Almond Milk Or Cow's Milk?


Almond milk is almost mainstream. You can now find it beside cow’s milk in most supermarkets. It is also very easy to make at home, although why would you need to when it is easily available. Commercial almond milk comes in a variety of brands and flavours, and we recommend that you only use pure unsweetened almond milk.

How is it made? Almond milk is made by blending almonds with water and then straining the mixture to remove the solids. It has a pleasant, nutty flavour and creamy texture that's similar to regular milk. It is obviously a popular choice for vegans and those who are intolerant to dairy.

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

But be careful! While whole almonds have a variety of health benefits, many of them may not apply to almond milk. This is because almond milk is strained and usually made from skinless almonds. Most of the fibre has been removed. It is also watered down and a much less concentrated source of nutrients than whole almonds.

But is almond milk all it is made up to be for non-vegans? Here we examine almond milk against regular cow’s milk in a number of different categories:

Nutritional value

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.

Almond Milk

Cow's Milk

Calories

39

102

Protein

1.55 g

8.22 g

Fat

2.88 g

2.37 g

Carbs

1.52 g

12.18 g

Vitamin E

49% of RDI

0% of RDI

Thiamin

11% of RDI

3% of RDI

Riboflavin

7% of RDI

27% of RDI

Magnesium

5% of RDI

8% of RDI

 

Winner: Almond milk is naturally rich in several vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E. But not for children due to the lacking nutrients. Cow’s milk wins out for sure in this category.

Calorie content

Although almonds are 50% 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% fat. One cup of almond milk contains only 39 calories, which is half the amount of calories found in one cup of skim milk.

However, not all almond milk is the same. Some products contain added sugar, which should be avoided if you are concerned about your weight. So be careful and choose a pure unsweetened almond milk.

Winner: Pure unsweetened almond milk is certainly lower in calories and the clear winner in this category.

Protein

Protein is beneficial because it boosts satiety, helps your body burn extra calories, aids in healthy weight management, and allows you to maintain lean muscle mass, even during periods of weight loss.

Skim, low-fat, and whole cow's milk each provide 8g of protein per cup, but a cup of almond milk contains just 1g of protein. Even protein-fortified almond milk generally provides just 5g of protein. Some brands of high-protein cow's milk contain up to 13g of protein per cup.

Winner: Cow's milk is much higher in protein than almond milk, and is a clear winner in this category.

Blood sugar level

Unsweetened almond milk may be suitable for people with diabetes. A large part of the almond milk on the market is loaded with added sugar so, again, be careful what you buy! Sugar-free almond milk, on the other hand, is a low-carb beverage, containing only 0.6% carbs (1.5g) per cup.

In comparison, low-fat cow's milk contains 5% carbs, totalling 12g in one cup. 

Winner: 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.

Dairy

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 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 clear winner in this category.

Calcium

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% of the RDI. In comparison, the calcium content in one cup of cow's milk may range from 28-31% of the RDI.  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. 

Bottom Line: Cow’s milk wins out here, as it is not necessary to enrich it with vitamins and in particular calcium.

The Verdict: So if we had to choose? Well it depends. If the milk is being consumed by young or adolescent children who need calcium and nutrients due to their growing bones, then normal cow’s milk is the winner. But if you are a fully grown adult seeking to cut down on carbs and lose weight, then try unsweetened almond milk as an alternative to cow’s milk.

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