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What Is Almond Milk?
Almonds are native to the Middle East but are enjoyed throughout the world. The nuts are eaten as snacks, ground into flour, and sometimes turned into creamy, dairy-free milk.
Almond milk is one of the most popular almond products because it has a very important trait: it’s lactose-free. Vegans and people with lactose intolerance use almond milk as a healthy alternative to dairy drinks. Others simply love its nutty flavor.
You can drink almond milk plain or use it in recipes that call for animal or any other kind of plant-based milk. Beyond its taste, almond milk packs some pretty impressive health benefits.
Almond Milk Benefits
Almond milk – especially fortified almond milk – has these health benefits:
Almond milk is dairy-free. Almond milk has no lactose (a type of sugar found naturally in dairy milk) since it’s not an animal product. As a result, it’s a good milk substitute for people with lactose intolerance. It’s also suitable for people who are vegan (don’t eat animal products).
It’s a good source of magnesium. Almond milk is rich in magnesium, a mineral that many American diets fall short on. Magnesium is important for muscle function, blood sugar control, blood pressure, and making bone, protein, and DNA.
It’s rich in antioxidant vitamin E. Almond milk is a good source of vitamin E, which is important for your immune system and blood vessels. Some studies have shown a link between high vitamin E intake and a lower risk of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which protects your cells from the effects of dangerous molecules called free radicals.
It may contain bone-building calcium. Many commercial brands of almond milk are fortified with calcium. Bone health is tied to calcium because the mineral makes up most hard structures in bones. Getting enough calcium keeps your bones strong and can help your body fight osteoporosis.
It can be low in calories and carbs. Compared to animal milk, unsweetened almond milk – but not the sweetened kind – is low in sugars and carbohydrates. It has 50% to 80% fewer calories than dairy milk. It’s considered a low glycemic index food. This means it’s less likely to cause blood sugar spikes.
Almond Milk Nutrition
Depending on the brand, almond milk can also be an excellent source of:
Nutrients per serving. An 8-ounce (1 cup) serving of unsweetened almond milk contains:
A 1-cup serving of sweetened almond milk contains:
What’s in almond milk? It varies by brand. But store-bought almond milk generally contains water, almonds, salt, added vitamins and minerals, and stabilizers and preservatives to improve its shelf life. Sweetened varieties also contain sugar or another type of sweetener.
To get the most nutritional value, look for unsweetened almond milk that has been fortified with nutrients such as vitamin D and phosphorus, which helps with energy levels and bone health.
Risks Associated With Almond Milk
Almond milk has health benefits, but there are also some drawbacks to keep in mind:
Nut allergies. Don’t drink almond milk if you’re allergic to tree nuts, as it can cause a reaction.
Low protein content. Almond milk has less protein than either cow’s milk or soy milk – just 1 gram of protein per 8-ounce serving. So make sure you’re getting enough protein from other sources if you switch to almond milk.
Not suitable for infants. Because almond milk has low levels of protein, it’s not recommended for babies in their first year of life.
Sweetened Almond Milk
What Is sweetened almond milk? Sweetened almond milk has added sweeteners, such as stevia, cane sugar, dates, maple syrup, or honey. You can buy sweetened almond milk in flavors like vanilla and chocolate.
Difference Between Sweetened Almond Milk and Unsweetened Almond Milk
Many people prefer the taste of sweetened almond milk over unsweetened almond milk. But there’s another important difference.
One cup of sweetened almond milk contains 10 grams of added sugar and 73 calories, while a cup of unsweetened almond milk contains 37 calories and no sugar. The sweetened version has more than double the calories.
Drinking too much sweetened almond milk (or any sweetened drink) could lead to weight gain.
How to Prepare Almond Milk
You can use almond milk in the same way as you would cow’s milk or any other type of plant milk. It’s available in just about any supermarket or bulk-food store, usually next to traditional dairy products. Some brands of store-bought almond milk are shelf-stable until opened.
To make almond milk at home:
- Blend a cup of soaked almonds in a blender with some water (you can peel the almonds or not).
- Strain this mixture to remove the solids (or leave them in for thicker almond milk). The smooth liquid that remains is almond milk.
- If you prefer your milk on the thinner side, add more water.
To make sweetened almond milk, add the sweetener of your preference – maple syrup, sugar, dates, or honey.
You can drink it straight, or use almond milk in any recipe or food preparation that calls for milk. Here are some ways to use this versatile drink:
- Substitute for dairy milk or water in your favorite pancake recipe.
- Add almond milk to hot chocolate instead of cow’s milk.
- Pour it over cereal.
- Make homemade almond ice cream.
- Add almond milk to smoothies or shakes.
- Use almond milk as coffee creamer.