With the popularity of almond milk on the rise, you may wonder about the beverage’s pros and cons. Some consumers find almond milk’s creamy texture and nutty taste more palatable than other plant-based milks for both drinking and as a cooking ingredient. Vegans and people with milk allergies appreciate the alternative to cow’s milk. But some question whether the price of almond milk makes it a reasonable choice, and whether its nutrients are as readily absorbed as those in cow’s milk.
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Fortified almond milk contains as much calcium and vitamin D as dairy milk. It is also rich in other vitamins and minerals, including potassium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin E, copper and selenium. The milk is naturally low in saturated fat and has no dietary cholesterol. Almond milk contributes fewer calories to your diet than non-dairy alternatives, as well as whole and 2 percent milk. An 8-oz. serving of almond milk contains 60 calories, while other milks range from 90 to 130 calories per serving.
Almonds are naturally rich in calcium, and manufacturers additionally fortify almond milk to match the calcium and vitamin D content of dairy milk. But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) cautions that people absorb the nutrients in milk and milk products better than they do those in plant-based milks. In other words, dairy foods may offer better bioavailability of its nutrients than plant foods. The AAP recommends that even families with milk allergy issues should experiment with yogurt and hard cheeses in order to find calcium-rich foods that don't cause allergic reactions. But other public health organizations, such as the California Department of Public Health, consider fortified plant-based milks legitimate calcium sources. If you are opposed to consuming dairy products ask your doctor if the bioavailability issue of almond milk negates its nutritional value.
Some people turn to plant-based milks because of an intolerance or allergy to dairy milk. They may also have an ethical aversion to consuming animal products. Dairy milk contains the natural sugar lactose, along with the protein casein. Both have been linked to digestive problems in some people. Unless you are unlucky enough to have a nut allergy in addition to lactose intolerance or a casein allergy, almond milk may be a useful dairy milk alternative.
Soy milk, the first dairy-free milk offered to U.S. consumers, remains a favorite with many people. But some women have concerns about its phytoestrogen content. While phytoestrogens, which are plant-based versions of the hormone estrogen, may have healthful benefits for many women, researchers have uncovered a possible increased risk of breast cancer in some women who consume soy foods, according to Cornell University. If you’re concerned about the conflicting reports about the health benefits and risks of soy, almond milk may be a useful alternative.
If you’re on a tight budget, you may find it difficult to fit replace cow’s milk with almond milk. Dairy milk still holds the edge over plant-based milks, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s because supermarkets often have cow’s milk as a sale item, while consumers must pay extra for “premium” dairy alternatives like almond milk. In 2011, the price of cow’s milk averaged $1.25 for 32 oz., while whole almond milk cost $1.80. Of the other non-dairy milks, however, almond milk represented a savings ranging from small to significant. The equivalent amount of soy milk cost $1.90, while rice and coconut milk cost $2.99 and $2.55, respectively.