With the rise in popularity of plant-based milks, more and more people are exploring nut milks like walnut milk. Walnut milk has a creamy texture and nutty flavor that makes it a tasty non-dairy milk option. But is drinking walnut milk actually good for your health? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the nutritional benefits and drawbacks of walnut milk to help you determine if it should have a place in your diet.
Nutritional Profile of Walnut Milk
To understand the potential health effects of walnut milk, we first need to look at its nutritional makeup. Here is an overview of the nutrients found in one cup (240 ml) of unsweetened walnut milk (1):
|Saturated fat||0.5 g|
As you can see, walnut milk is low in calories, carbs, sugar and protein compared to other nut milks. The majority of its calories come from fat, mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. It also contains a decent amount of calcium and small amounts of iron and potassium.
Benefits of Walnut Milk
Here are some of the key benefits associated with drinking walnut milk:
1. High in Omega-3s
One of the biggest advantages of walnut milk is its high omega-3 content. Omega-3 fatty acids have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and have been linked to better heart and brain health (2).
Walnut milk provides a concentrated source of the omega-3 fat ALA, with over 140 mg per cup. Consuming more plant sources of omega-3s like walnuts and flaxseeds is associated with lower rates of heart disease and improved cholesterol levels (3).
2. Low in Calories and Carbs
With only 78 calories and 2 grams of net carbs per cup, walnut milk can be a good option for those watching their calorie and carb intake. It has significantly fewer calories and carbs than cow’s milk and most other nut milks (4).
Substituting walnut milk for higher calorie beverages or using it in recipes in place of milk or creamer can help support a healthy body weight.
Walnut milk is free of lactose and casein, making it suitable for those with dairy allergies or sensitivities. Many people opt for nut milks like walnut milk because they experience bloating, gas or diarrhea when consuming cow’s milk.
If you have a dairy allergy or just want to avoid dairy for personal reasons, switching to walnut milk can allow you to still enjoy the creaminess of milk without adverse effects.
4. May Improve Heart Health
Some research shows that eating walnuts may benefit heart health. This is likely due to their content of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants (5).
Since walnut milk concentrates these heart-healthy nutrients from walnuts, it may also help reduce heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and blood pressure.
One study found that adults who consumed about 1 cup (240 ml) of walnut milk per day for 3 months experienced decreases in LDL (bad) cholesterol (6).
5. Easy to Make
It’s simple to make walnut milk at home with just walnuts and water. Here is a basic recipe:
- 1 cup raw walnuts
- 3–4 cups water
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- Dates, vanilla or other flavorings (optional)
- Soak walnuts overnight.
- Drain and rinse walnuts.
- Blend walnuts and water together until smooth.
- Strain mixture through cheesecloth or nut milk bag.
- Store in refrigerator for 3–4 days.
Making your own allows you to control the ingredients and skip any additives found in store-bought versions.
Downsides of Walnut Milk
Despite the many benefits of walnut milk, there are a few downsides to consider as well:
1. Low in Protein
Compared to cow’s milk, walnut milk is markedly lower in protein. While cow’s milk has about 8 grams of protein per cup, walnut milk provides only 2 grams (7).
For those looking to increase protein intake, walnut milk may not be the best option. Other high protein milk alternatives include soy milk, pea milk and hemp milk.
2. Low in Calories
The low calorie content is advantageous for some. However, for others trying to gain weight or eat more calories, walnut milk may not fit the bill.
Oat milk is one good option for a higher calorie milk alternative, with about 130 calories per cup (8). Whole cow’s milk also provides 146 calories per cup (7).
3. Low in Nutrients
Walnut milk is not a great source of important nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins A and D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and phosphorus. It’s significantly lower in many micronutrients than cow’s milk (7, 9).
If you’re swapping walnut milk for cow’s milk, be sure you’re getting those nutrients from other sources in your diet like meat, legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
4. Allergen Risk
While tree nut allergies are less common than peanut allergies, walnut milk can cause issues for people with nut allergies. If you have an allergy to walnuts or other nuts, you should avoid walnut milk.
Additionally, many commercial brands process their walnut milks in facilities that also process other nuts, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.
5. Oxalate Content
Walnuts contain oxalates, compounds that can contribute to kidney stones in those prone to them. If you’ve had issues with kidney stones, check with your healthcare provider before adding walnut milk to your diet (10).
Who Should Drink Walnut Milk?
Due to its nutritional profile, walnut milk can be a healthy choice for many people, but may be more beneficial for certain populations.
Walnut milk may be a good choice for:
- Those with lactose intolerance or nut allergies: Walnut milk is dairy-free and lower in allergens than other nut milks.
- Vegans and vegetarians: It provides an excellent plant-based milk option.
- Those looking to lose weight: The low calorie, high fat content helps keep you fuller for longer.
- People with heart disease: The omega-3s help reduce heart disease risk factors.
- Anyone seeking variety: Walnut milk provides a delicious, creamy and nutty flavor profile.
Walnut milk may not be the best choice for:
- Those with nut allergies: Allergic individuals should avoid tree nuts including walnuts.
- Anyone with oxalate kidney stones: Walnuts are high in oxalates.
- Those seeking higher protein: Other milks like soy or pea milk have more protein.
- Older adults: Higher protein, vitamin D milk alternatives may be preferable.
- Athletes and growing kids: The low calorie count may not meet increased needs.
How to Use Walnut Milk
Walnut milk is more versatile than you may think. Here are some tips for using it:
- Pour it over cereal or granola: Walnut milk makes a great cereal topper and adds protein and healthy fats.
- Blend into smoothies: For a nutrient boost, use walnut milk instead of water in your favorite smoothie recipe.
- Make chia pudding: Combine walnut milk with chia seeds and let soak for a delicious chia pudding.
- Use in baked goods: The nutty, slightly sweet flavor pairs well in muffins, cakes and other baked goods.
- Add to coffee and tea: Walnut milk froths up nicely for lattes, cappuccinos and other hot drinks.
- Make walnut milk yogurt: Mix walnut milk with probiotic powder or culture and allow to ferment into yogurt.
- Use in cream sauces: Walnut milk can be substituted for heavy cream in many savory recipes.
- Pour over oats: For extra creaminess, use walnut milk instead of water when making overnight oats.
Risks and Precautions
Walnut milk is generally safe for most people but there are some precautions to keep in mind:
- It contains walnut allergens, so avoid use if you have a nut allergy.
- Introduction should be gradual if you have IBS or digestives issues.
- Only consume pasteurized walnut milk to reduce food safety risks.
- Be aware of oxalate content if prone to kidney stones.
- Check labels for added sugars or unwanted ingredients.
- Opt for other milk alternatives to meet increased protein or calorie needs.
- Don’t rely on it as a sole source of nutrition.
Walnut milk is a tasty, nutritious milk substitute that may provide heart health and weight management benefits. However, its lower protein and calorie content may not suit some people’s dietary needs.
Overall, walnut milk can be a smart addition to a balanced diet for many people. But be sure to consider your own nutritional requirements and diet preferences when determining if walnut milk fits into your healthy lifestyle.