If you’ve walked into a Starbucks to make an order lately or walked down the aisles of your local grocery store, you know that milk isn’t just “milk” anymore. For centuries, “Do you want milk with that?” meant one thing – cow’s milk.
It’s what we in the United States put in coffee, dipped cookies in, poured over our morning cereal, and helped kids go to sleep. Now, though, there are different kinds of milk for everyone. You’ve got oat milk, soy milk, almond milk, and more.
Almond milk is plant-based milk that’s creamy with a hint of nutty flavor because it’s made completely of almonds! It is entirely dairy-free, so is a fantastic option for people who are lactose intolerant or have other issues drinking dairy milk.
Almond milk has exploded in popularity in recent years because it’s a tasty non-dairy milk with some very good health benefits. Let’s explore a bit about almond milk and whether you should make the switch.
What Is Almond Milk?
While it was once relegated to health food stores, it’s now found in most local grocery stores and chain food stores across the country. Almond milk is made from blanched almonds. Makers strain the liquid out of the almond mixture that contains a decent amount of water.
It’s a good source of magnesium and is low in calories and carbohydrates. Almond milk also has a good number of antioxidants that fight inflammation and help boost the body’s immune system. It’s full of Vitamin E and could lower the risk of health conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease.
People drinking dairy milk for calcium benefits will be happy to know that almond milk also has a good amount of calcium for bone strength.
Is It Considered a Dairy Product?
No. Almond milk is completely dairy-free. It’s ideal for people who struggle digesting cow milk and other dairy products, and vegans can eat or drink products with almond milk in them without concern.
Almond milk is so popular because it’s a great substitute for cow’s milk. You can use almond milk in baking products, coffee drinks, cereal, or even drink it by itself. It tastes good and is very shelf-stable. Stick some almond milk in your smoothie, and it will give you that same creamy texture and consistency you love. Make sauces and other items with it, and you won’t miss a beat.
Are the Benefits the Same?
We’ve already covered some of the nutritional benefits of almond milk like Vitamin E and magnesium. What people who drink cow’s milk want to know most, though, is whether almond milk will give them the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk. What many people don’t know, however, is that the evidence is increasingly slim when it comes to the health benefits of dairy products. Yes, eating dairy will give you decent amounts of calcium, protein, and other nutrients, but dairy is not the only place to look.
The attention given to dairy milk is often tied to effective marketing on behalf of the dairy farming industry. There is a lot of money at stake if people suddenly realize that they don’t need to drink three servings of milk every day to get the calcium their bones need. But now we know that getting calcium from something like a daily supplement is as effective or more effective than getting it from dairy milk.
Almond milk also has a good amount of calcium in it, so the odds are you will get the same benefits from drinking almond milk.
Almond milk is also lower in calories. Typically, a cup of almond milk will have around 30-90 calories, while cow’s milk has 90-150 calories per cup serving. Almond milk doesn’t have as much protein in it as dairy milk, but you actually get a bit more calcium from drinking it. The fat content in almond milk is about what you will get from drinking 2% milk. It’s unsaturated fats.
Of course, we can’t mention the benefits of almond milk without touching on lactose intolerance. Thousands of Americans and millions of people across the world struggle with digestive issues tied to drinking dairy milk. It can be painful and cause chronic health issues. Almond milk is lactose-free and one of the best options for people who can’t drink cow’s milk but still want something similar.
Are the Negatives the Same?
The negatives to cow’s milk are something we’ve covered a bit already. Mainly, it’s higher in calories and there’s the lactose intolerance concern. But what about almond milk? What are some of the negatives, if any, around drinking and using almond milk?
For one thing, almond milk will cost you more money than dairy milk. Almonds are a higher-end product, and they require a lot more care and long-term investment to produce.
Another potential concern tied to drinking almond milk is the environmental impact of almond farming. Almonds need a ton of water to grow. In California, where most of the world’s almonds are grown, many areas are in prolonged droughts, and some people worry that the almond industry requires too much water to make it worth it.
Another thing that you should look out for is added sugars in many almond products. Obviously, drinking too much sugar is bad for you, so make sure to read the labels and make sure you’re not drinking more sugar than you want to.
Almond milk may also not work exactly the way cow’s milk will in baking products and other things you cook. It will still taste good, but you may need to adjust how long you cook something or what you think something will look like when it comes out of the oven.
If I Am Not Lactose Intolerant Should I Make the Switch?
Interestingly, American’s high consumption of milk and other dairy products isn’t a completely conscious decision. Yes, many dairy products taste delicious, but the presence of a large dairy industry with a vested interest in keeping us drinking a ton of milk also had a lot to do with it.
As we grow and learn more about dairy products and some very good non-cow milk products out there, we realize that we have choices. Learning the best milk for you and your family is a great step toward better health and being a more informed consumer.
The question of whether you should make the switch to almond milk depends on your dietary goals and what you’re looking to achieve. If you’re thinking of switching away from animal products because you don’t like factory farming, then almond milk is a wonderful alternative. It also has fewer calories and delivers the same or better calcium benefits as dairy milk.
You’ll probably spend more money on almond milk, but buying and using almond milk may help you and your family reduce how much milk you’re drinking, which is something science indicates may be a good thing.
The bottom line is that almond milk is a fantastic dairy alternative that will likely leave you feeling better about the milk you’re using while not missing too much as you drink your morning smoothie or grab your favorite coffee drink on your way to work during the week.