Is almond milk more healthful than dairy milk? Is unflavored and unsweetened almond milk preferable to sweetened vanilla almond milk?

Milk from Almonds vs. Milk from Cows

Almond milk is more healthful than dairy milk, which contains saturated animal fat, cholesterol, and hormones. Cows’ milk has been found to stimulate the growth of prostate cancer cells in vitro, for instance, producing an average increase in cancer growth rate of more than 30 percent. In contrast, almond milk suppressed the growth of these cancer cells by more than 30 percent.

Sweetened vs. Unsweetened Almond Milk

The difference between these two types of almond milk is added sugar in the sweetened variety. In general, I favor cutting down on the intake of empty calories whenever possible. Since we get only about 2,000 in our calorie bank each day, why not make each one count? But, if the only way you’ll drink green tea is with sweetened almond milk, then, overall, it would be healthier for you to choose the variety with added sugar. (Your taste buds would likely adapt to the unsweetened kind, though, so give it a try for a couple weeks.)

Is Almond Vanilla Milk Good for You?

Many almond milks are fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, which benefit us, but what about the vanilla? That’s an interesting question.

Given vanilla’s popularity, I was surprised to find that there isn’t much science published on the health effects of vanilla orchid fruit phytonutrients. There are two in vitro studies that suggest vanillin, one of the many aromatic compounds in vanilla, may be protective against colorectal and cervical cancers, but, to my knowledge, no clinical or epidemiological studies have been published.

The most unusual study on vanilla may be one that was published out of Germany in 1999. Researchers wanted to know if our olfactory memory goes back even further than our verbal memory. Do we subconsciously remember tastes and smells from our infancy before we could even put them into words? There was a time when certain German infant formulas were flavored with vanilla, so the researchers challenged a group of adults with a vanilla-containing food. Since they couldn’t just use a typical vanilla-flavored confection as it could introduce too many other new variables, they had to choose something no one would have ever associated with vanilla, so they concocted a vanilla-flavored ketchup. Their findings? Two-thirds of those who had been bottle-fed with vanilla-flavored formula as infants preferred the vanilla ketchup, whereas two-thirds of the those who hadn’t been exposed to vanilla at that early age chose the regular ketchup.

Are There Any Downsides to Almond Milk?

Many almond milks available to us in grocery stores often contain added salt and thickeners of questionable safety, such as carrageenan. (For more on that, see my video Is Carrageenan Safe?.)

Kids shouldn’t drink too much almond milk. There have been a few case reports of young children drinking four cups a day and running into problems with kidney stones due to almond milk’s relatively high oxalate content, which averages about five times more than soy milk.

Making Almond Milk at Home

It’s so easy to make your own almond milk. Simple add 2 tablespoons of smooth, raw almond butter and 2 cups of water in a high-speed blender, then blend until smooth. Transfer the almond milk to a glass bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid, and chill until ready to serve. Shake well before using and enjoy.

For substantiation of any statements of fact from the peer-reviewed medical literature, please see the associated videos below.

Image Credit: naito8 / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.

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