Is Almond Milk Good for You?

Medically reviewed by Jamie Johnson, RDN

Almond milk is a dairy-free, lactose-free milk that comes from almonds (hence the nutty flavor). Vegans and people with lactose intolerance use it as a healthy alternative to dairy. Plus, it has some impressive health benefits.

This article discusses how almond milk is made, its benefits, and its downsides.

<p>Anchiy / Getty Images</p>

Anchiy / Getty Images

How Almond Milk Is Made

Almond milk is made by soaking and grinding almonds in water. The solids are then filtered until only a milky, white liquid remains. You can make almond milk at home using this same process.

Commercially, the liquid is homogenized (a process in which fat droplets are made into an emulsion so the cream does not separate) and pasteurized (heating it to kill pathogens) to increase its shelf life.

Almond Milk Benefits

Almond milk has many benefits: It is a low-carbohydrate, low-cholesterol dairy alternative enriched with many vitamins and minerals. For those who can't have dairy, almond milk acts as a nutritious and tasty alternative.

Alternative to Dairy

Almond milk can be an excellent alternative source for people with milk allergies or lactose intolerance. It's also a great milk alternative for those on a vegan diet and those with gastrointestinal issues.

Compared to cow's milk, almond milk has the following benefits:

  • Fewer calories

  • Lower in fat

  • Lower in sugar (unsweetened almond milk)

  • More calcium

Good for Your Heart

Almonds are high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). These healthier fats can lower cholesterol levels, reducing your heart attack and stroke risk. These fats are better for you than saturated and trans fats found in cow's milk.

Strengthens Bones

Almond milk is fortified with calcium, and in fact, fortified almond milk has more calcium than cow's milk. Your bones are the central storage location of calcium in your body. If you don't get adequate calcium in your diet, your bones can weaken or not grow properly.

Clears Skin

Almond milk's high vitamin E content makes it a great choice for your skin. Vitamin E prevents damage from free radicals (unstable molecules in the body), which may protect skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage. Additionally, vitamin E is good for wound healing, atopic dermatitis (eczema), and acne.

Related: Unmasking the Skin Benefits of Vitamin E

Almond Milk Nutrition

Almond milk is an excellent source of nutrition that is low in calories and high in calcium.

An 8-ounce cup of unsweetened almond milk has the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 28.8 grams (g)

  • Protein: 1 g

  • Fat: 2.5 g

  • Calcium: 451 milligrams (mg)

  • Potassium: 161 mg

  • Sodium: 130 mg

  • Vitamin E: 7 mg

  • Vitamin D: 199 micrograms (mcg)

One of the nutritional downsides is the protein content of almond milk, which is significantly lower than the protein (8 g) found in cow's milk.

Who Should Avoid Almond Milk

While almond milk is a great milk substitute for people for various reasons, it's not an appropriate choice for everyone.

People with nut allergies should avoid almond milk. Nut allergies can be life-threatening, so use extreme caution with nut milk. While an allergy to one nut doesn't mean you will be allergic to them all, many people are often allergic to more than one nut. In one study of children with nut allergies, 30% of those with a tree nut allergy had one or more additional tree nut allergies.

In addition, infants under 1 year should not have almond milk because it does not contain adequate nutrients like that found in breast milk or formula.

Downsides to Almond Milk

In some ways, almond milk is better for you than regular milk. However, there are a few downsides.

Low in Protein

Almond milk is low in protein. Compared to cow's milk, it has about eight times less protein. If you struggle to get adequate protein, replacing cow's milk with almond milk may make your quest even more difficult.

Some Contain Emulsifiers

Some brands of almond milk contain carrageenan. This food emulsifier (stabilizing ingredients to prevent separation) is extracted from seaweed.

Researchers have found the ingredient may cause intestinal inflammation. If you have intestinal problems like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you may want to read almond milk ingredients carefully and avoid those that use emulsifiers.

Environmental Concerns

Researchers have compared the impact of plant-based milk to cow's milk on the environment. While plant milk does better across environmental impacts than cow's milk, the biggest concern with almond milk is its water use and eutrophication (the pollution of ecosystems, such as bodies of water, with excess nutrients).

In most other respects, almond milk's environmental impact is a fraction of cow's milk's impact on land use, greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater use, and eutrophication. It has a similar or superior impact than other plant-based milks across all measures.

Related: Why Soy Milk Is the Best Plant-Based Alternative to Dairy Milk

Sweetened Almond Milk vs. Unsweetened

Unlike unsweetened almond milk, sweetened almond milk is high in carbohydrates and sugar. That's because sweetened almond milk contains added sugar to make it taste sweeter.

Compared to unsweetened almond milk, sweetened almond milk has 2.5 times more calories, 12 times more carbohydrates, and more than 11 times more sugar (11.6 g of sugar compared to zero in unsweetened almond milk).

Summary

Unsweetened almond milk is a nutritious, low-calorie, low-carb milk alternative for many people. The vitamins and minerals in almond milk may benefit the heart, skin, and bones. Those on a vegan diet, with cow's milk allergies, and lactose intolerance, may especially benefit from this plant-based milk.

People with nut allergies, as well as infants, should avoid almond milk. Read ingredients carefully to find a pure product without added emulsifiers or sweeteners.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.