Almond milk is healthy and simple to make. Here's how

Our obsession with all things plant-based has spilled over into dairy with numerous incarnations made from soybeans, coconut, oats, cashews, hemp, rice and, of course, the ever-popular almond milk, each sharing shelf space with classic skim, low-fat (1 percent), 2 percent and whole cow's milk.

Cow's milk is still the most popular in the U.S., but plant-based milk has grown exponentially to become a $3 billion industry, Mintel Market Research reports.

Unsweetened varieties, especially almond milk, cut calorie counts way down. It's not just those who are lactose intolerant who are making the switch.

So what exactly is almond milk and how is it made?

How is almond milk made?

Making almond milk is actually fairly straightforward and you can make it at home. Soak one cup of raw, unsalted almonds overnight. Drain and rinse them before adding the almonds to a blender or food processor with three cups of cold water. Whip until finely ground.

“From there, the liquid is strained using a cheesecloth or nut milk bag and then flavored as desired with vanilla, a pinch of salt, and/or sweeteners,” says Kat Benson, a registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching.

Benson says large commercial producers blanch and peel the almonds to pasteurize and speed up the process, then grind the almonds, and add water, vitamins, sweeteners and flavorings before bottling.

Is almond milk made only from almonds?

Actually, almond milk is made mostly of water. A consumer lawsuit from 2015 famously contended that Blue Diamond's Almond Breeze is made from about 2 percent almonds, which the company ultimately settled. So mostly water; almonds; sunflower, almond and/or canola oil for body and texture; added vitamins A, D and E; calcium; salt; and sugar or vanilla depending on the variety.

What are the benefits of almond milk?

Almond milk contains far fewer calories than cow's milk. One cup of unsweetened Silk brand almond milk has 30 calories, compared with 85 calories for skim milk, 125 calories for 2 percent and a whopping 160 calories for whole milk. Almond milk also is ideal for those who are lactose intolerant.

Is almond milk as healthy as real milk?

Depends on your milk-drinking needs or goals. While almond milk possesses fewer calories, it lacks the protein power that cow's milk has; 1 gram per serving versus 8 for cow's milk (all varieties).“In addition to being low in protein, it’s also relatively low in carbohydrates, especially the unsweetened kind, and low in fat,” says Benson, “so it does not replace the macronutrient benefits a child might get from drinking dairy milk, for example.”

What is the healthiest nut? Best healthy options to eat for fat, fiber and protein.

This article originally appeared on Aberdeen News: How is almond milk made? Benefits and process, explained