Is there anything unhealthy about almond milk?

Almond milk has become a popular plant-based milk alternative in recent years. Some people choose almond milk because they are lactose intolerant or following a vegan diet. Others opt for almond milk because they believe it is a healthier option compared to cow’s milk. But is almond milk really healthier, or does it have some drawbacks? This article examines the nutritional profile and potential health effects of almond milk.

Nutritional Profile of Almond Milk

Almond milk is made by blending almonds with water and straining the pulp. It can be purchased plain or flavored with vanilla, chocolate or other natural flavors. Here is a nutritional comparison of one cup of unsweetened almond milk versus whole cow’s milk:

Nutrient Almond Milk Whole Milk
Calories 35 146
Fat 2.5g 7.9g
Protein 1g 7.9g
Carbs 1.5g 11g
Calcium 531mg (53% DV) 276mg (28% DV)
Vitamin D 101IU (25% DV) 124IU (31% DV)

As you can see, almond milk is significantly lower in calories, fat, protein and carbs compared to whole milk. It also contains more calcium. However, whole milk contains more vitamin D.

Benefits of Almond Milk

Here are some of the touted health benefits of drinking almond milk:

  • Low in calories and fat – Almond milk has about one-quarter the calories of whole milk. The total fat and saturated fat content is also reduced compared to whole milk.
  • Lactose-free – Almond milk does not contain lactose, the natural sugar in cow’s milk that some people are intolerant to.
  • May reduce cholesterol – Some studies have found that consuming almonds regularly can lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals – Almond milk provides a good amount of vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Contains antioxidants – Almonds are high in antioxidants like vitamin E that help fight free radicals and oxidative damage.
  • Low glycemic index – Almond milk does not lead to spikes in blood sugar levels.
  • Gluten-free and soy-free – Almond milk is a suitable option for people with gluten or soy allergies.
  • Vegan – Almond milk contains no animal products, making it suitable for vegans.

Potential Downsides of Almond Milk

Despite the benefits, there are also some potential downsides to consider with almond milk:

  • Low in protein – Almond milk only contains about 1 gram of protein per cup compared to around 8 grams in cow’s milk. This may not provide adequate protein for growing children.
  • Not suitable for babies – Almond milk lacks the right balance of fats and nutrients needed to properly fuel growth and development in infants.
  • Contains phytic acid – Almonds contain phytic acid, an antinutrient that can inhibit absorption of iron, zinc and other minerals.
  • Often sweetened – Many commercial almond milks contain added sugar, which increases the calorie content and can cause blood sugar spikes.
  • May contain carrageenan – Some brands use the thickener carrageenan to improve texture, but this additive may cause digestive issues in some people.
  • Not environmentally friendly – It takes over 15 gallons (58 liters) of water to grow the almonds needed for just 16 ounces of almond milk. This strains water resources in drought-prone California where most almonds are grown.
  • Contains trace amounts of toxins – Almonds have been reported to become contaminated with multiple aflatoxins, toxicity attributed to fungal growth over the course of almond growth and harvest.
  • Not enriched with vitamins A and D – Unlike cow’s milk, almond milk is not required to be fortified with vitamins A and D, which are essential nutrients typically obtained from dairy products.
  • Allergy risk – Almonds are among the eight most common food allergens. People with nut allergies may experience an allergic reaction to almond milk.

Gut Health and Digestion

There are mixed opinions on how almond milk affects gut health and digestion. Here are some considerations:

  • Almond milk is naturally lactose-free, making it easier to digest for those with lactose intolerance.
  • However, some brands add carrageenan as a thickener, and this may irritate the digestive tract in sensitive individuals.
  • Since almonds are high in fiber, almond milk provides a small amount of gut-healthy fiber to help promote regularity.
  • Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is significantly lower in protein, which may not be ideal for intestinal health.
  • Almond skins contain tannins and phytic acid that may limit mineral absorption, but almond milk is generally made without the skins.
  • Some brands add probiotics to almond milk to boost the beneficial bacteria content.

Overall, almond milk appears easier to digest than regular milk for most people. But it may not offer the same level of protein and nutrients for optimal gut function.

Almond Milk and Weight Loss

Several aspects of almond milk may make it useful for weight loss:

  • Almond milk is significantly lower in calories than whole milk, containing only 35-60 calories per cup depending on whether it is sweetened.
  • It provides a creamy, palatable alternative to regular milk without all the calories and fat.
  • Almond milk can help increase feelings of fullness when consumed with meals.
  • It has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar.
  • Drinking almond milk may help reduce calorie intake compared to drinking whole milk.

However, almond milk is not a weight loss miracle drink. It should be consumed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet and active lifestyle for lasting weight management.

Almond Milk and Children

Many parents wonder if almond milk is suitable for children. Here are some things to consider:

  • Almond milk is not recommended for infants under 1 year old due to its low protein and nutrient content.
  • For young kids 1-3 years old, it may be used in moderation but is not advised as the main milk substitute due to its low levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates and micronutrients essential for development.
  • Almond milk is generally safe for older children over 3, but parents should still monitor intake and nutritional adequacy.
  • Since almond milk is not enriched with vitamins A and D like cow’s milk, supplementation may be needed if used as the primary milk substitute.
  • Children with nut allergies will need to avoid consuming almond milk.
  • Almond milk is a better option than cow’s milk for children with lactose intolerance or vegan diets, but nutrients should be balanced with other sources.

Overall, almond milk should only be a small part of a child’s balanced diet containing a variety of nutritious whole foods.

Potential Dangers and Side Effects

For most people, drinking moderate amounts of unsweetened almond milk is unlikely to cause serious side effects. However, there are some potential dangers and considerations:

  • Allergic reactions – Almonds are a common allergen, and almond milk can trigger reactions in those allergic to nuts.
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies – Relying on almond milk as the primary milk source long-term may lead to deficiency in vitamins A, D and B12 and minerals like calcium.
  • Gut issues – Some brands contain carrageenan, which may cause bloating and other digestive problems in sensitive people.
  • Toxic contamination – Almonds may become contaminated with aflatoxin, a carcinogen produced by fungi.
  • Blood sugar spikes – Heavily sweetened varieties may affect blood sugar control.
  • Dental decay – The natural sugars in sweetened almond milk can erode tooth enamel over time.

Those with nut allergies, gut disorders, diabetes or risk of dental decay should be particularly cautious with almond milk.

How to Make Your Own Almond Milk

It’s easy to make basic homemade almond milk using just two ingredients – almonds and water. Here is a simple DIY recipe:


  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • Pinch of sea salt, optional
  • Natural sweetener like maple syrup or dates, optional


  1. Soak almonds in water for 8-12 hours or overnight
  2. Drain and rinse the almonds well
  3. Add almonds and 4 cups fresh water to a high speed blender
  4. Blend on high for about 1 minute until smooth and creamy
  5. Strain the milk through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth
  6. Squeeze the bag to extract as much liquid as possible
  7. Stir in sea salt, maple syrup or soaked dates if desired.
  8. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
  9. Shake or stir before drinking

This basic recipe can be customized by using different types of nuts, adjusting the sweetener or adding flavors like vanilla, cocoa or banana. Homemade almond milk has no additives or thickeners.


Almond milk can be a healthy plant-based milk alternative, but it does have some drawbacks to consider. Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is lower in protein, vitamins and minerals. It’s also not suitable as the sole milk source for growing infants and children. Some brands contain additives and sweeteners that may cause digestive issues or blood sugar spikes.

The healthiest choice is unsweetened almond milk consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Making your own almond milk at home is easy and allows you to control the ingredients. For most non-allergic adults, drinking almond milk in reasonable amounts is safe and may provide benefits like weight management and lactose-free nutrition. But almond milk is not necessarily a nutritional panacea, so your specific dietary needs should be taken into account.

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