Why Is Almond Milk Bad For You? (Good, Bad, & The Ugly)

Ditching the dairy and looking for a hip alternative has been all the rage over the past decade.Cartons of Almond Breeze Almond Milk in Original and Vanilla Flavours

However, today I’d like to focus on one particular substitute and answer the question, “Why Is Almond Milk Bad For You?”

I’ve had my own battle with milk for as long as I can remember.

I’ve never actually been “officially diagnosed” as lactose intolerant, but I think it’s a given (well I’m highly sensitive to it at the very least).

I gave up cow’s milk with my morning oats at the turn of the millennium, but I still enjoyed a “splash” in my tea and coffee.

Plus, I have a penchant for milk chocolate and desserts smothered in cream, so I’ve not exactly been the best follower of non-dairy.

I even went through a stage of drinking goat’s milk.

Admittedly, my skin was much clearer from when I regularly drank cow’s milk, but bloating was still definitely an issue.

I finally decided to go with the masses, but the word “soy” always makes me cringe and recoil in horror, therefore I eventually settled on almond (I’m not a coconut fan you understand).

With that said, the watery tasteless mess that was my morning coffee soon had me questioning almond milk, so I decided to research this non-dairy alternative further.

Why Is Almond Milk Bad For You?

Almond Milk – The Good

Almond milk has definitely become extremely popular among those who are lactose intolerant and various health nuts (no pun intended).

Many dieticians recommend almond milk due to its wide variety of nutrients and the decreased likelihood of inflammation, which is commonly associated with cow’s milk.

At face value almond milk has some pretty impressive “stats”.

It’s low in calories and nutrient-dense.

Almond milk is high in vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), as well as being low in carbohydrates, cholesterol, and saturated fats.

This actually makes almond milk a great replacement to dairy for those of you who are looking to maintain or lose weight.

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Almond milk has also been fortified with vitamin’s A and D so it can closely resemble the nutrients found in dairy milk (more on this in a moment).

Unsweetened almond milk also happens to be a great alternative for diabetics and people who wish to keep their levels of blood sugar low.

This is mainly due to the low glycemic index (GI) because almond milk has such a low content of carbohydrates (although I’m not particularly a fan of low-carb anything).

So, at first glance I’d have to say No, almond milk isn’t bad for you.

So, why am I even considering writing about whether almond milk is potentially bad for you?

Almond Milk – The Bad

First things first, irrespective of my obvious sensitivity to dairy milk I actually quite liked the taste.

Okay, there is a certain nuttiness to almond milk, but it really isn’t the same.

I’ve briefly touched on the indescribable things that almond milk did to my coffee (although you should be thankful that I’ve not gone into the “indescribable things” that cow’s milk did to my body), suffice to say I wasn’t impressed.

I’m used to milk having a certain creamy texture and consistency, but this definitely isn’t the case with the almond variety.

In fact, I wasn’t surprised to discover that some brands contain as little as 2% almonds, whereas the remaining 98% is water, emulsifiers, and occasionally the odd-sweetener.

One such emulsifier, carrageenan, which is often added to almond milk in order to produce that much loved “creamy texture”, is associated with gut irritation.

I’ve already mentioned that vitamin A and D is “added” to almond milk, and of course this must be done artificially.

So in effect, even though almond milk is often lauded as being “nutrient-dense”, as it turns out some of these nutrients are artificially added. Hmm, not so impressive now.

Additionally, low-fat and low calories may be all the rage for some of you, but it isn’t for everyone.

The nutrient content of almond milk in terms of low-fat, low protein, low calories, and a lack of certain vitamin’s means that it isn’t an ideal replacement for cow’s milk for infants and adolescents.

In fact, many of these missing elements are essential for cognitive and physical development.

Yet another ingredient that is sometimes added to almond milk is calcium oxalate, which is especially bad news for anyone that is prone to kidney stones.

Calcium oxalate can actually escalate the formation of kidney stones.

Depending on the make of almond milk the additives may also include, sugar, gellan gum, guar gum, sunflower lecithin, locust bean gum, sugar cane juice, rice protein, pea protein, as well as a variety of other ingredients.

List of ingredients on the back of an almond milk carton

I’m sure you’ll agree that’s quite a list.

Almonds also happen to be high in estrogen.

There are no actual studies on almonds to prove this, but increased estrogen intake in an individual with a hormone imbalance can lead to acne.

Finally, the most obvious “bad news” about almond milk is that almonds are tree nuts and unfortunately many people have allergies to tree nuts, so almond milk should definitely be avoided if this is the case.

Is Almond Milk Bad For The Environment? (The Ugly)

Almond Trees

They do say, “you learn something new every day”, and although what I’m about to tell you may be common knowledge to some, it was certainly news to me.

Almond milk has actually been around for a lot longer than most people would think.

It appears it was first mentioned in certain cookbooks in Iraq dating back nearly 800 years.

So, the almond latte may be a fairly new invention, but apparently almond milk isn’t.

With that said, the popularity of almond milk has steadily increased throughout the 2000s and it reached a crescendo during the early-to-mid 2010s.

Almond milk sales increased by 79% in 2011 alone, and grew a further 250% in popularity from 2012-2015.

Almond milk actually surpassed soy as the most popular plant-based milk in 2013, although it appears that many people have become more wise to almond milk in the present day.

The vast majority of almond milk sold around the world comes from California.

This is because California produces around 80% of the world’s almond supply.

It actually takes around 5 litres of water to grow one almond, and approximately 23 gallons of water to produce a single gallon of almond milk.

So, that’s a lot of water.

Now it would be unfair of me to talk about the water usage required to produce almond milk without mentioning that it actually takes around 30 gallons of water to produce a gallon of dairy milk (mainly to grow food for the cows).

Plus, it is estimated that approximately 3% of the global greenhouse gas emissions can be blamed on the dairy industry.

In fact, the production of organic milks uses around 35% less fossil energy than it takes to produce dairy milk.

However, I’m not here to talk about the environmental effects of dairy milk, so let’s get back to almond milk.

Something that became a major cause for concern, as almond milk was having a huge surge in popularity, is that California went through one of the most intense droughts in their history.

In fact, the California drought was pretty much persistent from December 2011 to March 2017 (and these dates tie in almost perfectly with the rise of almond milk’s popularity).

So, due to rising demand of almonds (and of course the Californian drought), farmers started drilling into the ground in order to tap into aquifers (a body of rock or sediment that holds groundwater).

Experts tell us that the overpumping of aquifers can be a huge cause for concern.

They can threaten infrastructures like roads, which have been known to simply collapse into the sunken ground, as well as potentially triggering earthquakes.

Unfortunately, in terms of the environment, this isn’t where the bad news ends.

It is estimated that about 60% of the US population of managed honeybees are used to pollinate the almond trees in California, but approximately one-quarter of the honeybees used for this process end up dying from the various pesticides.

And it is all these various factors that have caused so much controversy around the production of almond milk.

Does This Mean You Should Avoid Almond Milk?

Okay, admittedly this is quite a bashing that almond milk has taken here, but it is still to this day viewed as a great alternative for people who are lactose intolerant, or simply have an allergy to cow’s milk.

I’ve mentioned the many benefits of almond milk, so in reality whether you choose to drink almond milk or not is a personal preference (let’s not forget the potential harmful effects of cow’s milk).

I think it’s important to reiterate that almond milk is not suitable for infants, as they require the fat and protein content typically found in dairy milk.

Almond milk and other plant-based varieties may be introduced after 12 months of age, although it necessary to ensure that the alternative milk sources are fortified with vitamin’s B12 and D, as well as calcium and iron.

Many people have actually turned to producing their own almond milk, which can be created with just two ingredients, almonds and water.

Then again, you may wish to add certain ingredients such as dates, vanilla bean, and a little sea salt, which will help to improve the taste and the creaminess.

How To Make Almond Milk

Final Thoughts

In my search for a non-dairy alternative to milk the almond variety became my go-to milk.

However, I just wasn’t impressed by the taste and often opted for the sweetened variety.

I knew this wasn’t a great idea, which is what prompted me to research almond milk a little deeper.

My findings have astonished me, but there is still much controversy raging around this plant-based milk.

There are certainly benefits for particular groups of people, although there is a plethora of plant-based and non-dairy milks available nowadays.

Whether almond milk is bad for you or not, well I’ll leave that decision up to you.

As for me, I’ve finally rid any source of milk from my life, once-and-for-all.

It took some time, but I must say I’ve got used to the taste of black coffee now, and even black tea.

My oats do just fine in the morning when mixed with water, although there are many other delightful accompaniments to enhance the taste.

I’m sure I could look for another alternative to cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and almond milk, but it all seems like so much hassle, and I’m just as happy now without any of them.

Thank you for reading.

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6 thoughts on “Why Is Almond Milk Bad For You? (Good, Bad, & The Ugly)”

  1. My mother used to cook oats in water and then she would add a dash of milk. She was so used to eating porridge this way from the war years because they couldn’t afford milk.

    I like the video on making you own Almond Milk it didn’t seem to take long at all. The soaking of of the Almonds takes a while though.

    Supermarket Almond milk I have found is not the best, so I stopped drinking it. I have black tea but seem to have trouble having black coffee. Thank you for putting together information on Almond milk it is great.

    Reply
    • Hi Yvonne,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Yes, I’ve actually converted to just oats and water now, and although it took a week or two to get used to, I love it now and hardly notice the difference.

      The problem as I see it with many non-dairy alternatives to milk is that they still have certain ingredients artificially added, although that’s not to say that cow’s milk doesn’t.

      Actually, come to think of it “problem” is probably a little harsh, as they are still fairly healthy in the main, but a completely natural method (if that’s what some people specifically want) can only really be obtained by using just two ingredients – almonds and water.

      Haha, I get you on the black tea and coffee. Even though I drink both black nowadays that doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes yearn for nice milky, hot beverage every-now-and-then.

      Partha

      Reply
  2. That would have been my opening question, Partha: “How about black coffee?” But you have answered that question already. Clever you. 🙂

    Your article is thorough, still I have some remarks. You say almonds have estrogen which is bad, but also say lots of almond milk contain only 2% of almonds. That can’t be much of estrogen then, can it?

    The remarks about the bees in California are in my eyes more a call-up to ban pesticides than to ban almonds. As you know I am a huge advocate of organic produce and there is organic almond milk. I think it’s a pity you haven’t included a paragraph about the organic kind. Might be a good addition?

    You can imagine that I ran to my fridge even before finishing reading your article, can’t you. 🙂
    Especially your remark about the percentage made me wonder. My almond milk has 5% and is unsweetened. No other additions either except some gum. I forgot which one.
    Do you have any idea which percentage is the highest?

    I would never use soy milk either. Soy is one of the causes of the deforestation of the Amazon forest. And soy puts a film layer in your stomach like cows milk does, preventing nutrients to be absorbed by the blood.

    Well, as said, a thorough article and really interesting!

    Reply
    • Hi Hannie,

      Always fantastic to hear from and you definitely have some very valid discussion points.

      I shall try to address these the best I can.

      Firstly, I think that perhaps I may have been a little scathing in my views of almond milk, but upon researching this dairy-alternative I came across more negatives than positives. Perhaps this has influenced my views slightly.

      For me, the main issue is one of taste, although I can see why all the other factors may bother some people.

      I take your point about perhaps writing an additional section on organic almond milk and I think it’s a very good point, so watch this space.

      With that said, many of the “extra” ingredients I have discussed are actually added to the organic variety as well.

      In fact (and to also answer another question of yours), Three Trees Almond Milk is the only completely natural product I have seen, and it also happens to have the highest percentage of almonds.

      Three Trees is actually produced with 20% organic almonds and the remaining 80% is reverse osmosis filtered water. It is completely carrageenan free (which is typically used as a thickening agent in just about every single brand of almond milk), as the the Three Trees variety is naturally thicker because of the high almond content.

      Admittedly, this would increase the estrogen content, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t a cause for concern for most people anyway.

      Three Trees is actually only sold in around 400 stores in the US (not that many when you consider the size of the country) and isn’t widely available anywhere else in the world. However, they do have their own website, which I believe distributes worldwide.

      I completely agree with you about the pesticides when it comes to the destruction of honeybee population, but let’s not forget the drilling of aquifiers in order to use more water, which obviously isn’t great for the environment.

      I note that upon checking your fridge and the list of ingredients, at a guess I would say the additive is probably guar gum, which has had much of its own controversy over the years.

      Guar weight loss tablets were banned by the FDA in 1992 due to potential allergic reactions.

      However, in smaller amounts, guar gum is considered healthy.

      It’s also interesting to note that guar gum is used as a laxative, plus also as treatment for various conditions including, diarrhea, IBS, diabetes, obesity, prevention of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and reducing cholesterol.

      So, I would say that the variety of almond milk you use is as healthy as it gets.

      I think for me it’s all just become a huge hassle in terms of gut health, taste, etc. when it comes to finding a suitable milk, so I’ve gone down the route of no milk whatsoever.

      It’s taken a little time, but I’m used to it now, and perfectly happy.

      Thank you as always for your winderful comments Hannie.

      Partha

      Reply
  3. Hi Partha, another great article!

    I think Avocadoes suffered a similar blow due to the Californian drought and after that I have decided to reduce my avocado intake. Especially after finding out that they need so much water that people in countries like Chile are basically out of water because everything goes to the avocado production.

    I do like plant milks and I am very environmental conscious but I guess we cannot all switch to one type and hope it’s gonna be ok. I think there needs to be some balance. Whatever we chose, whether it’s Almond, Soy, Hemp, Cow, Goat,…. If we consume any of these in excess it will not be sustainable 🙁

    Thank you for pointing out the fact that the plant milks have a lot of additives in, we just have to decide whether we want to consume these or hormonal cocktail for a baby cow 🙂
    I have made the choice not to have normal milk because of the cruelty and environmental issue but I am not completely happy with the alternatives available. Hopefully this will get better or maybe we can reset our minds and don’t use milk at all 🙂

    Thanks for a great article again 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Silvie,

      Lovely to hear from you.

      Oh dear Avocados. The one food on this earth that makes me wince, LOL.

      In fact, the only food I just won’t eat, everything else is fair game.

      I just don’t “get it” when it comes to avocados. The texture, the taste, urgh, ,makes me squirm just thinking about them, LOL.

      Admittedly, I’ve never really looked at the environmental factors with non-dairy milks before, but it was certainly an eye-opener for me.

      Dairy is always going to be an issue for me, but I have tried (and failed) throughout my life to keep drinking cow’s milk, simply because I do like the taste. But alas it wasn’t to be.

      I’ll openly admit that I was also ignorant about cow’s milk production and never really gave it much thought, but once again I have learned a lot more about it in recent years.

      I think you’re absolutely right when you say that there needs to be some balance, as nothing’s going to be 100% perfect at the end of the day.

      With that said, almond milk does appear to be one of the best of the bunch when it comes to non-dairy alternatives.

      For me, I’ve finally settled on the fact that I will go without any type of milk from now on.

      However, me being me, I know I may indulge in an almond latte from time-to-time and it just doesn’t feel the same without my monthly cream cake, LOL.

      Great to hear your views Silvie, I always appreciate you stopping by.

      Partha

      Reply

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