It seems that almond milk is where soy milk was 8-10 years ago: available in supermarkets and most cafes and requested by customers who don’t do dairy. It’s also being used as a base for plant-based fermented products (e.g. yoghurt, kefir), ice cream, etc.
Interest in almond milk worldwide has been increasing over the past 10 years, especially in the past 7 years or so. In comparison, interest in soy milk has remain steady worldwide and increased only slightly in Australia over the same time period.
What is almond milk?
No, it’s not the white fluid that comes out of tiny almond udders. In its basic form, it is water and almonds blended together and strained. It’s interesting to note that the Australian Nutrient Database defines almond milk as “a dairy milk substitute made from filtered water, almonds, agave syrup, sunflower oil, and salt, with or without added calcium.” (1)
The table below shows the ingredients list for several almond milks available in supermarkets. Notice the following:
- The amount of almonds ranges from 2 to 11% (median 3.65% – not much!)
- Unless the label reads “unsweetened” the product most likely contains added sugar
- Besides added vitamins and minerals, some products include a number of extra ingredients, some of which better than others. Always read labels and don’t let buzz words mislead you.
|Almo Milk Unsweetened||Filtered water, 5% Australian grown almonds, calcium, non GM xanthan, sea salt|
|Almond Breeze Original||Filtered water, raw sugar, ground whole almonds (2%), calcium carbonate (ground limestone), tapioca starch, sea salt, carrageenan, sunflower lecithin, natural flavour|
|Almond Breeze Unsweetened||Filtered water, ground whole almonds (2%), calcium carbonate (ground limestone), tapioca starch, sea salt, carrageenan, sunflower lecithin, natural flavour|
|Australia’s Own Organic Almond Milk||Filtered Australian water, organic almonds (3%), organic agave syrup, organic sunflower oil, salt|
|Australia’s Own Unsweetened Organic Almond Milk||Filtered Australian water, organic almonds (3%), organic sunflower oil, salt|
|Community Co Unsweetened Almond Milk||Water, ground almonds (2.5%), natural flavour, stabilisers (460, 466, 418, 415), mineral salt (170), salt, emulsifier (322) (sunflower)|
|Inside Out Original Almond Milk||Filtered water, activated almonds (11%), Natvia™, vegetable gum (gellan), sea salt|
|Inside Out Unsweetened Almond Milk||Filtered water, activated almonds (11%), vegetable gum (gellan), sea salt|
|MILKLAB Almond Milk||Australian water, almonds (3.5%), sugar, sunflower oil, maltodextrin (from corn), acidity regulators (340, 332), vegetable gums (407, 410, 401, 412), sunflower lecithin, sea salt|
|Nutty Bruce Activated Almond Milk||Filtered water (84.5%), activated organic almonds (10%), organic rice syrup, sea salt|
|Pure Harvest Activated Almond Milk Original||Filtered water, organic activated almonds (10%), organic rice syrup, sea salt|
|Pure Harvest Activated Almond Milk Unsweetened||Filtered water, organic activated almonds (7%), organic brown rice, sea salt, natural almond essence|
|So Good™ Almond Milk Unsweetened||Filtered water, almonds (2.5%), mineral (calcium), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), natural flavour, salt, mineral salt (sodium bicarbonate), vegetable gum (gellan), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins (B12, B2, B1)|
|Vitasoy Almond Milk Unsweetened||Filtered water, whole almonds (min 3.8%), mineral (calcium phosphate), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), sea salt, natural flavour, vegetable gum (gellan).|
Is almond milk a good substitute for cow milk?
Depends! In culinary terms, some almond milks work well in place of cow milk in your morning coffee and to make anything from panna cotta to bechamel sauce.
Nutrition-wise, however, the composition of almond milk is quite different to that of cow milk. On average, cow milk is significantly higher calcium, energy, folate, iodine, phosphorus, vitamin A, potassium, tryptophan. It is also higher in naturally occurring trans fatty acids and cholesterol, although the levels are not concerning. Finally, cow milk is lower in sodium than almond milk. See chart below for a comparison per 100ml based on average values (1).
If you can’t or choose not to do dairy, please make sure you are obtaining the missing nutrients from other sources.
Which almond milk is better?
See the charts below for a comparison per 100ml of energy, protein, carbohydrate, fat, sugar, fibre, calcium and vitamin E between the different products. Use them to help you select a product based on your needs or preferences (i.e. low fat, low carb, low sugar, etc.). My recommendation is to choose based on ingredients list first (the shorter and more natural, the better), sugar content second, calcium content third (prioritise this if you’re not getting enough calcium from other sources).
If you can make your own, this is even better. Just keep in mind that it will go off after 2-3 days.
1. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2014). AUSNUT 2011–13 – Australian Food Composition Database. Canberra: FSANZ. Available at www.foodstandards.gov.au