(NaturalNews) Almond milk is often used as a substitute for dairy or soy milk because of its unique health benefits. This milk contains no saturated fat, has fewer calories than soy milk and is rich in vitamins, especially vitamin E. However, it is important to read the label, since some almond milks contain a controversial food additive called carrageenan that may be a potential carcinogen... Here are the pros and cons when it comes to almond milk.
Almond milk helps to reduce calorie intake
People like almond milk for its rich nutty taste and also because it is low in calories compared to other milks.
• Whole milk: about 140 calories per cup • 2% fat milk: about 120 calories per cup • Rice milk: about 120 calories per cup • Skim milk: about 80 calories per cup • Soy milk: about 80 calories per cup • Almond milk: about 40 calories per cup • Almond milk (unsweetened): only 30 calories per cup!
Because almond milk is low in fat and calories, it is a great milk substitute for those who would like to lose weight. In addition, sugar in its natural form is barely there in almond milk. Sweeteners are separately added to almond milk, so choose unsweetened almond milk for the best weight loss results.
Unlike animal milk, almond milk contains neither cholesterol nor lactose
Almond milk can help lower cholesterol levels and is a good choice for anyone who has difficulty digesting dairy or soy. Research shows that almond milk may be an efficacious substitute for cow milk in individuals with cow milk allergy/intolerance. However, it is not recommended for infants. Feeding almond milk to babies may cause tree nut allergies to develop.
Almond milk is rich in vitamins and minerals
Almond milk is one of the most nutritious milk substitutes available. It is a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which can help prevent cancer and slow the signs of aging. Almond milk also provides vitamin D and vitamin A. But check labels, since nutritional content varies substantially from one brand to another. Almond milk is often enriched with vitamins and minerals, like calcium and potassium. Find what best meets your needs in terms of nutrients and choose accordingly.
What's not so great about almond milk?
Some almond milks contain a food additive that is extracted from red seaweed; it is called carrageenan. It is widely used in the food industry for its gelling, thickening and stabilizing properties. The FDA considers carrageenan safe, but research indicates that carrageenan can cause gastrointestinal inflammation (aggravating conditions such as IBS, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) and possibly contribute to cancer. Further research needs to be undertaken to firmly establish the carcinogenic nature of carrageenan. The European Union has recently banned the use of carrageenan in infant formulas due to concerns about safety in this population. In the U.S., it's allowed in organic foods, including juices, chocolate milk and organic infant formula, as well as other types of foods, like soy milk, cream, ice cream, cottage cheese, yogurt and so on! Therefore, read the ingredients carefully to avoid this potential carcinogenic substance. The best thing to do is to choose organic almond milk without carrageenan or start making your own homemade almond milk (with organic almonds).
Another thing that is worth mentioning is that one cup of almond milk has only 1 gram of protein vs. 7 grams for soy and 8 grams for cow's milk. Almonds themselves are packed with protein, but almond milk is not really a source of protein. Almond milk also lacks B vitamins and contains more sodium than soy milk.
As a conclusion, almond milk has many health benefits and is a very good alternative to soy or cow's milk. However, it is paramount to read labels among the specific choices. Processed almond milk may contain unwanted additives and sweeteners so read the ingredients carefully. It should also be avoided by those with tree nut allergies...
[Editor's note from Mike Adams - I routinely drink almond milk with carrageenan and have no issues with it. My belief is that this ingredient is only an issue in those with compromised digestive health. As with all ingredients, if you suspect they might be causing problems with your body, try removing them from your diet for 30 days and see what happens.]
About the author: Originally from France, Joséphine Beck has qualification in digestive care and nutritional product advising, and holds a master degree in communication and information. She now lives in BC, Canada. Joséphine is the founder of the website OptiDerma.com, through which she helps people find natural remedies for skin problems.