What is almond milk?
Almond milk is a type of plant milk made predominantly from water and almonds, and also various additives and fortified with vitamins and minerals in the case of almond milk made commercially. It’s not an actual milk, but a milk-like beverage. Almond milk is a type of alternative milk, that is, a plant-based alternative to regular dairy milk. However, almond milk is not a good substitute for dairy milk because the nutrition of the two is not comparable. Depending on the brand, almond milk may contain as little as 2% almond material, sometimes even less than that.
Types of almond milk
- Commercial almond milk. A water-based beverage with almond material made in a commercial setting. Typically fortified with vitamins and minerals. Has added sodium. Likely to contain various additives. Usually also pasteurized and homogenized. May be sweetened or unsweetened.
- Home-made almond milk. A water-based beverage with almond material made in a home setting. Typically not fortified. Unlikely to contain additives. May be sweetened or unsweetened. Home-made almond milk contains significantly more almonds than almond milk made commercially. Typically not pasteurized (raw).
Properties of almond milk
- Plant milk-like beverage made from sweet almonds.
- Classified as a non-dairy milk-like beverage, non-dairy milk alternative or substitute or milk analogue.
- Type of nut milk (although almonds are not true nuts, but fruits, whereas almond kernels used for making almond milk are botanical seeds).
- Type of vegan milk (free of animal-based ingredients).
- Almond milk made commercially is pasteurized and homogenized, and contains additives.
- Lactose-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free.
- Has no saturated fat.
- Sugar-free (unsweetened almond milk) vs high-sugar (sweetened almond milk).
- Color: white (the color of almond kernels).
- Original flavor: mild, nutty, light.
What does almond milk look and taste like?
Almond milk is a milky white color, the same as the kernels it is made from. Almond milk is naturally mild-tasting, with light nutty flavors and a faint underlying sweetness to it, even when it’s unsweetened. It tastes a little watered-down compared to regular cow’s milk, which is understandable considering it has a lot less fat compared to cow’s milk, but at the same time, it has a rich, but light creamy consistency. Its consistency is owed to the fact that it’s thicker than other plant milks and 1% dairy milk (not fattier though).
Almond milk made commercially is also available in vanilla and chocolate flavors, and tastes accordingly. Cheaper brands may contain very little almond material (2% or less) and can be especially high in sodium, having a marked salty flavor, especially noticeable with unsweetened almond milks. But sweetening the almond milk usually masks the salty flavor notes. While for some people almond milk tastes good, sweetened or unsweetened, others may find it tastes bad, especially unsweetened almond milk made commercially (likely to due the added sodium and various additives it contains).
Almond milk nutrition
The nutrition of almond milk differs greatly between brands and between commercially made and home made almond milk. In terms of nutrition, home made almond milk contains mostly water and almond material. Vs commercially made almond milk which contains water, almond material, salt, sugar or sweeteners and various additives as well as added vitamins and minerals, but tends to have less almond material (2% and less).
- Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients occurring naturally in almond milk: carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, choline, vitamin E, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc. Almonds naturally don’t have any sodium.
- Vitamins and minerals in almond milk added through fortification: vitamins A, D and E, sometimes vitamin B12 (for almond milk designated for vegan consumers), sodium.
Note: Exact amounts of vitamins and minerals and other nutrients in almond milk vary from milk to milk, according to how the milk was produced (e.g. ratio of almonds to water, processing undergone – heating, filtration, pasteurization may occur in almond milk made commercially etc.).
What is almond milk made of?
Commercially made almond milk consists of the following ingredients: water, almond material, sea salt, various sweeteners (cane sugar, cane syrup, dried cane syrup, evaporated cane juice, dates etc.), added vitamins (vitamin A – retinyl palmitate, vitamin D2, vitamin E in the form of vitamin E acetate, aka alpha-Tocopheryl acetate or d-alpha-Tocopherol, vitamin B2, vitamin B12), added minerals (potassium citrate, calcium carbonate, zinc), various additives such as anticaking agents (tricalcium phosphate), sunflower lecithin, rice starch, thickeners and gelling agents (locust bean gum, carob gum or E410, gellan gum, carrageenans to give almond milk a creamy mouthfeel), vanilla flavor, chocolate flavor and other flavor compounds and undisclosed ingredients.
Is almond milk healthy?
- It’s lactose-free. One of the benefits of almond milk is its lactose-free, making it a good choice for anyone who is lactose intolerant and experiencing flatulence, loose stools or diarrhea as a result of dairy consumption.
- It’s gluten-free. Almond milk has no gluten, making it a good food to eat for anyone with gluten intolerance.
- It’s cholesterol-free. While cholesterol actively contributes to preventing demyelination of nerve cells, too much isn’t healthy which makes almond milk a good idea for anyone looking balance their diet and lower their intake of animal foods.
- Low in fat -with less than 3 g of fat per cup (244 g), almond milk is a diet food and contributes to cardiovascular health.
- Has no saturated fat and thus contributes to cardiovascular health.
- Source of healthy fats. Almond milk contains healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats with anti-inflammatory properties and benefits for cardiovascular health.
- Benefits for the brain. The healthy fats in almond milk nourish the brain, support cognitive functions and help delay cognitive decline.
- Low in calories. A cup (244 g) of commercial unsweetened almond milk has around 40 kilocalories. The unsweetened milk helps maintain a healthy weight and does not promote weight gain. By comparison, a cup of sweetened almond milk has a little over 90 kilocalories.
- Easy to digest. Lactose-free and low in fat, almond milk is relatively easy to digest and does not trigger any gastrointestinal discomfort.
- Source of vitamin E with antioxidant, anti-aging and emollient properties and benefits for skin.
- Source of B vitamins, almond milk supports energy metabolism and combats tiredness.
- Source of vitamin B12 (as a result of fortification) – has revitalizing and energizing properties, combats anemia and fatigue.
- High in water and a source of minerals such as calcium, potassium and sodium, almond milk combats dehydration and restores a feeling of well-being.
- Cosmetic benefits. Almond milk can be used cosmetically for face cleansing, as a hydrating milk or as a natural treatment for dry skin.
How and why is almond milk bad for you?
- Allergenic potential. One of the biggest dangers of almond milk is that it causes allergic reactions in those allergic to almonds. The source of allergy in almond milk is represented by proteins. Severity of allergic reactions may range from mild skin symptoms (itching, redness, bumps) to respiratory symptoms (wheezing, closing of the airways) and anaphylactic shock.
- High sodium content. One of the negatives of almond milk made commercially is its relatively high sodium content (almond are naturally sodium-free and so is home-made almond milk). One cup (244 g) of commercial almond milk contains between 150-190 mg of sodium. A too high a intake of sodium from almond milk and other sources can contribute to high blood pressure, water retention, swollen legs and ankles, face puffiness etc.
- Risk of aflatoxins contamination. The risk is low considering there are strict safety regulations set in place that require almonds be tested for aflatoxins.
- Little to no fiber. Almond milk has either no dietary fiber or less than one gram of fiber per cup (244 g). Fiber is needed for good transit and easy and regular bowel movements and not getting enough in your diet can lead to constipation, stomach pain and even hemorrhoids.
- High in sugar. Sweetened almond milk tends to be high in sugar (about 15 g of sugar per cup/244 g). A too high a intake can lead to weight gain and raise blood sugar levels.
How to make almond milk at home
Because almond milk made at home is as healthy as it gets, here is how to make it yourself. One way to make almond milk at home is to use almond butter and dilute it with water; if needed, strain using a cheese cloth or nut milk bag. Another more popular way is to use either soaked and raw, blanched almonds or soaked and toasted blanched almonds. Put the almonds in a blender or food processor with water (ratio 1/4 almonds, 3/4 water – you can measure using cups) and blend until smooth. Use a cheese cloth or nut milk bag to strain the mixture into a bowl. The resulting milky white liquid is the almond milk.