For decades, people have been told that milk is an important part of a daily diet (after all, it “does a body good”). And while it can provide a wide range of nutrients and minerals that the body needs, the fact is that it’s not always the best option, particularly for those with lactose intolerances or who choose not to consume animal products and byproducts.
The good news is that there are incredibly healthy, non-dairy alternatives available today, many focused on nut milks—one of which is leading the pack.
In 2013, almond milk officially became more popular than soy milk in the U.S. in terms of sales, and, today, makes up about two-thirds of the plant-based milk market. And it’s not just the States where it’s finding growing interest—U.K. sales topped $92 million in 2013 as well.
But sales data alone isn’t enough to support a big diet change. While almond milk is obviously a common choice nowadays, it’s worth taking a look at everything this hearty beverage has to offer. When doing so, it’s easy to see why so many have added almond milk to their nutrition plan.
How almond milk is made
Almond milk is actually much older than most may realize. While it has recently become a trendy drink, it’s been used as far back as the Middle Ages, in particular a staple of the Middle East as well as the Mediterranean region.
The most common way to make the beverage is to grind almonds in a blender with water. Then, the “pulp” is strained out, leaving behind a creamy milk. Flavors like vanilla can be added to provide a little sweetness, but the rich taste of almonds is generally more than enough to make it a delicious option all on its own.
Though almond milk can be find at most grocers today, you can also make it at home following a few easy steps. You’ll need to have raw almonds and fresh water on hand as well as some cheesecloth or a nut-straining bag.
- Soak one cup of almonds in water overnight (and possibly longer until they soften). Leave them uncovered during the soaking time.
- Drain the water from the almonds and rinse well.
- Add the nuts to a blender with two cups of fresh, clean water and blend on high until smooth.
- Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. It may need to be strained two to three times to completely remove all leftover particles from the nuts.
- If desired, add sweeteners or flavorings. Fresh cinnamon, honey, vanilla, or just agave are good options. Protein powder can also be added for supplementation.
The great thing about almond milk is that, unlike dairy, it doesn’t have to be refrigerated to keep it from spoiling—which is great for traveling or on-the-go. It will stay fresh for roughly two days, so be sure to use it as soon as possible (thankfully it’s easy enough to make more when you need it, too).
No matter if you choose to buy it or make it yourself, you’ll find plenty to love about this beverage—from great taste to incredible health benefits.
The whole nutrition of almond milk
One of the great things about almond milk is that it’s filled with vitamins and minerals, providing an acceptable (and sometimes even better) substitute for traditional cow’s milk and soy milk in many ways.
- Less calories than cow’s milk or soy milk, which can be helpful to those watching overall intake
- A good source of calcium to encourage strong bones and teeth
- No trans fats or saturated fats, which is part of a heart healthy diet
- May contain vitamin D, which provides energy and helps regulate digestion (look for one of the common varieties of almond milk that has been fortified with the vitamin)
- May contain riboflavin, an essential B vitamin that stirs up metabolism (here too, look for a fortified variety)
- Unsweetened varieties have no sugar
One thing to note is that almond milk has very little protein compared to cow’s milk; and in order to get the vitamin D and riboflavin you’ll want to look for fortified options that include these two essential nutrients. This is especially important if you choose to swap in almond milk for children less than two years old who rely on these vitamins and minerals for development.
More of the health benefits of almond milk
Beyond just the obvious nutritional boost that it provides, here are some more specific ways that almond milk can benefit your health and overall well-being.
A low-calorie alternative
Less calories means that almond milk can be a better choice for those on diets or more restrictive nutritional plans. A single cup of almond milk typically contains 30 to 60 calories.
Take care of your heart
Almond milk lacks cholesterol and contains monounsaturated fats. In fact, some research shows that adding in nuts (and nut milks) to your diet can result in a 45 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.
Encourages bone health
Fortified almond milk contains roughly 30 percent of the daily recommended allowance of calcium and 25 percent of the daily value of vitamin D that experts recommend people consume every day. Both of these important nutrients protect the entire skeletal system, from your bones to your teeth.
Can improve appearance of skin
Vitamin E is another nutrient found in fortified almond milk. This antioxidant fights free radical damage that can lead to lines and wrinkles (which is why it’s in so many beauty products). As a result, some may find that their skin looks and feels better than ever when consuming the vitamin.
Is a good food choice for diabetics
The lack of carbs and sugars in almond milk may make it a good option for diabetics who have to closely watch their intakes of both.
In order to get the most from almond milk, avoid varieties that contain high levels of added sugars or preservatives. Instead, focus on going all-natural wherever possible, and read the label to ensure that the almond milk you purchase is of the highest quality and provides the best health benefits.
Cooking with almond milk
Almond milk isn’t just delicious and healthy—it’s also very versatile. While you could drink it plain, it can also be used in many common food items as a swap for dairy:
- Use it in cereal
- Add it as a base to your morning smoothie
- Try almond milk as a creamer for coffee
- Mix it into oatmeal instead of milk or water
- Swap it for the milk called for in various cooking or baking recipes, especially sweets
Some almond milk recipes
Along with the basic, everyday ways to use almond milk, there are also a number of recipes where it shines as the star. Here are just a few of Thrive Market’s favorites:
Chocolate and fruit are a match made in foodie heaven. No more so than this delectable smoothie that pairs cacao powder with juicy pears and medjool dates to sweeten things up. Almond milk and almond butter make the base of this thick drink, and the added chia seeds provide an energy boost to get you on your way in the morning.
One of the most enjoyable parts of breakfast cereal is drinking up the milk leftover in the bowl. But the liquid can actually be used to create a good number of tasty concoctions like these popsicles. Strain your favorite cereal through the milk, stir in some almond milk, yogurt, honey, and vanilla. Then add back in cereal remnants, and pour into popsicle molds for an incredible treat any time of the day.
Baked goods can be healthy, too. With a few sneaky swaps, you can create vegan treats that are also loaded with nutrients. This page gives a rundown of how to make the batter and even the frosting and sprinkles using ingredients like Earth balance vegan butter, almond milk, applesauce, date sugar, and coconut oil.