Almond Milk Nutrition Benefits for the Brain, Heart & Bones

June 23, 2017
Almond milk nutrition - Dr. Axe

Are you one of those people glad to hear that your favorite coffee shop now offers almond milk as an alternative to conventional dairy? Me too. It’s one of the better plant-based milk products available, and almond milk nutrition may help you prevent cancer naturally, lose weight and even slow the spread of Alzheimer’s disease.

It can be daunting to figure out the differences between the milk products available out there, so I’ll break that down a little later to help give you some perspective. Just remember that it’s important to practice moderation and variety in your diet, and this principle applies to almond milk as well.

If you’re interested in finding out how this popular product can benefit your body and mind, with almond milk nutrition providing some (but not all) of the benefits of whole almonds nutrition, you’ve come to the right place.


6 Benefits of Almond Milk Nutrition

1. May Be Beneficial in Preventing or Managing Certain Cancers

As I mentioned previously, almond milk has been shown in a lab to reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells. Because of the presence of monounsaturated fat, almond milk nutrition can also help play a role in the potential prevention of endometrial cancer. (1)

The consumption of high levels of monounsaturated fat is also associated with a decreased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (a rare form of liver cancer) and certain breast cancer markers, according to research published in the International Journal of Cancer and the American Association for Cancer Research’s Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. (23) This is why almonds are among the best cancer-fighting foods, and so is almond milk.

2. Aids in Weight Loss

Almond milk nutrition is very low in calories per serving, making it a very common weight-loss diet option. Compared to goat’s milk, with 168 calories per serving, almond milk boasts a modest 40 calories. Diets that encourage consuming healthy fats, such as the ketogenic diet or various other low-carb diets, often include the regular consumption of almond milk because it’s low in calories, carbs and sugars (if unsweetened).

There are also other weight loss-related benefits in addition to a low calorie count. For one, almond milk only minimally affects your blood sugar, meaning it’s great for people who are watching their blood sugar, and your body will use the nutrients found in almond milk to create energy, not store as fat.

Almond-based products also help increase energy levels and even resting energy expenditure, meaning that you burn fat faster and have more energy to achieve your fitness goals, too. (45)

3. Keeps Your Heart Strong

The fat in almond milk nutrition benefits your heart greatly. By replacing saturated fat with other mono- and polyunsaturated fats, you help to protect your heart against coronary heart disease. (6)

Reasons behind this may be reflected in the way that these monounsaturated fats affect various processes. For instance, almond products help lower cholesterol naturally while also increasing levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

These fats also have a significant role to play in decreasing the risk of a cluster disorder known as metabolic syndrome. This condition is a combination of high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, extra body fat around the core and poor cholesterol levels and is a precursor to heart attack or stroke. (7)

4. Helps Build Strong Teeth and Bones

Concerned that eliminating animal-based milk from your diet means your bones won’t be strong? Not to worry — although it may not contain as much vitamin D or protein per serving as animal milks, one of the benefits of almond milk nutrition is that it’s still a good source of this vitamin that helps keep your bones and teeth strong and dense.

Those awesome fats in almond milk also contribute to bone health. Consuming monounsaturated fat is one method of helping prevent osteoporosis and bone weakness, as shown in female mice. (8)

5. Fights Free Radical Damage and Disease Formation

Almond milk is also high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants work by fighting free radical damage caused by chemicals in food, sun exposure and various other things. Some free radicals in the body are perfectly normal, but many people living a Western lifestyle retain more than is good for you, so it’s important to eat antioxidant foods that can help prevent the oxidative damage caused by these molecules.

Almond milk is one of those foods. By consuming significant amounts of vitamin E, your body can fight off the disease-causing effects of free radicals. It even helps keep your skin healthy and slows the aging process.

6. May Slow the Process of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s currently has no cure, but there are many natural ways scientists are finding to help prevent or slow this disease. Vitamin E plays a key role in helping slow the degeneration that occurs with Alzheimer’s disease. (9)

 

Almond milk vs. other milk - Dr. Axe

 


Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

So, what is all the hype about? Let’s start with the facts: Almond milk is derived from almonds, the drupe nut (botanically, it’s actually a fruit) termed Prunus dulcis. The process of creating almond milk, which I’ll discuss later, doesn’t retain all of the nutritional benefits of whole almonds. Be careful when researching almond milk online — approach with caution when reading someone claiming almond milk has all the benefits of whole almonds.

However, almond milk nutrition is nothing to shake your head at. It does contain half a day’s recommended intake of vitamin E, a significant amount of vitamin D (if store-bought) and a significant amount of calcium. It’s also extremely low in calories compared to other milk products and is a valuable tool if you’re trying to lose weight fast.

Below, I discuss the differences between various types of milk. It’s important to remember that almond milk is not a sufficient substitute for animal-based milk or breast milk for children under 2. Adults and older children, though, can enjoy its benefits as part of a balanced diet.

One eight-ounce glass of unsweetened almond milk contains about: (10)

  • 40 calories
  • 2 grams carbohydrates
  • 1 gram protein
  • 3 grams fat
  • 1 gram fiber
  • 10 milligrams vitamin E (50 percent DV)
  • 100 IU vitamin D (25 percent DV)
  • 200 milligrams calcium (20 percent DV)
  • 500 IU vitamin A (10 percent DV)
  • 16 milligrams magnesium (4 percent DV)
  • 40 milligrams phosphorus (4 percent DV)

How Almond Milk Nutrition Stacks Up vs. Other Milk

Much has been said about the good and bad of cow’s milk, still overwhelmingly the most common milk consumed in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong — there are some recorded benefits of cow’s milk. (11) However, the claim that pasteurized cow’s milk helps to build healthy teeth and bones doesn’t line up with all the available information. Let’s take a look at cow’s milk and compare almond milk with the other options currently available.

Cow’s Milk

Cow’s milk, or conventional dairy, has been in the spotlight for some time. There are some great things in cow’s milk in the raw form, before the process of pasteurization. However, the store-bought milk that has been pasteurized simply doesn’t have the same type of benefits as grass-fed, properly obtained raw milk. In fact, countries with the highest dairy consumption (mostly reflected in this type of dairy) have the highest incidence of osteoporosis.

Many people also struggle with a sensitivity to cow’s milk. It’s common to diagnose or assume this is due to lactose intolerance, but it’s been found that a lot of cases of “lactose intolerance” are actually a difficulty digesting pasteurized cow’s milk. (12) The proteins included in cow’s milk often cause inflammation, which is the root cause of most diseases.

There is also some evidence that cow’s milk encourages the growth of prostate cancer cells. (13)

My recommendation is to avoid pasteurized cow’s milk entirely and simply stick to raw milk from reputable sources, if you’re not sensitive to lactose or cow’s milk.

Goat Milk

My favorite recommendation for animal-derived milk is goat milk. This form of milk is easier to digest than cow’s milk, contains less lactose (milk sugars) than cow’s milk, causes less inflammation, provides a ton of fatty acids without being high in cholesterol and has a great list of nutrients naturally found in it.

Goat milk may also be beneficial for those suffering from IBS or other digestive issues, because the healthy bacteria found in it is helpful to manage leaky gut syndrome.

The biggest drawback to goat’s milk is generally the price. It’s much less largely produced and can be significantly more expensive than other milks. However, if you’re able to find reasonably priced goat milk, I highly recommend trying it out.

Coconut Milk

Because it’s fairly common to have an allergy to lactose or to desire an entirely plant-based diet, there are other milk options available to you, such as coconut milk. In addition to providing a nice nutrient load, coconut milk contains lauric acid, a rare medium-chain fatty acid that your body easily absorbs and uses for energy. Because of lauric acid, coconut milk may actually be able to help your body fight infections and viruses.

Real, full-fat coconut milk is high in calories, so be careful not to overindulge. In modest quantities, coconut milk can help you lose weight, prevent fatigue, build muscle and even protect your heart from disease. It’s a healthy alternative for diabetes patients or those at risk to animal-derived milk and also may help prevent anemia.

When searching for coconut milk at the store, look for “cold pressured” varieties, preferably organic, without any added flavors. This way, you get the most bang for your buck nutritionally.

Almond Milk

While almond milk is the most widely used options for plant-based milk products, it doesn’t have quite the high number of nutrients that you can find in coconut milk. However, it’s definitely a great option, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Its low calorie count and nice fat composition make for a good addition to a weight-loss diet.

Almond milk nutrition is also a potentially effective therapeutic agent in treating allergies related to cow’s milk because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. (14) Plus, in the same study that found cow’s milk to encourage the growth of prostate cancer cells, researchers found almond milk decreased the growth of the cells by up to 30 percent.

It’s important to remember that store-bought almond milk is often overpriced, flavored with harmful sugars and sweeteners, and fortified with extra nutrients. These fortified nutrients sound great, but they aren’t as well-absorbed into the body as naturally occurring vitamins and minerals are. I’m a big fan of making your own almond milk at home.

Rice Milk

This is another popular plant-based milk product — however, rice milk doesn’t have any great health benefits of which to speak. It’s made simply from rice, water and some fortified vitamins, but there is a major drawback to rice — the potential for arsenic poisoning.

Overall, I would recommend avoiding this product and relying on coconut or almond milk as a plant-based option, if you’re not able or willing to go for goat’s milk.

Soy Milk

For years, soy milk was the go-to “healthy” milk option. Research and years of study found that although there are potentially healthy versions of soy, 95 percent of soy on the market in readily available forms is genetically modified and actually pretty bad for your body under most circumstances. While the natto soy of Japan touts incredible health benefits, most soy is bad for you, especially if you’re a male or a woman not nearing or experiencing menopause.

This is because soy is a common phytoestrogen, or plant-based estrogen, responsible for altering hormonal levels and interfering with normal bodily processes. While there are certain time periods and people for whom phytoestrogens can potentially be beneficial, for the most part, it’s best to stay away from them.


How to Make and Use Almond Milk

If you read much of the information on my site, you understand that I’m a big fan of making things at home if you’re ever able, because you have a better chance of controlling what goes into your body, rather than trusting store labels.

Almond milk is no exception. Store-bought almond milk can be beneficial, although you should always make sure to purchase only unsweetened varieties. However, some store-bought almond milk contains carrageenan, a thickening additive from seaweed that’s linked to inflammation, ulcerative colitis and diabetes. Since one of the benefits of almond milk nutrition is that it actually helps prevent disease, this is counterintuitive.

But making your own almond milk isn’t very complicated and requires few tools. The process begins by soaking almonds in water for 24–48 hours, then blending them down into a paste and juicing out the paste with a cheesecloth. I give detailed, step-by-step instructions in my almond milk recipe.

One reason people (from medieval times to today) enjoy using almond milk is that it doesn’t require refrigeration and stays good far longer than animal milks. It’s a common ingredient in smoothies, healthy baking recipes and much more. While the taste is not the same as pasteurized cow’s milk, it can be used just like cow’s milk for consistency in most recipes.

 

How to make almond milk - Dr. Axe

 


Almond Milk Recipes

As I mentioned, almond milk is a common ingredient for smoothie recipes. Try some of these Healthy Smoothie Recipes with almond milk and let me know what you think.

I also love to use the powerfully nutritious turmeric alongside almond milk to make a delicious Turmeric Latte Recipe. This hot drink has incredible cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties.

Interested in some non-edible uses of almond milk? One of my favorite soothing and Detox Bath Recipes is a simple almond milk bath.


Almond Milk History and Interesting Facts

Before you assume the wide production of almond milk is simply a hipster phenomenon, you might be interested to know that it’s actually been around since medieval times. (I’m imagining King Richard the Lionheart walking into “Knightbucks” and ordering an almond milk latte through his thick-rimmed glasses… but let’s not get off topic here.)

Seriously, though, almond milk was no joking matter for cooks in the Middle Ages. Cow’s milk was not a reliable source of nutrition, especially because it spoiled so quickly without modern refrigeration. In addition, many Christians weren’t able to drink milk from animals during Lent, the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, meaning that recipes with a milk substance were essentially useless during that time.

But milking almonds isn’t nearly as unreliable as milking cows, and as a huge bonus, it keeps for quite some time on the shelf. Because of its high fat content, it was common to churn almond milk into plant-based butter during Lent. There are recipes online of various medieval methods of almond milk preparation, but they’re all quite similar to modern-day homemade almond milk recipes. (15)

In addition to its plant-based fatty goodness, many physicians praised the assumed benefits of almond milk in the Middle Ages, too. It’s said that almond products, including milk, were prescribed to help increase sperm production. Folklore also claimed that consuming almonds or almond products the night before drinking alcohol would prevent drunkenness.

During modern times, almond milk dwindled in popularity for some time because of its limited nutritional value compared to cow’s milk (but we now understand that even that was exaggerated). It was still produced as a more specialty health food item, ranking below soy milk, the “healthy milk” of the end of the 20th century, until it started rising in popularity in the early 2000s when some of the drawbacks of soy became more widely understood.

It finally surpassed soy milk in the health food sector in 2013 and in 2014 accounted for 60 percent of sales of plant-based milk. Today, it accounts for around 4.1 percent of overall milk sales in the United States.


Potential Side Effects/Caution Regarding Almond Milk Nutrition

Because nut allergies are common, only drink almond milk if you’re aware you’re not allergic to almonds or other nuts.

There have been a few reported cases of children developing kidney stones related to excessive almond milk consumption, due to the oxalate found in almonds. (16) If you give your children almond milk, I recommend they drink it in moderation, alongside coconut and possibly goat’s milk, to avoid oxalate buildup that may cause kidney stones.


Final Thoughts on Almond Milk Nutrition

  • Almond milk is derived from soaked and processed almonds, and is easy to find or make.
  • Almond milk does not contain the same nutrient load as almonds, but there are still great things in almond milk that make it a desirable part of your diet.
  • When comparing the various milk products available, I recommend trying goat, coconut and almond milk to enjoy their various benefits.
  • If you’re eating a plant-based or low-carb diet, almond milk is a great alternative to conventional dairy or other animal-derived milk.
  • Nutrients in almond milk help fight cancer, maintain peak heart health, develop strong bones and even slow the process of Alzheimer’s.
  • Almond milk is a common weight-loss drink because of its low calorie and carb count per serving.
  • Almond milk has been used since medieval times as a common ingredient in recipes and has recently surged again in popularity with the desire of many people to eliminate conventional dairy from their diets.
  • I recommend first making your own almond milk, and if that’s not an option, purchase organic, unsweetened almond milk free of carrageenan.

Read Next: Coconut Milk Nutrition — 9 Benefits + Recipes


From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can affect more. Because Leaky Gut is so common, and such an enigma, I’m offering a free webinar on all things leaky gut. Click here to learn more about the webinar.

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