Quantcast

7 Health Benefits of Almond Milk

Popular

By Dr. Atli Arnarson

Almond milk is the most popular plant milk in the U.S.

It is rich in several healthy nutrients, but compared to whole almonds it is watered down and missing most of the fiber.

While its health effects have not been directly examined in controlled studies, some of its components have been studied extensively.

Almond milk is the most popular plant milk in the U.S.

This is a review of almond milk and its health benefits.

What Is Almond Milk?

Almond milk is made by blending almonds with water and then straining the mixture to remove the solids. It can also be made by adding water to almond butter.

It has a pleasant, nutty flavor and creamy texture that's similar to regular milk. For this reason, it is a popular choice for vegans and those who are allergic or intolerant to dairy.

You can find almond milk in most supermarkets, usually in the health food section. It is also very easy to make at home.

Commercial almond milk comes in a variety of brands and flavors. For health reasons, it is best to choose almond milk that does not contain added sugar.

Most brands are also enriched with vitamins, minerals or protein. If you do not eat dairy, you might benefit from choosing products that are enriched with calcium.

Controlled studies have linked whole almonds to a variety of health benefits, but many of them may not apply to almond milk.

This is because almond milk is strained and usually made from blanched (skinless) almonds. Most of the fiber and a large portion of its antioxidants have been removed.

Second, almond milk is watered down and a much less concentrated source of nutrients than whole almonds.

The concentration of nutrients in almond milk depends on how many almonds were used to make it, how much water was used and whether it contains any added vitamins and minerals.

For instance, around 72 almonds (86 grams) may be used to make one cup (262 grams) of homemade almond milk, whereas commercial almond milk is generally much more diluted (1).

Here are the seven main health benefits of drinking almond milk.

1. It Is Nutritious

Although almond milk is not nearly as nutritious as cow's milk, enriched products come close.

They frequently contain added vitamin D, calcium and protein, making them more similar to regular milk in nutritional content.

However, almond milk is naturally rich in several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E.

For comparison, the table below shows the amounts of a few nutrients, vitamins and minerals in one cup of commercial almond milk and low-fat cow's milk (2, 3).

Some of the minerals in almond milk are not absorbed as well as those found in milk. This is partly because almonds contain phytic acid, an antinutrient that reduces the absorption of iron, zinc and magnesium (4, 5, 6, 7).

Since almond milk is lacking in many nutrients, it is not suitable as a milk replacement for infants.

Bottom Line: Almond milk is naturally rich in several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E.

2. It Is Low in Calories

Although almonds are 50 percent fat and high in calories, commercial almond milk is a low-calorie beverage.

This means that you can drink a lot of it without having to worry about weight gain. It is also nutrient dense, providing lots of nutrients relative to its calorie content.

Producers of almond milk dilute it with water to make its fat content similar to that of low-fat milk, which is around 1 percent fat.

One cup of almond milk contains only 39 calories, which is half the amount of calories found in one cup of skim milk (2, 8).

However, not all almond milk is the same. Homemade almond milk or certain brands might contain a much higher number of calories, depending on how many almonds they contain per cup.

Additionally, some products contain added sugar, which should be avoided if you are concerned about your waistline.

Bottom Line: Factory-made almond milk may contain even fewer calories than a glass of skim milk. However, this might not apply to all brands, so make sure to check the nutrient labels.

3. Unsweetened Almond Milk Doesn't Raise Blood Sugar

A large part of the almond milk on the market is loaded with added sugar.

Sugar-free almond milk, on the other hand, is a low-carb beverage, containing only 0.6 percent carbs (1.5 grams) per cup (2).

In comparison, low-fat cow's milk contains 5 percent carbs, totaling 12 grams in one cup (3).

Almond milk is also high in fat and protein relative to its carb content. For this reason, it doesn't cause a spike in blood sugar levels, making it suitable for diabetics, as well as those who are on a low-carb diet.

However, make sure to read the ingredient lists and select products that are as pure as possible.

Bottom Line: Almond milk is a low-carb beverage, making it a perfect choice for people on a low-carb diet, as well as those who need to keep a check on their blood sugar levels.

4. It Is Dairy-Free

Almond milk contains no cow's milk or other animal products, making it a great option for vegans and those who are intolerant or allergic to milk.

Many people are intolerant to milk sugar (lactose) and unable to completely digest it. Undigested lactose passes down to the colon where it is fermented by the resident bacteria, leading to excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea and associated discomfort.

Being dairy free, almond milk contains no lactose at all, making it a suitable milk replacement for people with lactose intolerance.

Bottom Line: Almond milk is an imitation milk and doesn't contain any dairy at all, which makes it a popular milk alternative for vegans and people with lactose intolerance or milk allergies.

5. Enriched Almond Milk May Strengthen Your Bones

Dairy products are the richest dietary source of calcium. In contrast, almonds are a poor source.

To make almond milk more similar to real milk, producers often enrich it with calcium. For instance, one cup of commercial almond milk may contain up to 45–50 percent of the RDI (2, 9).

In comparison, the calcium content in one cup of cow's milk may range from 28–31 percent of the RDI (3, 10).

As a result, enriched almond milk is an excellent calcium source for people who don't consume dairy products, such as vegans or those who are intolerant to lactose or allergic to milk.

Calcium is essential for building and maintaining bones. For this reason, an adequate calcium intake reduces the risk of osteoporosis, a condition associated with weak bones and fractures (11).

Bottom Line: Almond milk is often enriched with calcium, making it an excellent source. Regular consumption of enriched almond milk may reduce the risk of osteoporosis among those who don't consume dairy products.

6. It May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

Observational studies show that regular consumption of nuts is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. This is partly because they are high in vitamin E and contain healthy fats (12, 13).

Almond milk is 1 percent oil by weight, around 90 percent of which is unsaturated. The fatty acid profile of almond oil is the following (2):

Oleic acid, the main fatty acid in almond oil, has been linked to beneficial changes in blood lipids (14).

One study in healthy adults showed that eating 66 grams of almonds or almond oil every day for six weeks reduced their levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol by 6 percent and triglycerides by 14 percent, as well as increased their "good" HDL cholesterol by 6 percent (15).

These beneficial changes in the blood lipid profile are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease (16).

Although about 50 percent of the calories in almond milk come from fat, it is generally a low-fat product and probably doesn't have a significant impact on your blood lipid profile.However, it is a rich source of vitamin E, providing around half of the RDI in one cup (2).

Vitamin E is believed to be responsible for many of the health benefits of almonds. It protects lipids against oxidation, reducing the levels of oxidized LDL cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart disease (17, 18).

Bottom Line: Almond milk is high in vitamin E and contains healthy fats. Drinking it regularly may potentially benefit your heart.

7. Enriched Almond Milk Is High in Vitamin D

Many people are low or deficient in vitamin D. This raises the risk of brittle bones, fatigue and weak muscles (19).

There are few good sources of vitamin D in the human diet. That's why a common public health strategy is to enrich certain foods with vitamin D. This especially applies to milk products.

Just like regular milk, almond milk often contains added vitamin D. For example, one cup may contain 101 IU (2.4 µg) of vitamin D, which is 25 percent of the RDI. One cup of vitamin-enriched cow's milk contains similar amounts (9).

This makes enriched almond milk a useful source of vitamin D that can prevent deficiency when consumed regularly.

Bottom Line: Almond milk is often enriched with vitamin D and consuming it regularly may prevent vitamin D deficiency.

It Is Easy to Make

Almond milk is widely available in supermarkets.

However, it is also very easy to make at home. All you need is a blender, water and a cup of almonds.

First, the skin is removed. You can do this by soaking the almonds in water for 8–12 hours or overnight. The soak softens the skin, allowing it to peel off easily when the almonds are rinsed.

Next, put the almonds in a blender with four cups of water and mix until smooth. Finally, remove the solids by straining the mixture through a cheese cloth or nut milk bag.

Here are some healthy recipes:

Bottom Line: Almond milk is one of the most popular plant milks and is available in most supermarkets. It is also easy to make at home.

How to Use Almond Milk

Just like regular milk, almond milk is incredibly versatile. Below are a few ideas of how you can use it as a milk replacement:

  • Splash it over your cereal instead of regular milk
  • Add it to your coffee or tea
  • Mix it in smoothies
  • Make a dairy-free rice pudding or ice cream
  • Use it in soups, sauces and salad dressings
  • Use it as a milk replacement in many baked foods

For those who are prone to kidney stones, almond milk should not be consumed in excessive amounts. This is because of its calcium oxalate content, which is generally higher in homemade almond milk (20).

Some people are also concerned about carrageenan, a thickener used in some commercial almond milk products. Yet, most scientists agree that the type and amount of carrageenan used in food products are safe (21, 22, 23).

Bottom Line: Almond milk is a great replacement for regular milk. However, those prone to kidney stones should avoid drinking it in high amounts.

Take Home Message

Almond milk is a highly versatile food product and great milk substitute for vegans and people who are allergic or intolerant to dairy.

Being naturally rich in several important nutrients, almond milk is an excellent addition to a healthy diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Plateau Creek near De Beque, Colorado, where land has been leased for oil and gas production. Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images

By Randi Spivak

Slashing two national monuments in Utah may have received the most attention, but Trump's Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service have been quietly, systematically ceding control of America's public lands to fossil fuel, mining, timber and livestock interests since the day he took office.

Read More Show Less
Global SO2 Emission Hotspot Database / Greenpeace

A new report by Greenpeace International pinpointed the world's worst sources of sulfur dioxide pollution, an irritant gas that harms human health. India has seized the top spot from Russia and China, contributing nearly 15 percent of global sulfur dioxide emissions.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about donations to the Amazon Fund. LeoFFreitas / Moment / Getty Images

By Sue Branford and Thais Borges

Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:

Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

Archer Daniels Midland soy silos in Mato Grosso along the BR-163 highway, where Amazon rainforest has largely been replaced by soy destined for the EU, UK, China and other international markets.

Thaís Borges.

An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

Senado Federal / Visualhunt / CC BY

Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

Such a delay could have severe repercussions for Brazil's struggling economy which relies heavily on its commodities trade with the EU. Analysists say that Bolsonaro's fears over such an outcome could be one reason for his recently announced October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.

Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."

Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
Gina Lopez, the Philippine secretary of the environment, at a meeting with residents affected by a mine tailing disaster. Keith Schneider

Gina Lopez, a former Philippine environment secretary, philanthropist and eco-warrior, died on Aug. 19 from brain cancer. She was 65.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Trump speaks to contractors at the Shell Chemicals Petrochemical Complex on Aug. 13 in Monaca, Pennsylvania. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

Thousands of union members at a multibillion dollar petrochemical plant outside of Pittsburgh were given a choice last week: Stand and wait for a speech by Donald Trump or take the day off without pay.

Read More Show Less
Regis Lagrange / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Ariane Lang, BSc, MBA

Lemon (Citrus limon) is a common citrus fruit, alongside grapefruits, limes, and oranges (1).

Read More Show Less
A zero-emission electric car in Vail, Colorado on July 31. Sharon Hahn Darlin / CC BY 2.0

By Simon Mui

States across the country are stepping up to make clean cars cheaper and easier to find. Colorado's Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted Friday to adopt a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program that will increase the availability of electric vehicles in the state, improve air quality and increase transportation affordability.

Read More Show Less