Why is Almond Milk Important?
Milk is a classic breakfast staple that the vast majority of the human population consumes daily.
For some, however, drinking dairy milk is not a viable option.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, approximately 65 percent of the human population suffers from some form of lactose intolerance.(1)
Thus, for those who suffer from dairy allergies or are vegan, finding an alternative to dairy milk is a necessity.
Each one of us wants the best for our families, especially when it comes to our diet choices.
That’s where almond milk comes into play.
Almond milk is nutrient rich and dairy-free, so it provides a great alternative to regular dairy milk for vegans and lactose intolerant people.
This article will explore almond milk, and answer the most common questions about it; how long does it last & does it go bad?
What is Almond Milk?
Almond milk is a milk alternative that is made by grinding almonds in a blender with water.
The mixture is then strained either with a strainer or cheesecloth to remove the excess solids.
Some commercial companies also add sweeteners, salts, vitamins, or other nutrients, including thickening agents such as carrageenan.
As an alternative, almond milk can also be made by adding water to almond butter.
Almond milk is described as tasting fairly similar to regular milk, except with a nutty taste to it.
It tastes very sweet and has a lighter consistency than milk.
The sweetness takes some getting used to for some consumers, however the difference between almond milk and dairy milk isn’t too noticeable.
How Long does Almond Milk Last?
According to Carolyn Flood, an almond milk expert and co-founder of NotMilk, commercial milk should be used approximately seven days after opening it.(2)
Homemade or local fresh almond milk should usually be thrown out after about 2 days.
You can usually self-determine if milk is expired by the taste, smell, and texture of the almond milk.
The milk will taste sour when expired and will produce a noticeable odor. The milk will usually clump up when expired and could also separate, however separation is not always an indicator that the milk is no longer safe to drink.
Separation occurs naturally in almond milk, so shake it to return it back to normal.
If the milk is still separated after shaking and is beginning to show signs of the other symptoms, that is a possible indication that the milk could be going expired.
Commercial almond milk producers typically ultra pasteurize their milk to extend its shelf life.
In addition, they package the milk in sterile cartons which allow the milk to be stored at room temperatures when it’s unopened.
Because of the extra precautions commercial companies take to augment the shelf life of their milk, it’s usually a little bit harder to determine if the milk is still safe to drink.
The symptoms may be more subtle, however they will still be noticeable enough to determine if it’s expired.
Unopened almond milk can easily last two months.
Using the “best by” date on the package is a good way to take the guesswork out of how long it will last, since you have no way of knowing how long it has been sitting at your grocery store.
Storage also has a lot to do with how well/long the milk will keep.
Unless there are specific storage instructions on the container, it is usually the best choice to store your milk the same way you found it at the grocery store.
The majority of the time, you will want to store your milk in the refrigerator, although a few brands ask you to place it in the freezer until you are ready to consume it.
While most people would assume almond milk is nutrient rich because it’s derived from almonds, that is not the case.
Because almond milk is mostly water and the majority of the protein that comes from the almonds gets strained out of the final product, almond milk actually lacks in a lot of nutrients.
In addition to a lack of protein, almond milk also provides relatively few calcium vitamins unless you get the calcium-fortified almond milk.
Due to this, there aren’t very many nutritional benefits that come from drinking almond milk aside from the fact that it is dairy and lactose-free.
All nutritional information listed below is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture.(3)
Per 1 cup (262 g)
- Protein – 1.55 g
- Total lipid (fat) – 2.88 g
- Carbohydrate, by difference – 1.52 g
- Calcium, Ca – 516 mg
Almond Milk vs. Dairy Milk
In comparison to dairy milk, most almond milk’s nutritional stats fall short.
According to the USDA, almond milk contains approximately 1 gram of protein per cup whilst dairy milk contains 8.(4)
Almond milk contains roughly 3 grams of total fat, compared to dairy milk’s 5 grams.
Based on this article from The Washington Post, the fats found in almond milk are entirely free of saturated and trans fats, whilst whole milk is full of saturated fats.(5)
Fat free milk and skim milk are a different story, as the nutrient values between these two and almond milk are comparable.
The carbohydrate amounts for almond milk is lackluster when compared to regular dairy milk, with almond milk having about 1.5 grams of carbohydrates compared to dairy milk’s nearly 12 grams.
This is a pretty substantial difference in carbohydrates between the two, but the extra carbohydrates come at the expense of dairy, so it boils down to what the consumer would rather have.
The substantial difference in protein between almond milk and dairy milk caused some almond milk producing companies to offer calcium-fortified almond milk.
Calcium-fortified almond milk will match or surpass the calcium levels found in dairy milk, but that’s not an option for homemade almond milk.
Calcium-fortified almond milk also contains more levels of vitamins B12, A, D, and E than found in dairy milk, which again is not an option for homemade almond milk.
Almond Milk vs. Almonds
When comparing almond milk and almonds, most would think that almond milk would be healthier since it is combining almonds with other nutrient-rich substances.
This is quite the contrary, when in reality almond milk provides significantly lower amounts of nutrients than regular almonds.
When creating almond milk, the nutrient-rich almonds are blended into much smaller pieces and the solids are filtered out of the final product, which in turn filters out the majority of the nutrients found in almonds.
Because of this, eating almonds by themselves is actually far healthier than drinking almond milk.
There are exceptions to this, however, as some calcium-fortified almond milk will have more nutrients than almonds.
The percentage of almonds put into the almond milk will also have an impact on the total nutrients. Most companies only put around 2% almonds in their almond milk, which will naturally yield few nutrients.
For those making homemade almond milk, it is recommended to put a cup of almonds for every two cups of water to produce a more nutrient-rich milk than most commercial almond milk brands.
When comparing the nutrients side by side based on Jessie Szalay from LiveScience, almonds by themselves prove to be far more beneficial.(6)
An 8-ounce glass of almonds yields a measly 1 gram of protein and 1 gram of fiber, whilst a serving size of almonds yields 6 and 4, respectively.
Almond milk also has 17 grams of magnesium and 1.5 grams of monosaturated fats, while almonds have 77 grams and 9 grams respectively.
Almond milk is a good alternative to regular dairy milk for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan. In addition to being dairy free, almond milk is also free of cholesterol, yet contains monosaturated fats which are good for the heart.
According to the review published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports, the nuts substituted for saturated fats resulted in a 45% reduced risk of heart disease.(7)
Almond milk also contains significantly lower calorie amounts, which helps dieters lose weight.
The combination of monosaturated fats and a low-calorie intake actually leads to more weight loss than a regular diet would provide.
Additionally, a study conducted by the Nutrition and Cancer Journal reveals that dairy milk can actually increase the growth of prostate cancer cells by 30%, whilst almond milk suppressed the growth of the prostate cancer cells by 30%.(8)
The accumulation of this data proves that almond milk is not only a great alternative to dairy products, but also helps reduce fat, reduce the risk of heart disease, and prevent prostate cancer!
While there obviously are many benefits to drinking almond milk instead of dairy, there are some downsides to consider before switching to drinking almond milk.
Firstly, almond milk and other plant-based milks are very dangerous for babies.
The lack of nutrients that almond milk provides can lead to malnutrition in young children, including vitamin D deficiencies and stunted growth.
It is much better to provide your child with regular dairy products to provide them a supplemental amount of nutrients, and then switch to almond milk once they grow older.
people who suffer from nut allergies will be unable to drink almond milk.
Those who do consume it could potentially suffer an allergic reaction including nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, itching, nasal congestion, or shortness of breath, so it’s better just to avoid almond milk entirely if you suffer from a nut allergy of any sort.
Almond milk can serve as a substitute in any recipes requiring regular dairy milk, including smoothies, cereal, cakes, casseroles, etc.
Almond milk serves as a terrific alternative to dairy milk for consumers who are lactose intolerant or vegan.
While it may be harmful for babies and those with nut allergies, the benefits of almond milk’s ability to reduce fat, prevent prostate cancer, and reduce the risk of heart disease far outweigh the negatives.
However, the almond milk cannot be expired if you wish to reap the benefits of it, so take these simple precautionary steps to ensure your almond milk is safe.
- Refrigerate the almond milk
- Move the milk to the back of the refrigerator where the temperature stays cool
- Use within 7 days of opening the bottle
- Enjoy the many health benefits of almond milk
Further reading: Does Almond Milk Have Estrogen?