Read this before you order your next almond milk latte.
Remember in the ‘90s when the only alternative milk options out there were rice and soy? We’ve come a long way since then. Almond, oat, hemp, macadamia, hazelnut…Seriously, what can’t you milk? While it may seem like there’s a new type of alternative milk being invented every month, almond milk has consistently been the most popular choice for people in the U.S. But is almond milk good for you?
It's a fair question. Just because something is trendy doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy. (Remember when “fat-free” graced the packaging on everything from frozen yogurt to chips?) Here, registered dietitians give the verdict on if almond milk is healthy or not and how it compares to other popular alternative milk choices.
Is Almond Milk Good For You?
According to registered dietitian Jenny Beth Kroplin, RD, almond milk can be healthy, but it depends on what brand you buy. “Plant-based milk is all the rage but that does not mean they are actually healthier. In fact, some plant-based milk is full of artificial ingredients that are not health-promoting,” she says. “Not all almond milk is created equal and it can be tricky choosing a healthy one. This is where reading the ingredient label is very important.”
Kroplin explains that some almond milk is high in sugar, contains various gums (which some people find irritate their gut) and could contain filler ingredients, often used for blending and consistency.
In terms of how almond milk stacks up to the other types of alternatives out there, registered dietitian and recipe developer Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, FAND, says that every type of milk brings its own set of benefits and weaknesses. For example, she says that almond milk tends to be low in protein and isn’t naturally a good source of calcium and vitamin D (although some almond milk is fortified to up the nutrient density). In contrast, she says that cow’s milk and soy milk are higher in protein.
However, there are health benefits where almond milk does come out ahead, which are explained in more detail below.
What Are the Health Benefits of Almond Milk?
1. It’s low-calorie
Both dietitians point out that almond milk is lower in calories than oat milk and soy milk, so if weight loss is one of your health goals, stocking your fridge with almond milk may help support it.
2. It’s low-carb
Kroplin and Andrews also say that almond milk has fewer carbohydrates than oat milk, another reason why it can be a good alternative milk to choose if you are trying to lose weight. Oat milk has 16 grams of carbohydrates per cup while almond milk has less than 1 gram of carbohydrates per cup. It’s also lower in carbs than soy milk, which has about 4 grams of carbohydrates per cup.
3. It has vitamin E
Andrews says that almond milk contains vitamin E, which comes straight from the nuts themselves. Vitamin E is a type of antioxidant that helps protect the body from free radicals, which in turn helps protect the body from diseases. One cup of almond milk has about 3 milligrams of vitamin E. (In general, you want to aim for 15 milligrams a day.)
4. It can contain calcium and vitamin D
If you buy fortified almond milk, Kroplin says that it will contain calcium and vitamin D, which is especially helpful for people who don’t consume dairy and may not be getting enough of these nutrients. One cup of fortified almond milk has 173 milligrams (you want to aim for 1,000 milligrams per day) and 37 international units of vitamin D (aim for 600 international units per day).
5. Almond milk supports heart health
Kroplin says that consuming almond milk regularly can help support cardiovascular health. This is because almonds are linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering cholesterol levels.
It bears repeating that not all almond milk is created equal, so it’s important to read the label to make sure you’re choosing an almond milk that’s as nutrient-rich as possible. Kroplin says to choose an almond milk that’s unsweetened (so that it won’t contain added sugars) and doesn’t have a long ingredient list of fillers, gums and other nutrient-void ingredients.
Andrews says again that all types of milk have their own benefits, so the best one for you depends on your health goals, overall diet and, of course, what you enjoy the taste of. “Be sure to compare labels to find a milk option that meets your personal needs. I recommend choosing a milk option that is rich in protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, and is low in sugar,” she says.