
When choosing a product, be sure to look for an unsweetened variety. You can also select a type without added gums or emulsifiers if these ingredients are a concern to you.
Finally, if you follow a restricted diet, such as veganism or vegetarianism, and are concerned about your nutrient intake, choose almond milk that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Homemade and some local options may not contain these nutrients.
Summary: To reap the most benefits, choose almond milk that is unsweetened, unflavored, and fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
How to make your own almond milk
To make your own almond milk, follow this simple recipe.
- 2 cups (280 grams) of soaked almonds
- 4 cups (1 liter) of water
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of vanilla extract (optional)
Soak the almonds in water overnight and drain them before use. Add the almonds, water, and vanilla to a blender and pulse for 1–2 minutes until the water is cloudy and the almonds are finely ground.
Pour the mixture into a mesh strainer that is placed over a bowl and lined with a nut milk bag or cheesecloth. Be sure to press down to extract as much liquid as possible. You should get approximately 4 cups (1 liter) of almond milk.
Place the liquid into a serving container and store it in your refrigerator for 4–5 days.
Suggested read: Coconut milk: Health benefits and uses
Summary: To make your own almond milk, add soaked almonds, water, and vanilla extract to a blender. Pour the mixture through a cheesecloth and mesh strainer. Store the remaining liquid in your refrigerator for 4–5 days.
Almond milk can be a great plant-based option for those avoiding cow’s milk.
Unsweetened varieties are naturally low in calories and sugar while providing plenty of vitamin E.
That said, almond milk is low in protein and sweetened types can be loaded with sugar.
If you enjoy almond milk, be sure to select unsweetened and unflavored versions and add other protein-rich foods to your diet, such as eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, fish, and chicken.