Is Almond Milk Good For You? Nutrition, Benefits & How To Make It
In recent years, nondairy beverages have slowly started popping up in grocery stores and coffee shops around the U.S. Even if you appreciate the nostalgia or flavor of cow's milk, plant-based and lactose-free options may better suit your dietary needs. If you're considering switching to almond milk but still have a few questions about it (i.e., health benefits, how it compares to dairy milk, and how to use it), some advice straight from nutritionists should help.
What is almond milk?
Almond milk is a plant-based alternative to cow's milk. Similar to oat milk, macadamia milk, or hemp milk, it's made by blending almonds and water together and straining out the excess liquid. The beverage might not taste exactly like dairy milk, but the consistency is comparable enough to make it an effective substitute.
If you're patient enough to soak your almonds overnight, making your own almond milk at home is easy enough. Otherwise, you can buy almond milk from brands like Califia, Elmhurst, SoDelicious, and Almond Breeze at the grocery store.
Is almond milk healthy?
Almond milk is made primarily of water and, in a minimally processed, unsweetened form, can be healthy. But according to registered dietitian Willow Jarosh, M.S., RDN, the word healthy varies depending on your personal dietary and nutrition needs.
If you're looking to manage weight, almond milk may be a good option. "Unsweetened almond milk is naturally lower in calories per serving than traditional skim cow's milk," registered dietitian Emily Kyle, R.D., says. Just be sure to look out for added sugars and preservatives.
If you're lactose intolerant or following a plant-based diet, almond milk is a great option to have on hand. With a low carb count, this milk can also keep you in ketosis if you follow a keto diet.
Almond Milk Nutrition
- Calories: 36.6
- Fat: 2.68 g
- Sodium: 173 mg
- Carbohydrates: 1.42 g
- Sugar: 0 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 1.44 g
- Calcium: 481 mg
These nutrition facts are based on 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
How does almond milk compare to cow's milk or other nondairy milks?
One major distinction between almond milk and cow's milk is, of course, the dairy. For anyone sensitive to lactose or following a dairy-free diet, almond milk is a nutritious alternative.
Cow's milk is a better source of protein (about 8 grams per cup), while almond milk only provides about 1 gram. However, there are plenty of other ways to add protein to your diet, and most Americans already get more than they need, registered dietitian Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., once told mbg.
"Cow's milk, in general, has a wider profile of vitamins and minerals," Jarosh says. However, "some [almond milk] brands add calcium and vitamin D in quantities similar to what is found in cow's milk." If someone depends on those nutrients specifically, a fortified almond milk would be just as beneficial.
Almond milk is relatively similar to other nondairy milks. "With the exception of soy and pea milks, which have more protein," Jarosh says. If you are allergic to tree nuts, oat milk may be a better alternative.
What are the benefits of almond milk?
Almond milk is incredibly hydrating since it's made mostly of water and is safe for anyone with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance.
"Compared to other plant-based milks, almond milk is naturally a good source of vitamins, especially vitamin E," one study says. Unsweetened almond milk is also low in calories and sugar while high in calcium.
It has a slightly nutty flavor, Jarosh tells us, which can play well with granola or cereal but is muted enough to not alter the taste of baked goods.
How to make almond milk.
Making almond milk at home is simple enough and is a great way to make sure your milk is free of additives. If you're not patient enough to soak your almonds, this is a simple no-soak recipe that produces a similar flavor. Otherwise, this homemade almond milk recipe from Abigail Hopkins, R.N., proves you can make almond milk with just almonds, water, and a sweetener of your choice.
- 1 cup almonds
- 4 cups water
- 3 pitted dates
- ¼ tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- Soak almonds in water for 8 to 12 hours. Drain and rinse.
- Blend almonds and water for about 1 minute or until smooth (Add in dates if you're using them).
- Over a large bowl, strain the pulp using a cheesecloth.
- Optional: Add the cinnamon and vanilla extract and whisk until combined.
- Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
"The higher the number of almonds per cup, the creamier the milk will likely be," Jarosh says. So if you're looking for a less watery almond milk, experiment with adding more almonds.
How can you use almond milk?
Almond milk has a smooth and mild taste. This makes it a versatile alternative to dairy milk, and you can use it as a 1:1 replacement in most recipes.
"It's great for use in coffee drinks, as a smoothie base, making overnight oats," says Jess Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, "or as a substitute for cow's milk in baked goods, sauces, and other recipes." It also works well in chia puddings and oatmeal.
For anyone who can't consume dairy or soy, almond milk is a great milk alternative. Just remember, while almonds are high in protein, almond milk is primarily water and not a great source of protein. Check that your almond milk is fortified with vitamin D and calcium if you're looking for more of those nutrients in your diet.
Want your passion for wellness to change the world? Become A Functional Nutrition Coach! Enroll today to join our upcoming live office hours.