I became interested in almond milk when my mother switched to a temporary vegan diet. I had never tried it before, but when she lost a few pounds and claimed she felt healthier after switching to almond milk, I was curious about the benefits. I wanted to know how the benefits compared to plain almonds and if almond milk is a better substitute for cow’s milk or soy.
What is Almond Milk?
Almond milk is a creamy drink made from ground almonds and water. It has a consistency similar to whole or 2% milk, but the color is gray or off-white. Commercial almond milk comes in plain, vanilla, or chocolate flavors. The cost of commercial almond milk is almost double the cost of cow’s milk in my area, but you can also make it at home.
Benefits of Plain Almonds
-May help with weight control by reducing appetites.
-Has positive effects on the body’s glycemic index by reducing after-meal blood sugar spikes. This is helpful in lowing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as helping control diabetes.
-Filled with antioxidants which help protect against harmful free radicals.
-Contains monounsaturated fats, or “good” fats, which lowers cholesterol and helps fight against heart disease.
Almond Milk Benefits
-Allowed in vegan diets.
-Approved for people with lactose intolerance or with milk allergies.
-Does not contain casein or gluten.
-Contains very little saturated fat.
Almond Milk or Almonds? Almond, Soy or Animal Milk?
As a replacement for almonds, almond milk is not as healthy as almonds. While almond milk is still beneficial, many of the properties that boost the almonds potency are reduced. Almond milk contains substantially less vitamin E (a key antioxidant), protein, and magnesium (which helps relax the arteries, causing easier blood flow) than plain almonds.
However, almond milk is a great substitution for most animal milk, especially cow’s milk. In a single cup of 2% cow’s milk, there is 130 calories, 5g of fat (3g of saturated fat), 20mg of cholesterol, 13g of carbs, 0g of fiber, and 8g of protein. A single cup of almond milk has 90 calories, 2.5g of fat (0g are saturated), 0 cholesterol, 16g of cabs, 1g of fiber, and 1g of protein. Skim milk, however, has about the same stats as almond milk, though the former does contain more protein.
Soy and almond milk have about the same nutritional data. Both contain “good” fat, very little saturated fat, and no cholesterol, although soy milk contains more protein and calories. Soy milk is known to help reduce bad cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease. One of the best benefits from soy milk is the fact that men who drink 2 cups of soy a day have a 70% reduction of prostate cancer risk. However, soy milk has a high potency of phytic acid which, if overly consumed, can cause mineral deficiencies. Soy milk has also been in the spotlight due to the estrogen, genestein, that is found in soy. Some studies hint that this hormone is linked to increased risk of breast cancer. On the other hand, other studies learn toward the exact opposite.
It comes down to the benefits you wish to get from your milk. If you don’t care about the risks saturated fat have, cow’s milk is cheaper and quite tasty. If you want to cut back on saturated fat and boost your intake of antioxidants without potential cons, almond milk might be the way to go. However, if you want to cut prostate risk, soy milk is the obvious winner. Both almond and soy milk are good substitutes for those with lactose intolerance.
As for me, almond milk is my choice. The taste isn’t that far off from cow’s milk, and it’s never too late to keep tabs on cholesterol. Plus, like my mother, I have felt healthier since the switch and weight loss has been easier.
“phytic acid in soy milk” phyticacid.org