Here is your main event: almond milk vs. milk.
Let’s break this down. It starts, as usual, with flavor. Many celebrate almond milk for having a superiorly rich, creamy texture to old-school cows’ milk. Adults love it. Kids love it. You can pour it over your cereal. You can drink it from the carton.
But there is a second aspect to the battle for the hearts, minds, and mouths of conventional milk drinkers. Is almond milk, in fact, better for you?
Are all almond milks created equal? The answer is, bluntly, “No.”
Some almond milks have a really low calorie number, in the classic view that calories are bad. This misses the fact that a calorie is, in fact, a unit of energy (you kind of need that). Energy can come from iffy sources, like saturated fat and excessive added sugar – but also good ones like healthy fats and protein.
Hint: one way to drop the calorie count of almond milk is to use fewer almonds. This gets rid of some of those calories from protein and healthy fats. Hmm…
When discussing the benefits of almond milk, we have to set the watered-down stuff aside, and focus instead on real almond milk – the kind with lots of almonds, and full of good calories. Here are some good things to consider.
- It’s plant-based. The tallest and largest land animals, giraffes and elephants, are proud herbivores. So too was the biggest among dinosaurs, the brontosaurus, and its cool and formidable three-horned friend, triceratops. (The fact that they went extinct is purely coincidental.) When you compare the bounty of plants with dairy, you can get similar nutrition without cows’ baggage like rBST, lactose, and antibiotics. Incidentally, cows are vegan, too.
- It’s your cardiovascular friend. Dairy milk has the disadvantage of being our base of comparison here. Cows’ milk naturally contains saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels. Cholesterol raises cholesterol, too (go figure). This, in turn, increases one’s risk of heart disease. Almonds have zero cholesterol, and swap-out bad for good fats – like fatty acids, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, help reduce blood pressure.1
- It’s on the protein train. I wouldn’t be surprised if the word “Protein” were scratched into a tree when I walk outside later. It’s perceived quite rightly, as the ticket to strength and satiety. People are busy mixing their whey powders as we speak, no doubt. What many do not understand is that there is a route to protein that does not require meat, dairy, or soybeans – and it passes right through tree nuts. Data from the Almond Board of California shows that whole almonds are 20 percent protein by composition.2 Multiply this by eighteen nuts in your glass, and you have 5 grams of protein power – all in a smooth, great-tasting beverage.
- It’s good on its own, without extra junk. Our version of almond milk is about as close to drinking almonds as you can get without drinking solid almonds. From the natural almond, we have cut-back the things that do nothing for you – less sugar, zero stabilizers and emulsifiers. It tastes good. It’s good for you. Case closed.
In conclusion… consider drinking almond milk. It has so much going for it. At the same time, think of nutrition as more than just calories. Swapping your low-calorie (and low-almond) almond milk for a fuller-bodied alternative unlocks ample nutrition to justify the change.
1 Mayo Clinic, “Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health,” 15-Sep-16.
2 Almond Board of California, “Almond Composition,” 2013.
*The representations and claims made by the third-party sources cited in this post are those of the applicable third-party authors and have not been independently evaluated by Elmhurst. Elmhurst accepts no liability for any errors, omissions, or representations of these third-parties.