Almond Milk - A Lower Calorie and Tasty Alternative to Cow's Milk

Organic White Almond Milk

If you're looking for a healthy, tasty alternative to cow's milk, you may want to consider almond milk. You don't have to be vegetarian to try it -- almond milk is a suitable alternative for anyone with a milk allergy or those looking to avoid lactose (due to lactose intolerance or sensitivity) or the hormones that may be found in cow's milk. Even if you are just looking to add variety to your meal plan, almond milk can serve as a lower calorie, lower carbohydrate option for everyone, especially those people with diabetes. 

In addition to health benefits, many people really enjoy the taste of almond milk. In fact, the smooth texture of almond milk has often been described as a much tastier option than other cow's milk alternatives. Rice milk can be on the bland side and soy milk often leaves your palate with a distinctive aftertaste. But, almond milk has a pleasantly sweet flavor with a mild almond aftertaste. You can find almond milk in plain (sweetened and unsweetened), vanilla, and chocolate flavors. Of note is that the plain flavor already has a slightly sweet flavor due to the natural properties of the almond. Also, some plain varieties add sugar to their ingredients. It's probably best to avoid the products with added sugar because extra carbohydrates in the form of sugar can affect blood sugar and cause it to rise quickly.

To confirm original brands do not have added sugars, read the labels. Avoid anything that has added sugar in the form of cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup or any other sugar ending in ose. Most of the time, the original varieties that do not have added sugar will be labeled "unsweetened." Purchasing the unsweetened version will save you calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. For example, one (8 oz) cup of unsweetened almond milk is: 30 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 1 g carbohydrate, 0 sugar and 1 g protein. Whereas, one cup of regular almond milk contains: 60 calories, 2.5 g fat, 8 g carbohydrate, 7 g sugar, and 1 g protein. Choosing the unsweetened version saves you, 30 calories, 8 g carbohydrate, and 7 g sugar.

If you are looking to save calories, almond milk may be a good substitute for cow's milk. Almond milk is significantly lower in calories and carbohydrate compared to low-fat 1% cow's milk (even more so for higher fat cow's milk varieties) which contains: 110 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 13 g carbohydrate, 12 g sugar and 8 g protein. Keep in mind, though, that cow's milk does not contain added sugar, rather, natural sugar found in milk called lactose. 

How Does Almond Milk Hold Up Nutritionally?

In addition to great flavor, almond milk is nutrient packed: 

  • Almond milk is a good natural source of magnesium, potassium, manganese, selenium and vitamin E -- nutrients that aid metabolism, bone health, heart function, immune and reproductive function.
  • Almond milk is enriched or fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Some brands fortify it with more calcium (45% vs. 30% of the RDA) than that of which is found in cows milk. 
  • The fat in almond milk is unsaturated and free of cholesterol -- and unsaturated fats have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease.

How Can You Use it In Your Diet? 

If you are interested in giving almond milk a try, you can test it out in smoothies, when cooking oatmeal or as a substitute for dairy in other recipes. Some people enjoy adding it to their coffee or just drinking it chilled. 

Where Can You Purchase it? 

You can find almond milk in regular grocery stores -- look in the health food or "special diet" section for shelf-stable varieties (that need to be refrigerated after opening) -- or in the refrigerated section near the cow's milk for some varieties sold chilled. Aim to purchase one that is non-GMO certified. This means that the almond milk contains no genetically modified organisms. A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using technology that modify genes. To date, there have been no studies analyzing the patterns, causes, and effects of GMO foods on human health. Being that we are not sure of the long-term effects of these types of foods, it is probably a good idea to avoid them if we can.

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