In response to a question someone posed about my recent blog regarding high protein breakfasts I write this post about almond milk. What the heck, let me give a shout out to that someone—Phil Higginbotham! Phil’s an old high school classmate with whom I lost touch but like many others reconnected through Facebook. Gotta love Facebook.
Phil wanted to know what the big push was with almond milk. I actually had a few sentences in the first draft of my high protein breakfast post, but took it out because the post was getting too long. None of my breakfast suggestions by the way contained almond milk. Now I can devote a whole blog as to why.
I used to drink almond milk…
Many years ago I drank almond milk because it was such a calorie bargain at 40 calories per one cup serving (8 oz) versus 80-90 cal for regular or soy milk. This was way before my love affair with dairy milk started. Quite honestly I didn’t like it all that much but used it on cereal so it masked the flavor. To tolerate the flavor I used the vanilla flavored which of course added calories, albeit not too many. (Note: this is long before the many varieties you see on shelves today.)
Then I started paying attention to the protein in my diet—especially the amount I was getting in the morning and it was absurdly low. Almond milk was not helping. At 1 gram of protein per 8 ounces, that’s pathetic. There are 8 grams for dairy milk and 6-8g for soy (depending on the brand).
I’m not bashing almond milk (I even have post how to make your own!), but if you’re drinking it thinking you’re getting a good dose of protein, think again. Look at your label. Furthermore, to make it more palatable, there are added sugars in the sweetened varieties. Yes if you compare labels you’ll see more sugar in dairy milk, however, that sugar is naturally occurring as lactose—milk sugar. Big difference between cane sugar and lactose.
Reasons to drink almond milk
If you’re getting adequate protein, are lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply like the taste, drink away! However, if avoiding dairy because someone said you shouldn’t, I ask, why? Are they qualified to speak on nutrition? What are their credentials? What makes them the nutrition expert? Did they read it in a book somewhere? Or because it’s trendy not to do dairy? Because humans are the only species that consume another’s milk? Phooey. We’re also the only species that does all sorts of things other species don’t do, like invent electricity, build highways, computers and technology beyond my wildest comprehension.
Note: I have no affiliation with the dairy industry. I simply like milk. No, I love milk! It’s one of my favorite sources of protein. And I’ll tell you a secret—I even drink it straight from the carton.
Now, Bonnie Zahn-Phillips, give me some time to answer your question about soy milk. Short answer: Yes I recommend it.
Yes! I drink almond milk because I am casein intolerant. I love and miss real dairy milk very much. I use the almond milk for smoothies so the taste really doesn’t matter but I so much miss real milk and the nutrients it provides. Almond milk is not a dairy replacement or even alternative as far as I’m concerned because it does not supply the same nutrients as dairy milk. Thank you for writing this post!
Thank YOU for responding to it Sharon! And thanks for letting me know why you drink it – totally understand your reasoning. But would sure be a bummer if I couldn’t drink the real deal!
I’ve become lactose intolerant as I’ve gotten older so I drink almond milk though sometimes I’ll get soy milk for the extra protein. It IS a bummer to not get to drink real milk. I miss it so much, especially in coffee!
Oh…I feel your pain! I occasionally think what if I could NOT tolerate dairy. I would not be happy. Have you considered the lactose-free milks like Lactaid? Also there is a brand…Fairlife that is lactose-free (and higher protein!) It’s not cheap, but may be a consideration.
Thanks for that update. Can’t believe protein content is so low! It wasn’t bad when I first tasted it, but I love “real milk” much more.
I don’t think a lot of people realize that Phil – how low protein is. Thanks for your comment!
Thanks, you helped me rescue a friend from a strange fad diet(4 grams of protien a day and falling asleep behind wheel) saving the poor dog however from vegan dogfood, could use a little help. Pretty sure the itchy skin is a lack of fats in the dogs diet. I’m not a nutritionist, but I do believe my chemistry books. Anywho, I would like to subscribe. Also could use help for the dogs mock mange -Kris
What about the hormones, antibiotics and steroids found in milk? Would you recommend raw milk from grass-fed cows?
Hi Shari, thanks for asking. Milk (pasteurized – no I would not recommend raw) is one of the safest and most nutrient-rich foods. It’s extensively tested from the farm to shelf to ensure milk you buy is wholesome and safe. In fact, every truckload of milk – organic and regular – is tested for commonly used antibiotics when it arrives at a plant. Any milk that tests positive is rejected.
The U.S. milk industry conducts nearly 4 million tests each year on milk entering dairy plants. The FDA and other leading health organizations have concluded that there is no significant difference between the milk from cows that are treated with the supplemental hormone rbST and milk from cows that are not, and the use of rbST does not affect the safety of milk.
I absolutely love dairy milk and would never recommend anything that I think was not safe!
This is a great example why I recommend that everyone subscribe to Neily on Nutrition. Excellent post! Like you, I love me some almonds but when it comes to almond milk (like most plant based “milks”), almond milk doesn’t deliver on the inherent+fortified nutrients found in milk and certainly not on protein. We like to use almond milk for its flavor and as a low cal beverage but will look t other sources to supply protein in our smoothies or other recipes where we use almond milk. I am also glad that you brought visibility to the safety of dairy – so much misinformation out there! We need you, Neily!! Thank you for being an excellent source of truth!
Thank you Dave Grotto – YOU are my favorite guyatitian!
almond milk doesn’t deliver the nutrients found in milk? really? i wholeheartedly disagree. clearly the opposite is true. the almond milk i drink has more calcium and vitamin d, along with zero sugar vs the 11g of lactose sugar found in milk, which helps me reduce my insulin intake.
a 5 second google search as proof:
Appreciate your comment Bob, but Dave is correct. Dairy milk has ingredients naturally occurring that are not found in almond milk (Which btw is highly manufactured).
Unlike dairy, your almond milk has no B12, choline, folate, B6, niacin, thiamin, selenium, copper, or phosphorous. It is also higher in sodium. You might not drink sweetened almond milk but many people do and where the lactose in dairy is naturally occurring, the sugar is all added in some almond milks.
I’m glad you found an alternative that does not require you to need more insulin but I stand by Dave.
Read scientific studies that after the age of consuming breast milk. The body starts to lose the enzyme to consume lactose. Or i’ll use your reasoning by opinions and not facts: Almost all animals stop drinking milk after a certain age. And what does inventing electricity have to do with biology?
Which would be an issue if you’re lactose intolerant. Most people (in Western society) aren’t.
Nobody invented electricity. It has been around for a long time.
Man discovered it and harvested it.
I was somewhat surprised to read this in favor of cow’s milk, but to each his own. I know it is very hard to change our food habits. I am very happy to have almond and coconut milks available as an alternative to cows milk. I remember when you could only get fat free milk as the lowfat alternative and its still full of sugars. I don’t want excessive dairy, fat, too much animal protein or higher sugar in my diet. I particularly like the unsweetened Almond/Coconut blend. I think there is a lot of information out there about why you don’t need cows milk as an adult, but ‘less is more’ is a good enough reason for me.
Thanks for your comment Lilith. And as you say – to each his own. Yes I AM in favor of cow’s milk and yes cow’s milk is full of sugar because well…that is what milk is, sugar -> lactose. Nothing wrong with that. It is not added sugar found in many of the dairy alternatives. When people look at a label of dairy (‘cow’s) milk and see ‘sugar’ and 11 or 12 grams in a one cup serving, an immediate thought is to think ‘bad.’ Wrong. THAT is bad thinking. I’m glad you choose the unsweetened variety to avoid the added sugar.
Does 1% milk lose its nutrients? Does the brand mattrers? I like oakfarms
No Sonia – the only thing a lower fat milk loses is … fat.
I’m lactose intolerant and I believe more Americans are -than you may think. I am of Northern European descent and find that many especially after a certain age, cannot digest the lactose found in cow’s milk. I prefer to get my protein from other sources. I love unsweetened almond milk. Coconut milk is great, too! Hemp milk anyone? Cashew milk is super creamy! All can be found on local grocery store shelves. Thanks for your forum!
Thanks for your comment Melanie! Since I eat very limited animal products (and they’re the best source of complete protein), dairy is my best and preferred source. Don’t know what I would do if I was lactose intolerant. Hopefully I will continue to be able to digest milk….I feel for you! -Neily
The diabetes Dr at my health provider who prescribes my insulin did ask that I sub in Almond Milk instead of lowfat cow milk in my smoothies because of the extra sugar. I can’t remember the quote but basically the lactose in milk will raise blood sugar levels which is a problem for people with diabetes. I do add protein powder to the smoothies.
All carbohydrates increase glucose Linda and dairy milk has more carbs than almond milk so I understand your doctor. The sugar in milk is lactose but I would not say it is a ‘problem’ for people with diabetes. Everyone is an individual and how their blood glucose responds to certain foods is variable. I would NOT say all people with diabetes need to limit milk. A concern of mine would be someone consuming a 50gram carb bagel with ALMOND milk thinking it’s a better choice than 1/2 that bagel with dairy milk. Thanks for your comment.
A word of caution from the British Medical Journal:
“A higher consumption of milk in women and men is not accompanied by a lower risk of fracture and instead may be associated with a higher rate of death. Consequently, there may be a link between the lactose and galactose content of milk and risk as suggested in our hypothesis, although causality needs be tested using experimental study designs. Our results may question the validity of recommendations to consume high amounts of milk to prevent fragility fractures.3 71 72 The results should, however, be interpreted cautiously given the observational design of our study. The findings merit independent replication before they can be used for dietary recommendations.”
Thanks for your comment and the reference Rex! I’ve added to my library of research articles. As noted however and a limitation of the study when I read it briefly, “The results should, however, be interpreted cautiously given the observational design of our study.” As we know correlation does not equal causation…and as noted, independent replication is needed.
You’re misinformed about almond milk. There are some brands that have 5 grams (Malk, Elmhurst, and more.) Also, you can always boost the protein content by adding a few raw nuts to your cereal.
Thank you for comment Mariel and letting me know about those brands. Those brands were not around at the time I wrote this post. Additionally there are now protein fortified almond milk sources. But I like Malk’s approach since they do not use all the additives usual almond milk does – very simple ingredients and the HPP process giving it the higher protein content. The limitation though is cost and don’t know if people are going to pay…perhaps if a big manufacturer bought them and could bring their cost lower 🙂
And to your point about boosting protein by adding a few nuts…nuts are a wonderful source of fat, not so much protein. Four almonds have 1 gram of protein. On average 1/4 cup of nuts has just 7 grams (and about 200 calories), rather calorie-prohibitive for most people.
Three Trees also makes almond milk with just water and almonds. I think your calorie count is off on the almonds. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that almonds have 20% fewer calories than originally thought. The results found that a one-ounce serving of almonds (about 23 nuts) has 129 calories as opposed to 160 that’s currently listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel. It’s got a decent amount of vitamins (especailly Vit E) as well as some minerals. Better stuff than a protein bar or energy bar or granola type since it’s real food, not a food product.
Protein: 6 grams Fiber: 4 grams Total Fat: 17 grams Saturated Fat: 2.6 grams
Yes I remember the study, even still…using that data they are still not a good source of protein…4 almonds is still only about 1 gram of protein. I stand by my answer.
Furthermore the Almond Board has not changed their info (160 cal per ounce) and likely won’t based on results of one study, 18 people. We’re learning much about the gut and how everyone may absorb and metabolize differing amounts of calories from the food they consume.
I agree it’s a better choice than a protein or energy bar but I don’t advocate for those either. I have a wonderful snack many of my clients love and make bit.ly/neilystrailmix More volume than pure nuts.
Thanks for the info on almond milk. I will be sure to look more closely at the labels. I drink it regularly because I prefer the taste to dairy milk. I have a friend who is a nutritionist who states we should be drinking whole (dairy) milk as opposed to low fat or fat free, arguing that when you remove the fat it is no longer a whole food. I’m vegetarian but not vegan, so I do eat dairy in the form of cheese. To me, there is nothing healthy about the soy-based cheeses. I wonder if you are familiar with The China Study and T. Colin Campbell’s connection between casein and cancer, calling it “the most relevant carcinogen ever identified”. I’ve seen him speak and he makes a compelling argument.
Has anyone read the book “How To Reverse Diabetes (type 2)” by Neil Barnard. Can you please explain the study of 1600+ in a Nurse’s Health Study and those whom continued to consume animal protein resulted in declination of kidney function. Animal protein wreaks havoc on kidneys, animal fat makes it tough for cells to respond appropriately when blood sugar rises, and most all people are lactose intolerant (due to losing certain enzymes after a toddler gets through their weaning stage). And what about the 2 large Harvard studies proving milk drinking men have a significantly higher rate of prostate cancer than those who don’t consume milk, please inform milk drinkers of their risk. The explanation lies in the hormonal effects caused my milk.
Had very bad experience with Almond Milk. Started this March and within a month started to feel shortness of breath and chest tightness. Never thought of linking the two. Rushed to Emergency once unable to breathe. All tests came out fine. Then to lung specialists and cardiologists. No improvement. I was suffering very badly. Lack of sleep made matters worse. Then I read about how Almond Milk can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms matched mine. I immediately stopped consuming it went back to cows milk (lactose free). Within 2 days my breathing improved and started to feel better. I would never touch that chemical loaded concoction called Almond Milk again.
How interesting Jason! I’m sorry you had that experience. Yes I think people have this idea of the healthfulness of products like almond milk – but the reality is additives, etc may have adverse effects. Glad you figured it out! -Neily