Plant based diets have become increasingly popular; social media and many other influencers tout the benefits of eating a plant based diet, including drinking plant based milks instead of cow’s milk, including almond milk.
One of the big reasons that many people are turning to plant based diets is to reduce their carbon footprint, thus improving the environment. Another great reason to adopt a plant based diet is to improve overall health.
Almond milk seem to be the most popular nut milk, with sales increasing over 60% since 2012. Almond milk can be purchased sweetened or unsweetened, in various flavors, and can even be purchased in a shelf-stable version. Almond milk would be a great alternative to dairy milk, as it is a non dairy food item. Those that are lactose intolerant can turn to a non dairy alternative like almond milk as an additive to coffee or cereal.
Some other common types of alternative plant based milk include soy milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, oat milk, pea milk, and hemp milk. Technically, these products are not “milk”, but rather plant-based beverages made from a nut, grain, or legume combined with water and other ingredients. They are low in fat, low in total calories, may contain various nutrients per serving,
But, even with all of these benefits, there may be reasons to avoid drinking almond milk. Keep reading to find out reasons why you might avoid drinking almond milk.
Less Nutrition than Cow’s Milk
Almonds in their whole form are a great source of protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. However, many of the nutrients are removed during processing of almonds into milk, and almond milk nutritional content includes little protein and fiber. Almond milk does not contain dairy or lactose, milk sugar.
Per 240ml (8 ounce) serving, the original flavor of almond milk made by the Blue Diamond company contains 60 calories, 2.5 grams of ft, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of added sugar, 1 gram protein, 1 gram fiber, 450mg Calcium, 170mg Potassium, 150mcg Vitamin A, 7.5mg Vitamin E. It’s low in Vitamin D, Iron, Phosphorus, and Magnesium. It does not contain lactose, which means anyone with lactose intolerance would be able to drink it without worry of GI discomfort.
Conversely, per 240ml serving of reduced-fat dairy milk contains 130 calories, 5 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of added sugar, 8 grams protein, 0 grams fiber, 300mg Calcium, 400mg Potassium, 90mcg Vitamin A, and 100IU Vitamin D.
Protein is very important for muscle health and body growth, and because almond milk is so low in protein, it might not be a good option if you are trying to get adequate protein in your diet.
The ingredients in almond milk include binders and additives, including gellan gum, sunflower lecithin, salt, locust bean gum, and various vitamins and minerals.
Almond milk is made by soaking and blending almonds with water, and then combining with the stabilizers and added nutrients. Cow’s milk is far less processed; the only processing that cow’s milk receives is to ensure any harmful bacteria are destroyed by a gentle heating called pasteurization.
People with a slow thyroid have a condition called hypothyroidism. This can cause weight gain, decreased metabolism, and disrupted hormones.
Medication can help to adjust thyroid hormone levels and manage weight, but dietary adjustment is also important. An adequate supply of iodine is crucial for preventing the development of goiter. Iodine can be found in several types of food, including dairy milk. Drinking almond milk limits the amount of iodine that one might consume, which could increase risk for iodine deficiency.
Another reason for people to avoid almond milk if they are suffering from hypothyroidism is that almonds are considered to be part of the goitrogen family. Goitrogens are substances in food that disrupt the thyroid, which can lead to the development of a goiter, or an enlarged thyroid. Goitrogens are found in many fruits and vegetables, including almonds, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, and some fruits.
Drinking almond milk is probably not a good idea if you think you have decreased thyroid function. But, as always, it’s best to check with a medical professional before adjusting any dietary regimen.
Increased Cancer Risk
We are not implying that drinking almond milk causes cancer. However, dairy free milks are made with additives and stabilizers that help to prevent the beverage from separating as it sits.
One of these thickeners is carrageenan. Carrageenan has been used in a variety of food products, but has come under scrutiny as a source of inflammation, gastrointestinal disease, and even colon cancer. Some research states that carrageenan consumption can make a person feel crampy, gassy, or have abdominal pains, which resolve with the removal of carrageenan from the diet.
It was removed as an ingredient that can be considered “organic”, so organic almond milk would not contain carrageenan. Instead, almond milk would have another natural or manufactured thickener. Conversely, cow’s milk is free from thickeners or additives, making it a more natural, less processed beverage. If consuming less processed food is important to you, then drinking cow’s milk would be a better option than almond milk.
Almond milk is also high in Vitamin E; one serving of unsweetened almond milk contains 50% of the RDA for Vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, but there is some research that excessive Vitamin E consumption can lead to prostate cancer. We are not suggesting that drinking almond milk can lead to prostate cancer, but it is important to know that there might be other milks that would be better than drinking almond milk.
The research is limited, but if you can drink dairy milks, the best source for milk is from a cow, not an almond.
If you are concerned about bone health, almond milk might not be the best choice. Calcium and Vitamin D are two important nutrients to help keep bones strong, and are found in much higher quantities in cow’s milk, as opposed to almond milks. Calcium content in cow’s milk is around 30% of the RDA, while almond milks are low in calcium, with only about 2% of the daily recommended allowance. Almonds milk’s Vitamin D content is also very low. Vitamin D and calcium work together to promote bone health, but getting them from food sources as opposed to supplements is better.
Cow’s milk a great source for both calcium and Vitamin D, and is a much better option when it comes to bone health. If you do need to drink milk without lactose, consider lactose free milk, which has the nutritional content of traditional milk.
Allergy to Tree Nuts
If you have an allergy to tree nuts, drinking almond milk is probably not a good idea. An allergy is an immune system response to an outside food, environmental, or other type of foreign body; your body feels the need to attack, and symptoms can range from sneezing and itchy eyes all the way to anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening. If you have an allergy to tree nuts, drinking almond milk could trigger an allergic response, as almonds are part of the tree nut family.
If you don’t want to drink, or can’t drink regular milk, alternatives to almond milk for someone with a tree nut allergy could be soy milk, oat milk, or hemp milk. You could also use a lactose-free milk, which tastes just like regular milk, but does not contain the lactose that can make you feel gastric discomfort. There are a lot of other, new plant based milks on the market, so don’t think you can’t drink milk if you avoid dairy or have a tree nut allergy.Al
Following a Ketogenic Diet
If you are on a Ketogenic diet for weight loss or hormone control (a lot of people have started this diet in the past decade), drinking sweetened almond milk might not be the best option; it’s high in added sugar. One serving of sweetened almond milk provides anywhere from 15-25 grams of carbohydrates, mostly from the added sugar. If you are allowed to eat 2000 calories per day on your Ketogenic diet, the average daily carbohydrates you are allowed to consume are about 25; this means that one cup of sweetened almond milk may provide all of the carbohydrates that you are allowed to eat for the entire day! Sugar consumption can make your body come out of ketosis, so drinking sweetened almond milk would not be a good idea. Use caution when adding milk to your Ketogenic diet.
If you are following a Ketogenic diet, unsweetened almond milks would be good alternatives; one serving of unsweetened almond milk (plain or unsweetened vanilla) provides only one gram of carbohydrates. It’s also low in protein, which fits into the moderate protein allowed on the Ketogenic diet.
Plant based diets have become increasingly popular, but they might not be for everyone. Drinking almond milk might not be the best option if you have certain health issues, and it’s definitely not as nutritionally dense as traditional cow’s milk. If you want to adjust your diet to a more plant based lifestyle, it’s important to read about the benefits and know both sides of the story.