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Just How Many Almonds Does It Take to Make Almond Milk?

I grew up in central California. I was surrounded by almond orchards. They are beautiful when all the flowers bloom. We used to buy 25-pound boxes of almonds, and we would eat raw almonds all the time in trail mixes, or just a plain handful. So, I love almonds!

And although I’m obviously a big proponent of dairy milk, I don’t hate almond milk. I actually think the flavored and sweetened stuff tastes pretty good. It doesn’t really taste like milk though. People are free to buy what they want. One of the goals of this blog is to teach people things. I am more concerned that people make educated food choices based on facts, rather than marketing.

As for me, I prefer cows milk, but you are free to select your beverage of choice. That being said, I want to make sure people who choose to consume almond milk over cow’s milk are doing it with all the facts—free of the guilting, fear-mongering, and general misinformation out there.

Almond milk is becoming a serious contender in the dairy case of the grocery store. People seem to turn to almond milk for a few reasons:

1. They suffer from either a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance

2. They have moral qualms with the dairy industry

3. They choose almond milk because it is lower in calories

I want to focus on the third reason.

Why is almond milk lower in calories?

Now it is certainly true that almond milk has fewer calories than cows milk. Does that make it better? Calories represent content in the food. Calories are calculated by the combination of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. If a food has fewer calories than another, that means it has fewer fat, protein, and carbohydrates. When choosing between solid food items, this is a good way to distinguish between a higher calorie and lower calorie option.

When you are choosing between liquid food choices it’s a completely different ball game. Do you know how to lower the calories of milk? Add water. If you take a half a cup of water and combine it with a half a cup of cows milk it will have half the calories! That seems wrong, doesn’t it? In fact, it is illegal to call diluted cows milk “milk” because it no longer meets the definition of milk.

No such rules exist for almond milk. Without a federal standard set by the government, all of the almond milk producers still fall within a pretty small range of the number of almonds in almond milk. That being said, it is mostly water.

In full disclosure, cows milk is made up of about 87% water. However, that is how it comes naturally from the cow. Dairy producers aren’t trying to decide how much water to add to make their milk right. Milk isn’t sold by its volume. It is usually sold by its fat or protein content, so adding water, wouldn’t even help if they could.

A glass of almond milk has approximately 4-5 almonds per serving and is 98.12% water. You read that right. That pricey imitation milk is water with a few blended almonds tossed in.

Let me show you how I get those numbers.

So how many almonds are in almond milk?

These numbers aren’t too difficult to get to if you take the time to do the math. All food is required to have a nutrition facts panel that declares the basic breakdown of calories, macro and micronutrients in the food. This information combined with the information provided in the ingredient statement below the nutrition facts panel allows you to decode and figure out how much of each ingredient they are adding.

In the food industry, we call this reverse engineering – the ability to decode a food just by looking at the information published on the packaging. It has become even easier as now there are tons of nutritional databases that publish the nutrient information of a lot of foods.

Now let me walk you through the math:

According to multiple online nutritional databases (myfitness pal, nutritionix), 1 ounce of almonds (around 23 almonds) has 165 calories, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of protein.

As you can see, they are pretty calorie dense. Just for 23 almonds, they have 165 calories. 23 almonds are not very many to a kid that always had several pounds of almonds available at any time.

Now take a quick look at how many calories are in a cup of unsweetened almond milk. Unsweetened almond milk on average has 30 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbs, and 1 gram of protein.

We can take all of these main components of the nutrition facts panel – calories, fat, carbs, protein – and compare the data of plain almonds and almond milk to calculate how many almonds are in almond milk.

Note: We are going to make the assumption that all of the calories, fat, protein and carbs in almond milk are coming from the almonds. This may not be true as there is plenty of other stuff added to almond milk. You can read more about that here. This assumption makes the math a little easier and represents the best-case scenario for almond milk, which as you will see is not saying much.

Calculation by CALORIES

The main source of calories in unsweetened almond milk should be almonds. If we assume that is true, we can divide the 165 calories of almonds per serving by the number of almonds in a serving (23 almonds) and figure out the calories per almond. Each almond has a little more than 7 calories each. If an unsweetened almond milk serving has 30 calories, then we can figure out that the 30-calorie serving divided by the calorie of a single almond gives us 30 ÷ 7= 4.3 almonds per 8 oz. serving.

Right from the start, we can see that there are not a whole lot of almonds in almond milk. In order to do our due diligence, let’s look at the rest of the nutrients: fat, carbs, and protein.

Calculation by FAT

We can do a very similar calculation, but with fat instead. As stated above, we see that 23 almonds have 14 grams of fat. Therefore, 14 grams of fat ÷ 23 almonds = 0.61 grams of fat per almond. If one cup of almond milk has 2.5 grams of fat, then 2.5 (grams of fat in almond milk) ÷ 0.61 (grams of fat per almond) = 4.1 almonds per cup of almond milk.

Calculation by PROTEIN

Again, 23 almonds have 5 grams of protein. 5 grams of protein ÷ 23 almonds = 0.22 grams of protein per almond. A cup of almond milk has 1 gram of protein. 1 ÷ 0.22 = 4.5 almonds per cup of almond milk.

Stay with me…we’re almost there…

Calculation by CARBOHYDRATE

According to the nutritional database, 23 almonds have 6 grams of carbohydrate. 6 ÷ 23 = 0.26. If we have 1 gram of carbohydrate in 1 cup of almond milk, then 1 ÷ 0.26 = 3.84.

There you have it. We looked at 4 different ways to calculate the answer. Your typical almond milk has about 3.8-4.5 almonds per cup. That’s quite a few shy then I used to eat as a kid.

Okay, one last math section.

Now let’s look at the RATIO of almonds to water

We have approximately 240 milliliters of liquid in 8 ounces (1 serving of almond milk). So, to know the percentage of water, we take how much volume we have in a cup divided by the sum of the macronutrients and multiply by 100. You should practically have this memorized by now, but almond milk has 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and 1 gram of carbs. If we add those all together there are 2.5 + 1 + 1 = 4.5 grams of total solid material in a cup of almond milk. Now we take that 4.5 grams and divide it by the total weight of 1 cup and multiply by 100 to get a percent. (4.5 ÷ 240) *100 = 1.88% solids.

A gram nearly equals a milliliter in this case, since the density difference water and almond milk is almost negligible for you science nerds asking that question.

Let me repeat that. 1.88% of almond milk is the combination of solids–the fat, protein, and carbohydrate. In other words, almond milk is 1.88% almonds.

Do some math of your own. That means almond milk is 98.12% water. Milk is about 87% water making it also mostly water as well, but the dairy farmer has little control of the water content of the milk. Almond milk producers do have control of how much water they add.

Going back to our point at the beginning of the article, some people choose almond milk because it is low calories. If they added more almonds, the almond milk would have more calories. So they are kind of in a pinch to keep calories low which is what prevents them from adding more almonds. I don’t think as many people would pick up a glass with 165 calories, 15 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, and 5 grams of carbohydrate. That would be the case if they added 1 ounce (or 23 almonds) per serving. Not to mention it would cost way more.

The cost of almond milk

I decided to go to my local Walmart to take a peek at the prices of almond milk. I live in North Carolina, so I imagine your local prices may look different, but I went to Walmart hoping that the prices would be similar across the country since it’s a national chain. Below is a summary of what I found.

One thing I always ask myself when I buy food is “what am I paying for?” This question often pushes me to by the store brand product over the name brand, because in almost every case they taste similar enough that it’s not worth the price for the name brand. Maybe that will change when I am no longer a student and actually have two nickels to rub together.

Almonds are pretty expensive. Some of the lowest bulk Amazon prices for almonds are around $ .32 per ounce, although you can find some as high as $.64 per ounce. We will stick with the $.32 almonds per ounce to not over exaggerate the difference. Going back to our magic number of 23 almonds per ounce that means that a single almond costs about $ 0.014. Almond milk has 4.3 almonds multiplied by the cost per almond gets us to $0.06. Compare that to the cost of almonds in almond milk in the table above.

From the perspective of a Food Scientist and someone who is passionate about business, obviously, these companies have to charge more to pay for the harvesting, processing, packaging and distributing the product so you can’t expect to pay the same price as if you purchased the almonds and blended them yourself. The argument I am making is that you are paying for mostly water!

These prices seem a little shocking for what you get, but then again, I bet you have purchased a water bottle that costs more than that. Some water in this country is particularly expensive, and it turns out the water in almond milk is no different.

The bottom line

Whatever your reason for choosing almond milk, you do you… just understand what it is you’re paying for. Once again, I don’t hate almond milk or get mad at people who drink it. I am just a pretty big fan of data and numbers (which should be obvious from all the math). I believe people should be educated about their food choices and not buy based on marketing slogans or fear campaigns.

Whatever milk you choose, make an informed decision.

As for me, I’m pouring myself a glass of plain ol’ milk.

Do it with dairy!

Take almonds and just…wait, why add water? Lecic/

Almonds are a precious foodstuff: a crunchy jolt of complete protein, healthful fats, vitamins and minerals, and deliciousness. Given their rather intense ecological footprint—see here—we should probably consider them a delicacy, a special treat. That’s why I think it’s deeply weird to pulverize away their crunch, drown them in water, and send them out to the world in a gazillion little cartons. What’s the point of almond milk, exactly?

Evidently, I’m out of step with the times on this one. “Plant-based milk” behemoth White Wave reports that its first-quarter sales of almond milk were up 50 percent from the same period in 2013. In an earnings call with investors in May, reported by FoodNavigator, CEO Greg Engles revealed that almond milk now makes up about two-thirds of the plant-based milk market in the United States, easily trumping soy milk (30 percent) and rice and coconut milks (most of the rest).

A jug of almond milk containing roughly 39 cents worth of almonds, plus filtered water and additives, retails for $3.99.

Dairy is still king, of course, comprising 90 percent of the “milk” market. But as our consumption of it dwindles—down from 0.9 cups per person per day in 1970 to about 0.6 in 2010, according to the US Department of Agriculture—plant-based alternatives are gaining ground. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that sales of alternative milks hit $1.4 billion in 2013 and are expected to hit $1.7 billion by 2016, with almond milk leading that growth.

Now, I get why people are switching away from dairy milk. Industrial-scale dairy production is a pretty nasty business, and large swaths of adults can’t digest lactose, a sugar found in fresh dairy milk. Meanwhile, milk has become knit into our dietary culture, particularly at breakfast, where we cling to a generations-old tradition of drenching cereal in milk. Almond milk and other substitutes offer a way to maintain this practice while rejecting dairy. (Almond milk has been crushing once-ubiquitous soy milk, perhaps partly because of hotly contested fears that it creates hormonal imbalances.)

All that aside, almond milk strikes me as an abuse of a great foodstuff. Plain almonds are a nutritional powerhouse. Let’s compare a standard serving (one ounce, about a handful) to the 48-ounce bottle of Califia Farms almond milk that a house guest recently left behind in my fridge.

A single ounce (28 grams) of almonds—nutrition info here—contains six grams of protein (about an egg’s worth), along with three grams of fiber (a medium banana) and 12 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (half an avocado). According to its label, an eight-ounce serving of Califia almond milk offers just one gram each of protein and fiber, and five grams of fat. A bottle of Califia delivers six eight-ounce servings, meaning that a handful of almonds contains as much protein as the mighty jug of this hot-selling beverage.

What this tells you is that the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds. Which leads us to the question of price and profit. The almonds in the photo above are organic, and sold in bulk at my local HEB supermarket for $11.99 per pound; this one-ounce serving set me back about 66 cents. I could have bought nonorganic California almonds for $6.49 per pound, about 39 cents per ounce. That container of Califia, which contains roughly the same number of nonorganic almonds, retails for $3.99.

Click here for more comparisons. Mother Jones

The water-intensive nature of almond milk, of course, is no secret. By law, food manufacturers have to name ingredients in order of their prevalence in the product. For Califia and other almond milk brands, it starts like this: “filtered water, almonds.” Given that it takes 1.1 gallons of water to grow a single almond in California, where 80 percent of the world’s almonds are produced, drenching the finished product in yet more water seems insane.

Califia does make a couple of splashy nutritional claims: “50% more calcium than milk,” the bottle declares, and “50% RDI of Vitamin E.” Almonds are a great source of these vital nutrients, but not that great. Our ounce of whole almonds contains 74 mg of calcium vs. 290 mg for a cup of whole milk, and 7 mg of vitamin E, about 37 percent of the recommended daily intake.

How does Califia’s beverage manage to outdo straight almonds on calcium and vitamin E when it lags so far behind on protein and fat? Again, the answer lies in the ingredients list, which reveals the addition of a “vitamin/mineral blend.” All fine and well, but if you’re interested in added nutrients, why not just pop a vitamin pill?

Califia almond milk contains an added “vitamin/mineral blend.” So why not just pop a vitamin pill?

Moreover, almond milk isn’t just a few nuts packaged with lots of water. It often contains additives. For example, in addition to vitamins, the Califia product, like many of its rivals, contains small amounts of carrageenan, a seaweed derivative commonly used as a stabilizer in beverages. Academic scientists in Chicago have raised concerns that it might cause gastrointestinal inflammation.

I’m not saying your almond milk habit is destroying the planet or ruining your health, or that you should immediately go cold turkey. I just want people to know what they’re paying for when they shell our for it. As for me, when I want something delicious to moisten my granola or add substance to a smoothie, I go for organic kefir, a fermented milk product that’s packed with protein, calcium, and beneficial microbes. Added bonus: According to the label, it’s lactose-free—apparently, the kefir microbes transform the lactose during the fermentation process.

The industry, meanwhile, aims to take its lucrative almond milk model on the road. FoodNavigator reports that White Wave is setting up a joint venture to market its plant-based milks in almond-crazy China.

Milk’s Impact on Our Morning Coffee and the Environment

When it comes to daily life, there is always some impact on the environment, including what we might be putting into our morning coffee every day.

Recently, I came across an article describing how bad Almond Milk is for the environment, and I had to wonder, what about Cow Milk? First, however, Almond Milk seems to be one of the more popular go-to substitutes for Cow Milk, in addition to Soy Milk, Coconut Milk, and Hemp Milk, all with different tastes and nutritional benefits. All of these Cow Milk substitutes are similar in that they are non-animal lactose-free and cholesterol-free creamy milk-ish liquids. If you recall the Diamond Nuts slogan, “The Best Nuts Come from California,” then it should come as no surprise that Almond Milk in the United States also comes from California, which produces about a million tons of almonds per year.

According to Capitalism is Freedom, it takes 1.1 gallons of water to produce a single almond, or about which would translate to about 460 gallons of water per pound of almonds. In turn, it takes about two pounds of almonds to make one gallon of Almond Milk, or 920 gallons of water. Considering that California is in the midst of the worst drought in the last century, one might consider this water usage a danger to the environment. Indeed, California’s annual almond crop requires some 966 billion gallons of water, which the State doesn’t have. Then, you can add the pesticides that contaminate the soil and water, and one can see that Almond Milk’s cost to the environment is high, but what about Cow Milk?

Since Cow Milk provides some nutrients that are hard to find in other foods, it remains a major part of many people’s diets, not only in the form of liquid milk, but cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and butter, to name a few. Cows, like all animals, eat and drink, but very little of what they eat goes into the actual production of Cow Milk. According to Natural News, it takes some 2,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of Cow Milk, roughly twice as much as that required to produce a gallon of Almond Milk. Add in other risks to the environment that cows represent, such as pesticides and greenhouse gas emissions, it comes down to a choice that we have to make, perhaps out of three options.

Recall that, no matter what you choose to eat, there will be a cost. If you have to drink milk, Almond Milk seems to be the lesser of the two evils to the environment, but both Almond Milk and Cow Milk, as well as any other milks, have their cost. Perhaps the best would be to avoid milk altogether, look for proper nutrition from other sources, and drink water, instead.

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Are There Any Almonds in Your Almond Milk?

Have you ever wondered how many almonds are in your almond milk? I compared four brands to find the number of almonds used. The results are astonishing. This won’t be my most popular post. There are only 9 to 14 almonds in 2 cups of commercial almond milk. A profitable business model indeed! I thought you might enjoy the detailed comparison below.

  1. My homemade almond milk contains 1/2 cup almonds – 75 almonds
  2. Almond Breeze Unsweetened Almond Milk – 14 almonds
  3. Silk Almond Milk Original Unsweetened – 9 almonds
  4. Califia Farms Unsweetened Almond Milk – 10 almonds
  5. Pacific Organic Almond Bev. Original Unsweetened – 9 almonds

The graph below shows a complete breakdown of nutrition facts of the various almond milks.

Almonds, a Nutritional Powerhouse
Almonds are loaded with beneficial nutrients, rich in complete protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and oh such a wonderful flavor! However as much as we love non-dairy milks, it appears that the almond-milk industry is selling us a carton of filtered water whizzed up with a couple of almonds, and pleasantly thickened with a myriad of other ingredients to make it more “dairy-like”. I compared unsweetened and unflavored varieties only, so these are presumably the “purest” nut milks available.

The Bad News:
Even though almonds are extremely high in nutrients, it seems we’re getting precious few of them in commercial almond milks. Let’s take a look at the additives that make our empty milk so smooth, thick and appealing. What ingredients are in 2 cups of almond milk that cause us to love it so much?

  1. My homemade almond milk recipe uses 1/2 cup or 75 almonds and 2 cups filtered water. It is smooth, rich, and fantastic! It takes me about 5 minutes to make, a lot quicker and cheaper than going to the store. Since homemade milk is filled with almond goodness, proteins, and healthy fats, I don’t have to pump it full of thickeners, starches, gums, flavorings, lecithin, and synthetic vitamins. It’s just plain yummy! (Of course I could also make it with 1/4 cup almonds. Or just 9 almonds like some brands.)
  2. Almond Breeze Unsweetened Almond Milk – 14 almonds
    INGREDIENTS: Almond Milk (filtered water, almonds), calcium carbonate, sea salt, possatium citrate, sunflower lecithin, Gellan Gum, Natural Flavors, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2 and D-Alpha-Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E).
  3. Silk Almond Milk Original Unsweetened – 9 almonds
    INGREDIENTS: Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds), Sea Salt, Locust Bean Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Gellan Gum, Natural Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2.
  4. Califia Farms Unsweetened Almond Milk – 10 almonds
    INGREDIENTS: Almond milk (Water, Almonds). Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Vitamin/ Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, Zinc), Sunflower Lecithin, Sea Salt, Potassium Citrate, Natural Flavors, Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum
  5. Pacific Organic Almond Bev. Original Unsweetened – 9 almonds
    INGREDIENTS: Almond Base (Water, Almonds), Rice Starch, Sea Salt, Vanilla, Natural Flavor, Carrageenan, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2.

These numbers clearly indicate there’s a problem. It should come as no surprise that Blue Diamond and Almond Breeze are fighting a class action lawsuit in New York claiming false advertising, since their “almond milk” contains only 2% almonds. A better name for these commercial brands might be “Almond flavored water”. My analysis here is based on the accepted nutrients in almonds and the reported nutrition labels. There are plenty of other ways to count, and mine is an estimate at best. Undisclosed ingredients (anything less than 0.5 grams per serving) are not included in the study because we don’t know what they are.

So next time you’re in the grocery store passing the alternative milk shelves – just have a little chuckle and move on. To make the most nutritious homemade Almond Milk, all you need is any blender or a food processor and two minutes. Click here for the easy recipe: My Nut Milk Experiment – Which is Best? If you like flavored nut milks, Ooooh! Don’t miss my post Spike Your Nut Milks! – with superfoods of course!

Thanks for listening. Enjoy your food. And best wishes for your delicious health!

Almonds – Nutrition Facts

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All About Almond Milk

Almond milk burst into the marketplace in 2013. Swiftly outcompeting its aging plant-based nemesis, soy milk, it moved to prey on dairy. This seemingly ancient juggernaut, once a prime beverage, has staggered through a decades-long decline in US per capita consumption. Positioning almond milk as a healthier, more sustainable lactose-free alternative to cow’s milk has allowed brands like Silk and Almond Breeze to successfully challenge the dairy industry’s monopoly. The process is nowhere near finished, mind you, as more consumers come daily to embrace the taste and health benefits of plant-based beverages. While new alternatives sourced from plants are continually emerging, almond milk remains both leader and flagbearer. Indeed, for some, it is virtually synonymous with nut milk!

Elmhurst is the poster child for the plant-based revolution: a family dairy that closed its doors and reopened to sell almond milk. Why would a company with 90 years invested in cows do this?

  • Was it the array of health benefits, including antioxidant properties, weight management, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, that almond milk offers?
  • Was it almond milk’s potential to substitute for dairy milk in coffee, cereal, smoothies, and more?
  • Was it that Elmhurst had the technology to produce an almond milk with a nutty flavor and creamy texture, free of gums and emulsifiers?

Actually, it was all of the above. Let’s take a closer look!

Almond Milk Nutrition

There is not a single nutrition panel for almond milk. It can vary significantly by brand. Here are the ranges we found for the most popular, widely-consumed brands:

  • Calories
    • Unsweetened: 30-130 kcal
    • Sweetened: 50-150 kcal
  • Fat
    • 2-11g fat, predominantly monounsaturated
  • Carbs
    • Unsweetened: 1-3g carbs
    • Sweetened: 6-9g carbs
  • Protein
    • 0-5g protein

Why such variation?

Sadly, many nut milks exist as water emulsions. When drinking these beverages, you might assume that the creaminess you taste comes from the almonds themselves – because it IS almond milk, after all! Alas, a deception lurks. For certain brands, the actual nut percentage can hover around just 2% 1, so other ingredients – principally guar gum 2,xanthan gum 3, and sunflower lecithin 4 – are often added to achieve a satisfyingly thick mouthfeel.

To add insult to injury, fewer nuts per serving also translates to lower fat and protein counts. The calories in such milks will invariably be lower, which some competitors cite as a sort of benefit. When you consider that these calories possess all of the nutritional value of nut milk, this is not such a good thing.

If you’re looking for unparalleled authenticity, Elmhurst’s unsweetened almond milk is made with up to 4x as many nuts compared to other brands and just two ingredients: water and almonds. You can be sure that this product’s creaminess and nutritional quality come directly from their source ingredient.

Benefits of Almond Milk: What Makes Almond Milk Good for You

As note, almond milks differ in how many almonds they actually use. While we cannot say exactly what makes almond milk good for you, research paints a resounding picture for the almond itself.

  • Low in carbs; high in fat and protein
    • Collectively, all of these components work together to help to keep blood sugar levels steady
  • High in monounsaturated fat
    • Consuming a diet high monounsaturated fats has been shown to help with weight management and promote weight loss 5
    • High amounts of monounsaturated fats have been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by way of reducing LDL and triglycerides, increasing HDL, decreasing oxidized LDL and lowering blood pressure 6
    • Monounsaturated fats has been shown to improve joint health by preventing destruction of cartilage under stressful conditions 7
  • Rich in vitamin E
    • Vitamin E, the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant in our skin, helps prevent wrinkles by defending our skin from free radicals, oxidative damage and UV radiation 8
    • Vitamin E synergizes with selenium to boost levels of the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione, to combat inflammation 9
    • Vitamin E enhances immunity and regulates gene expression 8
  • Good source of protein
    • Diets high in protein are more satiating than those high in fat or carbohydrates, and thus, are more effective for weight loss 10 11
  • Good source of potassium
    • Ancestral diets high in potassium have been linked to lower blood pressure 12, thereby reducing risk of cardiovascular disease

Of course, these benefits do not generalize to all almond milks since most brands use blanched almonds and strain the liquid they produce, discarding the fiber and antioxidants comprising almonds’ health halo.

Elmhurst’s HydroRelease™ process, by contrast, yields a product with a high ratio of almonds to water, preserving all of the almonds’ macronutrients and micronutrients

Unsweetened Almond Milk

Many almond milk brands interpret “unsweetened” quite literally as no added sugars or sweeteners. They’re technically right, but for Elmhurst, this marks an opportunity to delete all of the extras. What’s left is the simplest almond milk possible. Remove one ingredient and you have a container of whole almonds or carton of water.

Here are some of the ingredients found in unsweetened almond milks on the market. Elmhurst only has the first two!

  • Water
  • Almonds
  • Sea Salt
  • Natural Flavor
  • Locust Bean Gum
  • Gellan Gum
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Potassium Citrate
  • Sunflower Lecithin
  • Calcium Carbonate

Almond Milk Recipes

Almond milk doesn’t just function for cereal. It can also be a terrific dairy substitute for recipes – particularly when using a brand high in nutritional value from almonds.

To get you started, we are providing a recipe from four popularly searched categories, each created by Elmhurst’s own Chef Tristan Hall.

Cauliflower Pasta “Alfredo”

A ketogenic recipe
(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Elmhurst Unsweetened Milked Almonds
  • 8 Cups Cauliflower Florets
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Garlic, Minced
  • ½ Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice, Fresh
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1 Spaghetti Squash, Cooked
  • Parsley, Chopped (as a garnish)

Preparation

  1. In a large pot, add cauliflower florets and cover with vegetable stock. Bring to soft boil. Once the stock is boiling, cook for an additional 3 to 7 minutes until fork tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. Next add oil in a separate pan and sauté minced garlic over low heat for about 5 minutes until soft and fragrant. DO not burn! Next add in Elmhurst US Milked Almonds, cooked cauliflower, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes and slightly cool.
  3. If using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the sauce until a smooth consistency is reached. Transfer mixture back to the pot and combine cooked pasta until heated through for about 5 minutes.
  4. Serve warm and enjoy!

Almond Peach Spiced Smoothie Bowl

A smoothie recipe
(Serves 4)

  • 2 Cups Elmhurst Unsweetened Milked Almonds
  • 3 Cups Peaches, Sliced and Frozen
  • 2 Cups Bananas, Sliced and Frozen
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tsp Chai Spice
  • ¼ Cup Almond Butter
  • ½ Cup Blueberries, Fresh
  • 4 Tbsp Almonds, Sliced
  1. In a Vitamix or blender, add Elmhurst Milked US Almonds with ½ the of bananas, peaches, almond butter and chai spice. Pulse until combined. Continue to blend to a smooth consistency. Add more Elmhurst US Milked Almonds to thin as needed.
  2. Divide the mixture into desired serving vessels and top with the remaining banana, sliced blueberries and sliced almonds.
  3. Sit back relax and enjoy!

Ian’s Chia Spiced Pudding

A dessert recipe
(Serves 4)

  • 2 Cups Elmhurst Unsweetened Milked Almonds
  • 1 ¼ Cups Chia Seeds
  • 2 Cups Sweet Potato Puree
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ Tsp Ground Ginger
  • ⅛ Tsp Chili Powder
  • ⅛ Tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • ¼ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • ¼ Tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Cane Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract, Pure
  • 2 Tbsp Agave Nectar, Optional
  • Coconut Flakes, Optional
  1. Mix the chia seeds with Elmhurst US Almond Milk bowl, and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. Whisk or stir the mixture to evenly disperse the chia seeds. Cover and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  2. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, chili powder, sugar and black pepper.
  3. Remove the chia pudding from the refrigerator, and stir in the pumpkin purée, dry spice mixture, vanilla extract, and agave nectar, if using
  4. Serve garnished with coconut flakes and enjoy!

Raspberry Overnight Oats with Almond Milk

An overnight oat with almond milk recipe
(Serves 4)

  • 2 Cups Elmhurst Unsweetened Milked Almonds
  • 2 Cups Steel Cut Oats
  • 2 ½ Tbsp. Almond Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 ½ Tbsp Chia Seeds
  • ¾ Tsp Almond Extract
  • 3 Cups Raspberries, Fresh or Frozen
  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  1. In a small sauce pan, combine raspberries, maple syrup and water. Bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes until the raspberries have cooked down and remove from heat.
  2. In a medium bowl combine, almond butter, maple syrup, chia seeds and almond extract. Add Elmhurst Milked US Almond and steel cut oats. Whisk together all ingredients until fully incorporated. Divide mixture into desired serving vessels and place in fridge till the next day.
  3. Served warmed or at room temp. Top with raspberry compote and enjoy!

Why Choose Elmhurst?

Certain very well-known brands of almond milk force us into a heavy distinction between almonds and almond milk. Using fewer nuts and blanched, rather than whole raw almonds, dilutes nutritional value. This is why protein, fat and calories are relatively low. By contrast, Elmhurst’s original and unsweetened almond milks combine more nuts (up to 4x the number per serving) and a process which separates and recombines all nutrients, resulting in a flavorful, creamy beverage with a multitude of uses.

What’s Really in Almond Milk?

Sales of almond milk have taken off like a bottle rocket in recent years as people embraced the product as an alternative to dairy and soy milk.

As a milk substitute, almond milk is popular with people who are lactose intolerant, allergic to gluten, have heart disease or simply want to reduce their consumption of animal products. It can also be a tasty alternative to rice or soy milk.

But in the wake of a lawsuit against a top almond milk producer, many consumers are asking what’s really in store bought almond milk — and whether it’s actually good for you.

Related: Milk Alternatives: How Do They Stack Up?

Almond milk milking consumers?

A class-action lawsuit filed in July against top almond producer Blue Diamond Growers claims the company’s packaging for its Almond Breeze beverage is false advertising and misleads consumers into thinking the milk’s almond content — and health benefits — are more significant than they are. Filed in the state of New York, the suit claims Almond Breeze contains only 2 percent almonds. Rival product Silk Pure Almond is the target of a similar suit.

U.S. regulations on food labels do not require manufacturers to specify the percentages of ingredients such as almonds. While the percentage of nuts in Almond Breeze is not listed on the package in U.S. grocery stores, it’s available on Blue Diamond Grower’s U.K. website — yep, 2 percent.

So what else is in Almond Breeze’s “almond milk”? Turns out it’s mostly water, with a hint of almonds and some salt, starch, stabilizers and flavoring. Besides almonds, its listed ingredients are spring water, calcium carbonate, tapioca starch, sea salt, stabiliser: carrageenan; emulsifier: sunflower Lecithin; natural flavoring.

But wait: The primary ingredient in nearly all popular beverages, “including coffee, tea, soda, juice and sports drinks, is water,” Blue Diamond told TIME magazine in response to the lawsuit. “Cow’s milk is 85 percent to 95 percent water, and the same can be said for most soy and almond milks, which is why our brand is not alone in responding to recent claims.”

Nonetheless, there is legal precedent for a case like this, says attorney Lauren Handel, JD, LLM, a partner in the law firm Foscolo & Handel PLLC, which specializes in food and farm business litigation. She points out there are “lots and lots of lawsuits alleging that food labeling is deceptive.”

“It’s not alleging that they (Blue Diamond) are violating FDA rules, because they probably are not,” Handel says, pointing out that only drinks that contain juice are required by U.S. law to specify the exact amounts of ingredient they contain. “Here, the question is if they are deceiving consumers about the quantity of the ingredients or by calling it milk. A lot of these cases now have to do with foods that are labelled ‘natural’ but contain synthetic ingredients or are highly processed.”

“With most of these cases, the money to be made is through class action. Not one of these cases has gone to trial,” she says. “Some are getting dismissed before trial, but the vast majority get settled. With the big companies the settlements run into the millions of dollars.”

In addition to the lawsuits, U.S. almond growers — who produce more than 80 percent of the world’s almonds — have another headache: about 9 percent of California’s agricultural water is devoted to growing almonds, raising concerns about the almond crop’s environmental impact as the state struggles under the fourth year of a blistering drought.

Related: Unpasteurized Milk Is Trendy, but Is It Safe?

“No extra nutrition” in almond milk

Consumers can use almond milk “as an alternative to dairy milk in cereals or drinking to cut down on calories and carbs,” says registered dietitian Rebecca Mohning, RD, MS, based in Washington, D.C. But, she says, “There’s no extra nutrition in almond milk as opposed to other types of milk unless the product is fortified with vitamins and minerals.” (By federal law, dairy milk must be fortified with vitamins A and D.)

And sometimes the nutritional value in dairy milk alternatives falls short in comparison. One cup of whole milk has about 8 grams of protein, Mohning notes, while a cup of almond milk has slightly less than 2 grams.

“Some almond milk products are fortified with calcium, but you could get too much calcium if you drink too much,” Mohning says. “Calcium buildup can cause kidney stones, bone spurs, calcium build-up in the arteries and build-up in the body.”

Mohning and other dietitians also caution that substitutes for dairy milk are not nutritious enough for children younger than one year. In addition, some almond milk beverages contain carrageenan, a seaweed derivative used as a stabilizer and thickening agent. Animal and human cell studies show that carrageenan may cause gastrointestinal inflammation, including ulcerations and bleeding.

Related: Are Nondairy Milk Alternatives OK for Kids?

Steve Evans, MA, is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience in daily news, investigative, health and business journalism. Among other jobs, he has served as managing editor of the Central Virginia Newspaper Group, as a senior writer for SNL Financial and as a staff writer for The Progress Index and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Almond milk is everywhere. You probably pour it in your coffee, whirl it into your morning smoothies, or just drink it straight out of the carton. Sure, it’s a little watery. But it’s made from almonds, so it MUST be good for you, right?

Well, maybe. A 2017 review in the Journal of Food Science and Technology actually found that soy milk, not almond milk, was the healthiest plant-based milk.

That said, all non-dairy milks like almond milk can play an important role in your diet. “Plant milks are a wonderful, versatile alternative to dairy milk for anyone who doesn’t tolerate milk, or is reducing animal food intake for dietary or animal ethics reasons,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN.

People often go for almond milk, specifically, because it’s mild in flavor and easy to tolerate digestion-wise, Palmer says.

Almond milk nutrition is…a little underwhelming.

Okay, but is almond milk actually good for you? Here’s the nutritional breakdown of unsweetened almond milk, per cup, per the USDA:

  • Calories: 39
  • Fat: 2.5 g
  • Protein: 1.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 3 g
  • Sugar: 2 g
  • Calcium: 482 mg (48 percent of daily value)

Compare that to what you’ll get in a cup of unsweetened soy milk, per the USDA:

  • Calories: 80
  • Fat: 4 g
  • Protein: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4 g
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Calcium: 299 mg (30 percent of daily value)

And what’s in each cup of 2 percent dairy milk, according to the USDA:

  • Calories: 123
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Protein: 8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 12 g
  • Sugar: 12 g
  • Calcium: 295 g (30 percent of daily value)

But there are some benefits of almond milk.

First, the perks: Almond milk is low in calories and fat, making it a great base for a number of dishes. “Its neutral flavor with a hint of nuttiness and creamy mouthfeel lends itself well to soups, sauces, dressings, baked goods, and smoothies,” says Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, Owner of Kara Lydon Nutrition and The Foodie Dietitian Blog.

The downside is that it’s low in protein. Almond milk has only 20 percent of the protein you’ll get from a glass of soy milk, and 18 percent of what you’ll get from a glass of low-fat milk.

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That’s because while almonds themselves are rich in protein, “few almonds are in each serving,” says Palmer (in some cases, they make up just 2 percent for the whole drink, according to Business Insider).

However, some almond milks are protein-fortified, meaning they have added pea protein in the mix to give the drink more satiating power.

As for calcium, this will vary brand to brand—differing from 10 to 45 percent of your daily need, says Palmer—depending on whether or not calcium is added during fortification.

So, what are the best almond milks to buy?

If you go for plant-based milks on occasion and not as a main source of nutrients like calcium or protein, then almond milk is totally fine, says Palmer. “But if you rely on plant milks as an important part of your diet—if you’re a vegan or avoiding all dairy—choose one that’s nutrient-rich and fortified to provide you with a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D,” she says. Ideally, that means it meets 20 percent or more of the daily value. And not all almond milks fit this criteria, so read the label carefully to make sure you’re making the best choice.

Once the nutrition is on point, go by taste and texture to find the best almond milk for you. Here are four that fit the bill:

Unsweet Almondmilk Silk silk.com $3.38

It’s a rich source of calcium and vitamins D and E; the hint-of-vanilla gives it a flavor perfect for smoothies and other sweet recipes.

Almond Breeze Dairy Free Almondmilk Blue Diamond Almonds amazon.com $23.88

Lydon likes the smooth, creamy texture, but the RD in her appreciates that it’s a good source of vitamin A and an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin E.

Organic Plant Based Protein Almond Milk Orgain amazon.com $33.48

What stands out about this one is that it’s fortified with organic pea protein. The calories are higher (80 per cup), but it has 10 g of protein, which is more than a cup of milk, plus 2 g of fiber.

Unsweetened Almondmilk Non-Dairy Beverage Simply Balanced target.com $1.79

Gets the job done with calcium and vitamin D, and the taste is on point.

How is almond milk made, exactly?

If you want a fun DIY project, try whipping up almond milk in your own kitchen. (Insta Stories this, please.)

Start by grabbing a cup of raw almonds, and place them in five cups of cool water. Then “soak the almonds overnight—or up to two days if you want it creamier,” says Lydon.

Next up, blend the almonds and water, then strain the whole mixture with a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve, she says. (You’ll really want to put your muscles to use to squeeze out all the liquid to get the most you can out of the nuts.) After, sweeten or flavor as desired. “It’s a really delicious outcome if you’re willing and able to put in the extra time,” she says.

Your fresh almond milk will keep for a couple of days—not nearly as long as the store-bought variety, which generally stays good for a couple of weeks.

That’s the general how-to—for an exact recipe, Minimalist Baker’s Almond Milk is always amazing:

(Plus, she gives instructions for unsweetened/sweetened, vanilla, chocolate, and berry versions. Yum.)

One thing to keep in mind, the almond milk won’t contain vitamin D or calcium—since you’re not going to fortify your home concoction—so just make sure you’re getting these nutrients in other places in your diet.

Almond milk is super versatile—try these recipes for proof.

“Anything you would use cow’s milk for in a recipe, you can substitute with unsweetened almond milk,” says Lydon. Go beyond almond milk in your cereal and coffee with these three recipes:

FitFoodieFinds

Almond Butter Banana Bread Muffins

Dairy-free baking made easy. These healthy almond muffins combine almond butter, almond milk, and whole-wheat flour for a healthy breakfast bite or afternoon snack.

Get the recipe

Per serving (1 muffin): 196 calories, 9 g fat, 12 g sugar, 24 g carbs, 3 fiber, 5 g protein

Minimalist Baker

Vegan + Gluten-Free Mac-N-Cheese

It turns out super creamy, dreamy—and cheesy (but it’s dairy-free). Genius. This will be your new go-to when you’re craving some comfort food, sans diary.

Get the recipe

Per serving: 523 calories, 23.2 g fat (3.7 g saturated), 316 mg sodium, 67 g carbs, 8.6 g fiber, 1.9 g sugar, 13.5 g protein

Ambitious Kitchen

Almond Butter, Strawberry & Banana Overnight Oats with Chia

Honestly, everyone needs a good overnight oats recipe in their life. This recipe checks that box. Bursting with nutritious chia seeds, almond butter, and plenty of fruit—this one’s a breakfast superstar.

Get the recipe

Per serving (one jar): 410 calories, 15.6 g fat (1 g saturated), 56 g carbs, 14.9 g sugar, 12.2 g fiber, 18.2 g protein

“Fake milk”: why the dairy industry is boiling over plant-based milks

“An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess,” declared Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb this summer at a Politico summit.

This droll observation was music to the ears of the $35.5 billion US cattle milk industry, which lately has been challenging the $1.6 billion plant-based milk industry’s right to use the word “milk.” Gottlieb seems to be sympathetic: His agency has proposed enforcing its own labeling rules for milk, which could prevent producers of almond milk and oat milk from continuing to use the term.

But plant milk producers scored a key victory on Thursday. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that calling almond milk “milk” is not deceptive, upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit called Painter v. Blue Diamond Growers.

“Painter’s complaint does not plausibly allege that a reasonable consumer would be deceived into believing that Blue Diamond’s almond milk products are nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk based on their package labels and advertising,” according to the opinion.

At stake are what the FDA calls “standards of identity,” legally binding definitions of products to ensure consumers know what they are getting. In March, the FDA launched a strategy to update these standards “in light of marketing trends and the latest nutritional science.”

Milk has a complicated, jargon-filled standard of identity, but in short, the FDA says it is “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.”

The dairy industry has complained for almost 20 years that the FDA hasn’t policed this definition as products made from soy, almonds, cashews, rice, hemp, and oats have filled shelves in the dairy aisle. In particular, dairy producers argue that plant-based milk producers are playing “fast and loose using standardized dairy terms” and that it’s unfair for them to do so because plant-based products don’t have the same nutritional profile or taste but nonetheless take advantage of the milk “brand.”

The dairy industry is now seizing this opportunity to sway a new FDA commissioner and a potentially friendly White House.

However, plant milk producers say the rules amount to protectionism. Enforcing labeling requirements would also yield little benefit to ailing dairy farmers while adding more confusing labeling demands. There’s also little evidence that dairy alternatives are taking away market share from dairy milk since they have different core markets.

The fight over what to call white opaque beverages that don’t come from an animal also has implications for other plant-derived versions of animal products. Lab-grown meat is already facing its own naming controversies.

What’s clear is that any forthcoming federal action could bring some changes to the fortunes of food companies, animal or otherwise, as they gain or lose customers who respond to what’s on the label. But these shifts will be swamped in the Trump administration’s trade war, which will cascade throughout the entire US agriculture sector and portends bigger losses than any label can fix.

The milk-naming fight has been bubbling for years

Since nuts don’t have nipples, the FDA is well within its existing authority to deny the term “milk” to plant-derived products, according to farmers, who have been petitioning for this since 1997.

But the agency has not sent out any cease-and-desist notices to companies that use “milk” to describe beverages made from soy and other plants. Lawmakers have tried to force the FDA’s hand. In 2017, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the DAIRY PRIDE Act (Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act), which would compel the FDA to enforce its milk standard of identity.

At the same time, the dairy sector has been facing mounting financial pressure. Milk producers have been losing ground in the United States while plant-based milk products have rapidly gained popularity. By 2016, plant-based milks had made it into one-third of US households, according to surveys.

What is milk, really? The dairy industry says there’s nothing like it.

Milk, according to food chemists, is a liquid combination of fat, protein, enzymes, vitamins, and sugar produced by mammals to nourish their offspring.

For dietary, ethical, or other reasons, many people don’t want to drink milk that comes from animals. But plant-derived milk products have different nutritional profiles and tastes. For example, vitamin B12, which is required for brain function and is found in cow’s milk, is not found in plants.

The dairy industry says no plant-based alternatives match the nutrition and taste of cow’s milk.

In a study published last year in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, researchers reported that no plant-based milk product matches the nutrients provided by cow’s milk, but noted that soy milk was the most balanced in terms of nutrition. Other scientists have counseled caution in swapping cow’s milk for plant-based milk, particularly for children.

“Nondairy milk beverages vary in their nutritional profiles,” according to a 2017 paper in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. “These should not be considered nutritional substitutes for cow’s milk until nutrient quality and bioavailability are established.”

This is the crux of the milk industry’s argument for stricter labeling rules; consumers aren’t necessarily confused about where plant milk comes from, but the term “milk” evokes a nutritional profile that these milk alternatives don’t meet.

“When these products are properly labeled, they are not a substitute one-to-one for milk,” said Christopher Galen, a spokesperson for the National Milk Producers Federation.

The relevant analogy here is margarine, according to Galen. Though it imitates butter, it’s made from vegetable oil. That means it has a different variety and ratio of fats and proteins, so it can’t replace butter in some recipes. As a result, margarine makers can’t call it “butter” (though some manufacturers have found creative loopholes).

Peanut butter, on the other hand, isn’t pretending to be something else, so it gets away with using that name. It also has its own standard of identity.

Milk producers say all they want is for the FDA to enforce the rules on the books so products made with soy, oats, or almonds can’t use the term as a descriptor on their packaging. Other countries already bar plant-based beverages from calling themselves milk (Muscle Milk is called Muscle Mlk in Canada).

Why now? Galen said the appointment of Gottlieb as FDA director gave the industry an opportunity to revisit the issue. The number of milk-alternative products on the market has also vastly grown: Nondairy milk sales have soared by 61 percent in the past five years. And the prospect of lab-grown meat has added a sense of urgency for getting definitions right.

“Our organization has increased pressure on the FDA,” Galen said. “There’s so many more of these fake milks out there than there were 20 years ago.”

The plant milk industry’s case for using the “milk” label

Jessica Almy, the director of policy at the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that promotes clean meat and plant-based alternatives to animal products, looks at it differently. She said that the standard of identity as written only applies to the unadorned word “milk.” Modifiers like “chocolate milk” have been allowed by the FDA. Barring plant products from using the term would prejudice regulators against one industry in favor of another, and it would violate the First Amendment.

“It wouldn’t be a change in enforcement,” she said. “It would be a dramatic shift in policy for the FDA.”

Not pictured: a cow.

The milk standard of identity refers specifically to “healthy cows” as the source, so milk from goats or sheep would not meet the definition of “milk” if the standard were enforced, according to Almy.

Animal-based milk products also have a variety of nutritional profiles depending on their fat content and whether they’ve been fortified with vitamins. So the criticism that plant-based milk products have different amounts of nutrients also applies to variations of dairy milk.

Should the rules be enforced, they would require manufacturers to relabel their products with names like “oat drink,” “soy beverage,” and “almond-based dairy alternative.” Almy said this would likely confuse grocery shoppers for a while, but sales of plant-based milk products would still continue to grow.

Trump’s trade war is simmering underneath this debate

The dairy industry as a whole has been languishing in recent years. Demand for fluid milk in the United States has fallen by almost half since the 1970s and is projected to fall further. Dairy cattle herds are shrinking. Milk prices are falling. The country has a 1.39 billion-pound cheese surplus.

“Dairy farmers are feeling pretty beat up,” said Andrew Novakovic, a dairy markets and policy researcher at Cornell University. “The last three years have been pretty unkind to dairy.”

On top of all this, the Trump administration is waging a trade war as the dairy industry is desperately trying to secure foreign customers. About 10 to 15 percent of the US milk supply is sold abroad, including products like cheese and butter, and it remains one of the fastest-growing market sectors for dairy. Retaliatory tariffs from other countries could slice through these sales. “Doing anything that damages that relationship is going exactly in the wrong direction,” Novakovic said.

Though Trump has proposed tariffs on Canadian milk, the US dairy industry will only receive a small slice of the $12 billion aid package for farmers hurt by the administration’s trade policies, a total of $127 million.

There’s a lot of money at stake in the fight over defining milk.

But plant products are also going to be a casualty in the trade war. “Most agricultural analysts would agree that the agriculture sector that would be hit the hardest is soybeans,” Novakovic said. China is the largest export customer for US soy, including products like soy milk.

So both sides of the milk labeling fight are bracing for losses, but it’s unlikely that a decision in either direction from the FDA will make much of a difference to their balance sheets.

Still, Lindsay Moyer, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Vox there is an important consumer protection issue at play: People still aren’t clear what all these beverages contain and what they mean for health. “The agency should prioritize public health and not the competitive or market concerns of any industry,” she said.

Rather than policing the term milk, Moyer said her group advocates nutrition disclosures that show what plant-based milk products contain and what they lack relative to milk. The goal is to help people understand how these beverages can fit into their diets and where they might fall short.

How Many Almonds In Almond Milk? Perhaps Just 2%

Ironically, it was easier to find a good vegan milk a decade ago than it is today.

That seems counter intuitive, given the plethora of brands on the market today. But with increased demand has come increasingly creative ways of how to make it. Not for better, but for worse.

Then there was the California drought.

You probably have noticed the smaller, more shriveled up almonds for sale during the past few years. California is responsible for virtually all U.S. production of not just this nut, but also walnuts and pistachios (1). The lower crop yields caused by the drought mean less supply and inevitably, higher costs for milk manufacturers.

And let’s not forget China.

How Trump would probably describe it is that “China is ripping off America!”

The Chinese are totally obsessed with this nut and their burgeoning middle class means there are more buyers there than ever before. China does not have the Mediterranean climate necessary for growing them, which means this is one thing they actually have to import.

Perhaps these factors are why it’s so hard to buy organic almond milk nowadays. Silk Organic Original flavor is “available exclusively at Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s” according to Silk’s website. Maybe the limited supply is why it’s only being sold at a few places?

New Barn Organic is sold at Whole Foods. It will also cost your whole paycheck, if you plan on using it daily for cereal and everything else. With only 28 fluid ounces inside, charging the $6 price tag for New Barn should qualify as price gouging. Trump needs to stop them from ripping us off, too!

Califia Farms is not organic, yet it still costs a fortune. They do tout being non GMO, but then again this is not a crop which has really been genetically tinkered with. At least when it comes to the mature trees which currently produce the crop.

Trader Joe’s does not sell an organic version, at least under their own label. Whole Foods 365 brand and the shelf stable Pacific Foods cartons seem to be the most affordable options if you insist on USDA certified organic.

Whether you’re talking organic or non-organic, a decade ago when you bought almond milk, it seems there was a higher likelihood that the actual nut was the first ingredient listed after water.

How much almond is actually in almond milk? Most manufacturers refuse to answer that question. But from their ingredient labels we do know they are using thickening agents like carrageenan and guar gum, along with emulsifiers like lecithin, which may help disguise how few nuts they’re actually using.

Watch out for carrageenan in other plant-based replacements. Most vegan marshmallows use it.

What is carrageenan? A red seaweed extract which has become quite controversial due to the growing body of research suggesting it might cause gastrointestinal inflammation and other nasty side effects (2) (3) (5). Those with Crohn’s, IBS, and other autoimmune GI diseases are particularly pissed about its usage, and understandably so.

Guar gum comes from what is known as the Indian cluster. It actually looks a lot like an American string bean, except it’s probably coming from a distant land – India and Pakistan grow over 80% of the world crop. Some studies have reported increased gas and bloating from guar gum, but it took large amounts to cause it (6).

Lecithin is a fat which can be animal or plant derived. The latter form is used for these milk alternatives. You often see it coming from sunflower oil in order to make the milk soy free. Lecithin is one of the most common food additives and using it as an emulsifying agent is fine, so long as it’s not for the purpose of emulsifying (equally dispersing) a bunch of filler ingredients within the carton.

Ingredients in almond vs. soy milk

Soybeans are cheap and plentiful, so in soy milk, you will probably see them as the first thing listed after water. Thickeners like gellan gum are often much further down on the ingredients. Though part of that is because less is needed, since soy can have a naturally creamy texture on its own.

Here’s a look at the Silk Original Soymilk…

Compare that to Silk Original Almondmilk…

INGREDIENTS: Almondmilk (Filtered Water, Almonds), Cane Sugar, Contains 2% or less of: Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2), Sea Salt, Sunflower Lecithin, Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum.

Bold emphasis added by us, to point out the differences for the main ingredients (excluding the added vitamins and minerals).

The soymilk just has gellan gum listed dead last, while the almond milk has sunflower lecithin, locust bean gum AND gellan gum.

Switching to soy may seem like the better, or at least easier, option for minimizing your consumption of fillers like guar gum. Given that its such a potent estrogen food (as in, phytoestrogen), drinking too much soy may not be the best idea. Especially for men.

Is carrageenan-free really better?

Finding almond milk without carrageenan and guar gum is now easier. Thanks to backlash from consumers, the big brands like Silk (owned by WhiteWave Foods), Almond Dream, and So Delicious have gone carrageenan free or are in the process of doing so.

Does that mean their nut milk is using more nuts to replace them? Fat chance.

This label for Blue Diamond’s Almond Dream unsweetened vanilla shows it has no guar gum or carrageenan in it.

Other thickening agents have showed up on ingredient labels such as xantham gum, gellan gum, locust bean gum, and acacia gum.

True, some milk brands used them before, but now you’re seeing them more often. Sometimes, multiple ones listed in a given product.

Now in defense of the manufacturers, even the best tasting almond milk brands will need to make use of at least some sort of emulsifying agent and probably a little thickener. Otherwise, it would taste like water with ground powder in it.

Cashew milk is naturally more creamy, but that’s not the case with most other nuts. Since cashew allergies are more common, we would not want that to become the de facto vegan milk.

Lawsuit alleges just 2% almonds

Some people have alleged there are no almonds in almond milk but that’s false. Yes, there are some products like Ripple which don’t use any, but they’re not claiming to. If you see the name of that nut on the package, it’s going to contain at least some.

But how much almond (or hemp, flax, etc.) is really in a given milk which goes by that name?

The vast majority of manufacturers are reluctant to provide such data, citing it’s a proprietary trade secret.

Albert, et al. v. Blue Diamond Growers, Case No. 1:15-cv-04087, was a class action lawsuit filed in 2015. Based on the plaintiff’s analysis, it was alleged that almond milk only contained 2% almonds.

If true, that means a half-gallon carton sold in the refrigerated section at your grocery store might only contain around 30 almonds inside. In addition to Blue Diamond, WhiteWave is a defendant in this lawsuit.

As far as the lawsuit’s status, a US district judge in New York dismissed the injunctive relief, because those who filed the suit already admitted they stopped buying the products in 2015 and therefore, “have suffered the same exact injury that unsuspecting consumers and proposed class members are now suffering.” (7)

However under NY and CA consumer claims Rule 12(b)(6), the almond milk class action lawsuit is still ongoing.

In June 2016, Blue Diamond Growers asked for a stay since it agreed to a nationwide settlement over the accusations. Stay tuned for what happens next.

The top image is the label Trader Joe’s used on this bestselling product for many years. They quietly changed it from milk to beverage.

Sometime after this lawsuit got underway, Trader Joe’s changed the name of their refrigerated almond milk to what they now call an almond beverage.

Is the timing and name change just a coincidence? You be the judge.

Seems like a smart move for Trader Joe’s as well as other manufacturers. Perhaps we still start to see that term used more often.

Now to be clear, no one knows for sure how many almonds are in Silk almond milk, or Blue Diamond, or So Delicious. Not even the more expensive brands like Califia Farms or New Barn disclose that data. Even today, there is still not proof of exactly what percentage of these products is the namesake ingredient.

What we do know for sure though is how much is used in Europe.

A vegan milk that tastes like milk according to reviews, Belgium-based Alpro, is considered a high quality brand.

In their version, the nut is the first thing in the ingredients after water. That’s not always the case with some milk substitutes. They openly disclose the percentage of almonds used:

Based on that, it does seem like there is a good chance that American brands would have a comparable percentage as Alpro, right?

If they are using around 2% almonds, maybe that is too low. But you probably wouldn’t want much more than that, either.

What percentage is ideal?

Now just like how cow milk is naturally around 85% water content, you wouldn’t want your plant based milks to have too many nuts, seeds, or coconut in it. Since one ounce of dried almonds is 160 calories, if the concentration was 10% in your milk, that would mean 128 calories per 8 ounce glass.

Keep in mind that’s 128 calories before any sweetener or emulsifier is added. As mentioned, for these to taste like milk instead of grainy water, you really do need some. Even if you sweeten with zero calorie monk fruit, there would still be some added calories coming from thickeners.

For weight loss or management, you probably want an unsweetened milk which is no more than 50 to 70 calories per 8 ounce glass. That would mean a max of 3.9% to 5.5% concentration of almonds, if you were using that one ingredient plus water with absolutely nothing else added.

But you probably need at least some guar gum, xantham gum, acacia gum, or other thickener to make its texture taste like cow milk. The question is, what’s the lowest amount needed to accomplish that smoothness?

Even if the bare minimum amount of thickening agents and emulsifier were used, the optimal concentration of almonds used would still likely be a percentage in the low to mid single digits. Anything more than 3% to 5% would likely be too many calories per cup, based on the growing trend among consumers for low calorie unsweetened almond milks.

In a nutshell – no pun intended – even if 2% really is being used, it probably is not that far off from how much you would want anyway.

This is a catch-22 because as you reduce the calories, you’re also reducing the protein, calcium, and other beneficial nutrients.

It is true that almonds a good source of calcium relative to other nuts, but you would have to eat 576 calories worth (100 grams) to get 26% of your daily value.

For seniors, those with osteoporosis, or other bone health concerns, that’s a drawback. That’s why the best plant based milk is fortified. Silk adds calcium carbonate. Almond Breeze adds that and potassium citrate, a supplement which has been found to improve calcium balance in the body (8).

If you look at the nutrition facts labeling, you will see most brands – both big and small – will add calcium.

As far as calories, if you compare this nut to cashews, pistachios, and peanuts, the difference is less than 4% among them.

Since almonds are one of the highest protein nuts, the math for protein content would also be similar to those just mentioned.

Walnut milk is new. A couple niche regional brands make pecan milk. Those two have a calorie count which is around 20% higher than the aforementioned.

The math with hemp and flax is comparable, too.

In short, any viable nut or seed is high calorie and high fat. So you can’t get around this conundrum by switching the type used.

Something like a 25% or 30% concentration would likely make you fat or gain weight, if you were using it daily for cereal, shakes, or anything else that’s more than a splash in your coffee.

Whether you’re a dieter, bodybuilder, or just an average woman or man, perhaps the best option is not a 100% pure single ingredient beverage. Rather, it’s the right type of blend which balances nutritional content with how many calories you’re consuming in the process.

The ideal solution is a plant based milk which contains higher amounts of the good stuff (nuts), lower amounts of the bad or nutritionally useless stuff (i.e. fillers and emulsifiers), along with some added calcium and plant-based protein (such as pea or rice).

Using plant-based proteins may actually kill two birds with one stone… replacing fillers with something of actual nutritional value.

Our favorite brand?

With all of the brands mentioned in the article, when it comes to their ingredients, we actually think folks might be beating them up too much.

Are their products perfect? Nope.

But name one processed food – any food – sold at the grocery store which is not influenced by ingredient cost and availability. We see lots of corners cut with even the expensive superfood snacks you only find at Whole Foods and haute health grocers.

Rather than put them through the ringer, we think they’re doing far more good than bad. They’re making dairy free milk replacements mainstream and affordable.

Whether you buy them due to animal welfare concerns, or for your own health reasons – like the fact they all have zero cholesterol since they’re made using plants – there is plenty of good coming from this trend.

In fact, our biggest complaint about the brands mentioned is actually their sodium content. Remember, the most controversial filler, carrageenan, has already disappeared from most of these products. There is far more evidence to suggest adverse health effects from consuming too much salt than there is for a thickener like guar gum.

Sadly, low sodium plant based milks don’t really exist, at least in the mainstream.

If you think the solution to that problem is to go back to dairy milk, think again. According to the USDA National Nutrient database, one cup (an 8 ounce serving) of cow milk naturally contains 107 mg of sodium. The best plant based milks will have somewhere between 90 to 170 mg.

When it comes to salt, both animal and plant-based are less than ideal.

With all the pros and cons considered, currently our favorite brand is Orgain. They make an unsweetened vanilla organic almond milk which is rich in protein (a whopping 10 grams per serving) and only 80 calories. Since its shelf stable, you can buy it on Amazon.

Finding it at a brick and mortar grocery store is tough. In Los Angeles, we have only seen the ready-to-drink Orgain protein shakes for sale most places. The milk is hard to come by.

What is almond milk?

Almond milk is essentially a liquid made from blended almonds. The almonds are soaked overnight in water to soften them before being blended and strained to make a milk alternative. Salt and/or sweeteners, such as honey, can then also be added.

You can make almond milk yourself at home, or you can buy it from most supermarkets and health food shops. However, store-bought almond milks tend to be made with more water and rice milk, so can be more diluted than what you could make at home.

Nutritional profile

Nutritionally, store-bought almond milk is a low-calorie product with just 56 calories per 100ml. It’s typically low in fat, with just 1.5g per 100g – all of which is largely unsaturated fat. And, it’s also low in fibre and protein as a result of the straining method, with less than 0.5g of each per 100ml. The blending and straining process also increases the carbohydrates, with an average of 10g per 100ml, of which 5g is sugar.

Sweetened varieties of almond milk are even higher in sugar, and those with added salt will naturally have a higher salt content.

Almonds are a good source of vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that helps maintain healthy skin and eyes, as well as supporting the immune system. Almond milk is also a good vegan source of calcium, with around 120mg per 100ml – the recommended daily allowance is 700mg – which is needed to help build strong bones and ensure that our blood clots normally.

Some commercial brands are also fortified with extra vitamins, including vitamin D, which is needed to help regulate calcium in the body and support our immune system. Vitamin B12 is sometimes also added, which is involved in keeping the nervous system healthy.

While there is no nutritional data available on homemade almond milk, it can be assumed that all of the nutrient values should be higher, as the end product will generally contain a higher nut percentage than commercial products, along with less added sugar and salt.

Is almond milk healthier than cow’s milk?

From a purely caloric point of view, almond milk is lower in calories than whole cow’s milk, has the same calories as semi-skimmed cow’s milk, and contains more calories than skimmed cow’s milk.

Both options provide about the same amount of calcium per 100ml (around 120mg), but cow’s milk will not have the addition of vitamin E or vitamin D, both of which are found in almonds or added to the end product. Both cow’s and almond milk contain about the same levels of vitamin B12, so nutritionally, almond milk may be slightly healthier than cow’s milk.

However, if you look at the macronutrients, cow’s milk contains more protein and fat than almond milk and is lower in carbohydrates – so it probably has the slight edge over almond milk. If you tend to buy sweetened almond milk, then cow’s milk is nutritionally preferable.

For those who struggle digesting dairy, are lactose-intolerant, have a cow’s milk allergy or are following a vegan diet, almond milk is a good dairy-free alternative.

What is a healthy portion size of almond milk?

A healthy portion would be around 250ml, enough for cereal or tea and coffee during the day.

Like cow’s milk, you can use almond milk in any recipe that requires milk as an ingredient, and it works well as a dairy-free alternative.

Is almond milk suitable for everyone?

Almond milk is not suitable for those with a nut allergy, and it should be avoided if you have one.

For children, cow’s milk is a good source of important nutrients, and it’s recommended that you speak to your GP before swapping to almond milk – especially as you’ll need to rule out any potential nut allergies in young children.

How to buy the best almond milk

Making your own almond milk is always best if you have the time, but if you’re buying a commercial variety, look for unsweetened almond milks. Check the ingredients list too, as many brands use rice milk as a base, which means lower almond – and therefore micronutrient – content.

Try making your own almond milk with our recipe.

More health benefits guides

The health benefits of coconut milk
The health benefits of almonds
The health benefits of walnuts
The health benefits of kefir

This article was published on 18 June 2019.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

There’s no denying it: Americans are ditching dairy “products.” By now, you’ve surely heard that the demand for dairy milk has tanked as consumers switch to vegan drinks such as soy, coconut, and almond milk in droves. This shift has led many to wonder about the benefits—and the costs—of swapping your cows’ milk habit for an almond milk fix. Maybe you’ve heard rumors about water use, or maybe you’re concerned about added ingredients. Well, we’re here to give you the facts and persuade you to stop drinking cows’ milk today!

Here are some reasons why almond milk is better than cow’s milk:

1. You can make your own almond milk at home without exploiting or violating anyone.

Female cows produce milk in order to feed their babies. In the dairy industry, they’re forcibly impregnated in order to start the lactation process. When their babies are born, the milk they long to feed their young is instead taken for human consumption. Many male calves are torn from their mothers’ sides shortly after birth, locked in a veal crate, and killed before their first birthday. Mother cows cry out in anguish when their babies are taken from them. This video shows one mother chasing after her calf as he or she is being carted away. After a brief recovery period, the cows are raped again and the process starts all over. When their bodies give out, they’re chopped into pieces and sold as dog food.

If you wouldn’t violate a cow with a sperm gun yourself, then leave her milk for her babies and try this simple recipe to make your own almond milk instead.

2. Almonds don’t poop.

Cows eat a lot of food. As a result, they produce a lot of solid waste—and it’s really bad for the environment. Animals on farms, including those in the dairy industry, produce 1.65 billion tons of manure each year. Since there are no processing plants for animal sewage, some of that waste is stored in “lagoons” (here’s a nightmare-inducing story about two men who drowned in manure lagoons), and some of it ends up in our waterways and drinking water. Cows also produce about 150 billion gallons of methane per day. Methane is 25 to 100 times more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2.

Almonds eat sunshine, and they don’t poop.

3. Worried about water? Drinking cow’s milk won’t make you a saint.

Did you know that it can take more than 600 gallons of water to produce a single gallon of cow’s milk? A single cow used for her milk on an industrial feed lot can consume up to 100 gallons of water a day, and on any given day, there are more than 9 million cows on U.S. dairy farms. What’s more, alfalfa hay grown specifically to be used as animal feed requires an estimated additional 1.6 trillion gallons of water a year. An estimated 55 percent of the country’s freshwater supply goes to raising animals for food.

The other 45 percent doesn’t go to almond farming. We checked. We’re good.

4. Almond milk isn’t full of hormones.

To make them produce more milk than they would naturally, cows may be dosed with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which puts them at increased risk of developing mastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder. Even cows who aren’t given rBGH still produce hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which come out in their milk.

Almonds don’t have udders, and there are no hormones or antibiotics in almond milk. Instead, almond beverages are often fortified with vitamins and minerals or flavored to taste like vanilla. Drink up.

5. Sixty-five percent of adults worldwide are believed to be lactose-intolerant.

An estimated 90 percent of Asian-Americans and 75 percent of Native and African-Americans suffer from the condition, which can cause bloating, gas, cramps, vomiting, headaches, rashes, and asthma. But it’s not just adults: Cow’s milk is the number one food allergen among infants and children.

6. Many adult, nonhuman animals eat plants—none drinks breast milk.

Apart from humans, no species drinks milk beyond the natural age of weaning or drinks the milk of another species. Cow’s milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months, sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds before they turn 2 years old.

No one should have to suffer in order for us to have milk. Plus, humans have been drinking almond milk for centuries—in fact, it’s believed to be the first plant-based milk developed by humans, predating soy milk by some 200 years.

If you’re ready to join the dairy-free revolution, get started now:

  • Order a free vegan starter kit.
  • Check out this “Guide to Plant-Based Milk” to learn what to look for at the grocery store.
  • Browse thousands of dairy-free recipes right here on PETA.org.
  • Sign up for a vegan mentor if you need one-on-one guidance from a seasoned pro.

For cows, for your personal health, and for the planet, please ditch dairy milk today!

Almonds in almond milk

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