According to the marketing, almond milk is a nutrition powerhouse and healthier alternative to real milk. I disagree and frankly almond milk annoys me - let me tell you why.
I recently tweeted my sentiments (or lack thereof) for almond milk:
argument for almond milk
My point being that almond milk and other non-dairy milk alternatives are not necessarily the "healthier" than milk options that they're marketed as. With a flimsy nutrient resume that typically includes more than enough sugar and other additives, it's good marketing - not good food. The only two reasons that I can come up with worth reaching for almond milk are:
- You have a legitimate, diagnosed and proven lactose intolerance or sensitivity.
- You are unable or unwilling to seek out local, pastured, whole milk.
With a flimsy nutrient resume that typically includes more than enough sugar and other additives, it's good marketing - not good food.
does the fat in milk scare you?
If it's the fat content in whole milk that scares you off, check out this meta-analysis evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Speaking of saturated fat phobia - it's funny how almonds in their natural form (not the watered down almond milk version) get a well deserved positive rep for being heart healthy while whole milk is looked at as too fatty and cholesterol inflating. The irony there is that 1 cup of almonds weighs in with ~4 grams of saturated fat while 1 cup of whole milk has ~4.5 grams. Still scared of there being too much fat in whole milk?
where almond milk can't compete
This article points out that a handful of actual almonds contains the amount of protein in an entire carton of almond milk. A serving of almonds or a glass of pastured, whole milk bring a slew of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to the party that almond milk falls short on:
- Vitamin B12
- CLA - Conjugated Linoleic Acid (an omega-6 fatty acid shown to improve metabolic health and promote weight loss if consumed responsibly in the form that is found in pastured or grass-fed animal products.)
- Almond milk doesn't have much to offer compared to whole milk from pastured cows or even plain old almonds, for that matter.
- The saturated fat in pastured whole milk is nothing to be scared of if consumed responsibly.
- The source of your whole milk matters - look for local, small batch, organic and grass-fed/pastured.
- If pastured whole milk just doesn't work for you for whatever the reason, then almond milk is likely a harmless alternative - as long as you stick to the unflavored version. Just don't expect almond flavored water to bring you many healthy benefits.
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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS is the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and Founder of TD Athletes Edge, where he provides fitness, recovery and nutrition guidance to aspiring and professional athletes. For training advice, visit www.tdathletesedge.com and follow him on Twitter/Instagram through @tdathletesedge.
Siri-Tarino, P., Sun, Q., Hu, F., & Krauss, R. (2010). Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved April 19, 2015, from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2010/01/13/ajcn.2009.27725.full.pdf html
Smit, L., Baylin, A., & Campos, H. (2010). Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction. The America Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92(1), 34-40. doi:10.3945/