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Published 7/12/19

A TIE Fighter with chicken wings is a really stupid idea; so is almond milk

Almond Milk is Processed Crap

There's a lot of buzz around non-dairy so-called milks.  One of the most popular is almond milk.  Almond milk, however, is a total, complete scam: it contains almost none of the nutrition in whole almonds, it is so low in nutritional value that it has to be artificially fortified with vitamins, it is highly processed, and for all that, it is very expensive. 

If you drink almond milk just because you don't happen to like cow's milk and you want something else to put on your cereal or you simply like to drink it and understand it's nothing but almond-flavored water, this article is not directed at you.  

This article is directed to the people who drink it or give it to their kids for some supposed health or nutritional reason or those who think, for some reason, that it's better than cow's milk; or maybe you're just a goofball hipster.  These people are all mislead, ignorant, in denial, unable/unwilling to read/believe/comprehend a nutrition label, or a combination of these things.  I'm guessing a good bunch of them also refuse to vaccinate their kids.  If the latter is you, and you're offended, feel free to get off my website and go back to reddit or facebook or where ever it is you go to read about the latest conspiracy and fake science . . . . don't let the door hit you on the way out. 

Great.  Now that people who can't process 3rd grade logic are gone, let's get to it!

Almonds are awesome!

Before we get almond milk itself, let's look at what almonds are, and why they are so great.  Almonds are one of the most nutritious foods in the world.  Take a look at the nutrition information.  Highlights include (per 28g serving):

It's hard to go wrong with that profile.  And so the title of the next section is surprising . . . 

Almond milk has almost none of the nutrition in almonds

Let's take a look at the nutrition profile for almond milk.  Take, as an example, Blue Diamond unsweetened vanilla almond milk.  

Take a look at that nutrition information (per 1 cup).  Right from the start, the almond milk nutrition looks completely wrong.  Almonds are known for their high amount of heart-healthy fats, fiber, and protein.  Almond milk has little to none of those.  But to be fair, it does look like there are some good nutrients.  

Highlights include:

At first blush, that looks like a pretty reasonable nutrition profile: low in carbs, low in fat, low in calories, and a good amount of vitamins. 

But to get some insight as to where those nutrients come from, take a look at the ingredients list: it includes calcium carbonate, potassium citrate, Vitamin A Palminate, Vitamin D2, and Natural Vitamin E.  So, the high amounts of vitamins and nutrients are not from the almonds; those nutrients are added artificially.  They ADDED all those nutrients. 

When nutrients come from real, unprocessed or minimally processed food, they are accompanied by many nonessential but beneficial nutrients, such as hundreds of carotenoids, flavonoids, minerals, and antioxidants that aren't in most supplements or additives (source: health.harvard.edu).   Nutrients processed to isolation (and hence removed from their natural matrix) into pills or food additives are much less effective.  So if you want Vitamin C benefits, eat an orange, not a Vitamin C pill; if you want calcium, go for a natural source, not a source where calcium carbonate is added during creation of the food.  Yup, almond milk is created; we'll get to that in the next section.

If you don't add those nutrients to the almond milk, you're left with little more than almond-ish flavored water.   

Let's also pause here to consider that the nutrition facts above are for unsweetened almond milk.  Have you ever TRIED unsweetened almond milk?  It's got the taste of Elmer's Glue.  It's NOT good.  If you care to opt for something that doesn't taste like melted horse hoof, go for the sweetened variety . . . . but you'll also add 13 grams of sugar and about 60 calories.  If unsweeted almond milk is your thing, knock yourself out.

How can almond milk, made from very nutritious almonds, be so lacking in natural nutrition?!  The answer is simple . . . 

It's highly processed

It's hard to imagine a food more processed than almond milk.  

Most brands of almond milk are generally made by grinding almonds, adding water, then straining out the pulp.  Removing the solids (pulp) from the almond milk removes the bulk of the nutrition.  Look at the ingredients list; notice that the first ingredient listed on the label is water.  

So, at this point, we have what may pass for almond-flavored water.  They add in the bulk of the nutrients artificially: it's nutrient-enhanced almond-ish flavored water.  The term almond milk is, in fact, interchangeable with highly-processed vitamin-enhanced almond-ish flavored water

Now take note of the added sunflower lecithin and gellan gum on the ingredients list.  What are those?

Lecithins are found naturally in many foods.  Lecithins are also added to processed foods to extend shelf life and act as an emulsifier (i.e. - it helps disparate ingredients mix better). 

Gellan gum is used to bind, stabilize, and texturize foods (reference).  To be fair, what I found was that gellan gum is one of the better (least harmful) gums to use for this purpose.  However, keep in mind that gellan gum is added to almond milk to provide texture, stability, and . . . binding?!   

Almond milk is so processed that it requires additives to stabilize and bind it, extend its shelf life, and help the disparate ingredients mix.  It is amazing that people can tout almond milk as healthy when it is, in fact, so very processed.  

Highly-processed vitamin-enhanced almond-ish flavored water is expensive

Almond milk, for all its drawbacks, is also very expensive.  

Almond Breeze almond milk is organic and costs about $8 per gallon (128 oz), depending on how you buy it.  Store brand, non-organic almond milk can ring in at about $5.60/gallon. 

A gallon of Horizon organic milk costs about $6.59/gallon.  A gallon of store-brand non-organic milk falls to about $2.00-$3.50/gallon.

Highly-processed organic vitamin-enhanced almond-ish flavored water costs 20-42% more than milk.  This is insanity.  Oh, and speaking of insanity . . . 

Almond milk cannot be a replacement for milk

Expanding on the milk comparison above, I've heard many parents whose kids have a milk allergy say that they give them almond milk instead.  I can't imagine what they are possibly thinking: their glorified vitamin water has none of the health benefits of milk and has a lot of likely drawbacks for kids.  

Milk is naturally high in calcium, protein and other nutrients and kids generally like the taste.  With that, milk is very nutritious, helps kids build strong bones and muscle, and kids will drink it.  While almond milk has 45% of the daily value of calcium (compared to 29% in a cup of milk), keep in mind that a lot of the calcium in almond milk is added in the processing via the calcium carbonate ingredient.  Again, nutrients consumed outside their natural matrix tend to not be nearly as effectively used by the body as those consumed within minimally or unprocessed foods.  On top of that, almond milk offers almost none of the protein that milk does, so it's not nearly as filling.

Let's also look at sugars.  Unsweetened almond milk has no sugars; it also tastes like glue.  I'm not convinced any normal kid is voluntarily drinking unsweetened almond milk on a regular basis.  My guess is that these parents are giving their kids sweetened almond milk, which has the 13 grams of added sugars per cup.  Although 2% milk has 12 grams of natural sugars per cup, all sugars are not equal.  Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose and in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, as lactose.  Foods with natural sugar have an important role in the diet because they provide essential nutrients that keep the body healthy and help prevent disease.  The sugar in milk is also consumed in its natural matrix.  On the other hand, the body metabolizes refined (added) sugars much more rapidly, causing high levels of insulin and blood sugar (source: Cancer Treatment Center of America).  

These geniuses are giving their kids regular amounts of highly-processed vitamin-enhanced almond-ish flavored water with a lot of added sugar (which raises their blood sugar) and no protein.  Cow's milk is minimally processed and is naturally high in protein, calcium, and other nutrients.  All that's needed here is to take 5 seconds to read a nutrition label to understand that they are not close to the same thing.  It's akin to saying "My kid doesn't like apples, so I give them Kraft Crap-aroni and Cheese".  It makes no sense because it's not a rational comparison.  You might as well give them Kook-Aid with a multi-vitamin.  So yeah . . . time to think again on that, brainiacs.

Conclusion

I have sincere questions to all those out there that drink almond milk regularly for some purported health reason or as a replacement for cow's milk:

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