When it comes to plant-based milk options, almond milk is a widespread favorite: Maybe it’s because of its light, nutty flavor, or maybe it’s because it’s naturally lower in calories and SmartPoints® values than dairy and vegan alternatives. Either way, Americans buy more almond milk than soy, coconut, rice, and oat milks combined.
“Almond milk is actually a fairly simple product that you could make yourself at home with only a few items,” says Sharon Palmer, MS, RDN, nutrition expert and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. All it takes are almonds, which are soaked overnight then ground to a paste and filtered, and water, which is blended in. The result? A light, yet creamy plant-based beverage that’s filled with nutty goodness.
Whether you’re already an almond milk drinker, or are thinking of becoming one, here’s the inside scoop on this non-dairy staple:
It’s not always just about the almonds
Almonds and water may be the only ingredients in homemade almond milk, but the kind you buy in a carton is unlikely to have the same short ingredient list. To keep it fresh, nutritious, and tasty, manufacturers may add lots of different ingredients. You’re most likely to find these on the label:
- Calcium and vitamin D: Even though almonds contain calcium, the calcium in a glass of almond milk doesn’t compare to that of cow’s milk. To even the playing field, many brands add calcium and vitamin D to boost calcium absorption. Since this can vary from brand to brand, if you are looking to match cow’s milk, look for one with at least 30 percent of the daily value for calcium and 25 percent for vitamin D.
- Vitamin E: Almonds are rich in vitamin E. But after they’ve been filtered and watered down? Not so much. To bring levels back up again, some brands add extra vitamin E.
- Thickeners: Thickeners like gellan gum and locust bean gum help make almond milk rich and creamy. If their names sound a little off putting, you’ll be happy to know that they’re harmless.
- Sugar: The amount of sugar in a glass of almond milk can vary substantially. On one end of the spectrum, there are sugar-free unsweetened types. On the other, some sweetened, flavored varieties can pack as many as 18 grams of sugar per cup (or 4 1/2 teaspoons of sugar), which can drive up the beverage’s SmartPoints value. Somewhere in the middle are “original” varieties. Unless they’re unsweetened, these can easily contain 7 grams of sugar per cup.
- Coconut milk: The coconut craze is spilling into almond milk. Because most almond milks only contain tiny amounts of coconut milk, you probably don’t need to sweat the saturated fat. But do be on the lookout for sugar as it’s often added to almond-coconut blends.
- Flavorings: A little cocoa or vanilla flavoring won’t hurt you, although some are linked with sugar. If you prefer your almond milk flavored, sticking with unsweetened varieties will mean fewer SmartPoints values.
There’s one missing ingredient
One thing you won’t find in most almond milks? Protein. In fact, a typical serving of almond milk only has about one gram of protein per cup compared to eight grams in cow’s or soy milk. If you already get plenty of protein in your diet, it’s probably not an issue. However, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you could be missing out.
“For weight loss, it’s important to get adequate protein in your diet to help maintain muscle mass as well as for satiety,” Palmer says. Now that a handful of brands are now pumping up protein by adding other nuts, extra almonds, or even pea protein, “choosing a nutrient- and protein-rich plant milk is a good strategy,” she says.
It’s a winner for weight loss
With only one SmartPoint® per cup, plain unsweetened almond milk is a no-brainer. How does it compare to other types of milk? Check out the stats:
|Type of Milk*||SmartPoints® values||Calories||Fat (grams)||Protein (grams)||Sugar (grams)|
|Skim (fat-free cow’s milk)||3||83||0.2||8||12.2**|
*Per eight ounces, unsweetened
**Cow’s milk naturally contains the milk sugar lactose
9 almond milk options for weight loss
When you’re looking for the best-tasting brands with the fewest SmartPoints, try these:
For straight-up drinking:
These unsweetened options have a neutral flavor that most resembles cow's milk.
For cereal or overnight oats:
The vanilla flavor found in the following unsweetened options adds dimension to your bowl without amping up the sugar content of your breakfast.
For a chocolate fix:
Because sometimes a sip can satisfy a sweet tooth.
This one is specially formulated to create a fuller foam (and better latte art!).
For extra plant protein:
These options have added protein for extra satisfaction.
Try these WW recipes made with almond milk:
You can also substitute almond milk for cow’s milk in any of your favorite recipes.