Although almond milk does not compare to cow’s milk in terms of nutrition, enhanced products get close.
They usually contain extra vitamin D, calcium, and protein, making them nutritionally comparable to ordinary milk.
Almond milk, on the other hand, is naturally high in various vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin E.
The table below compares the amounts of a few nutrients, vitamins, and minerals found in a cup of enriched commercial almond milk versus a cup of low-fat cow’s milk, as well as some daily values (DV) (2, 3).
Almond milk vs. cow milk: what’s the difference and which one is healthier?
Are you perplexed by the various milk options? You’re not the only one who feels this way. With the surge in popularity of plant-based diets, demand and interest for almond milk has skyrocketed, while demand for cow’s milk has dwindled in recent years. Is almond milk, on the other hand, a good option? Which is the healthier option? Here’s how almond milk compares to cow milk in terms of nutrition.
What’s the difference between almond milk and cow milk?
Despite the fact that they have the same name, almond milk and cow milk are very different in nature. Almond milk is an imitation milk made by blending water with almonds and straining the mixture to remove the solids and create a liquid. Cow’s milk is a nutrient-rich liquid produced by the mammary glands of dairy cattle, while almond milk is an imitation milk made by blending water with almonds and straining the mixture to remove the solids and create a liquid. Whole milk, 2 percent milk, 1 percent milk, skim milk, and lactose-free milk are all available in cow’s milk, whereas almond milk comes in unsweetened, sweetened, and flavoured versions. Cow’s milk and dairy products have long been popular in numerous cultures, but almond milk and other plant-based milks have only lately become popular in Western culture as alternatives for people who can’t or don’t want to drink cow’s milk for health reasons or for personal reasons.
Almond Milk vs. Cow Milk Nutrition
Almond milk has a low calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and fat content, whereas cow’s milk has a moderate calorie content, but is high in protein, lipids, and carbohydrates. Here’s how 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk compares to cow milk. (1)(2)
- CALORIES: A 1-cup serving of unsweetened almond milk comprises 40 calories, compared to 122 calories in a 1-cup serving of 2 percent cow milk, making almond milk the lower-calorie option. The difference in calories between almond milk and cow’s milk is owing to almond milk’s lack of protein, carbs, and fat, as it is mostly water. However, compared to 2 percent cow’s milk, 1 percent milk and 0 percent milk contain 102 and 83 calories, respectively, making them lower-calorie options.
- ALMOND MILK CONTAINS VERY LITTLE PROTEIN: Cow’s milk is a natural source of high-quality protein, whereas almond milk contains very little. A 1-cup serving of 2% cow milk has 8.1 grams of protein, while a 1-cup serving of unsweetened almond milk has 1.0 grams. Cow’s milk also includes all nine essential amino acids, with casein protein accounting for about 80% of the protein and whey protein accounting for the remaining 20%. (3) Both casein and whey protein have been proven to contain bioactive peptides, which offer a variety of health benefits, including improved immunological function, higher mineral absorption, lower blood pressure, and the growth and maintenance of muscle tissue. (4)(5)(6)
- FAT: Although almonds are a rich source of healthful fat, just a small amount of the fat makes it into the beverage. A 1-cup amount of unsweetened almond milk has 3.0 grams of fat, compared to 4.8 grams of fat in a 1-cup serving of 2 percent cow milk. Although almond milk contains some fat from almonds, it also has added vegetable oils that contribute to its fat content, albeit the amount varies by brand. Cow’s milk comes in a variety of fat levels, including 3.25 percent, 2 percent, 1 percent, and 0 percent, so the specific fat amount will differ depending on the format. Cow’s milk fat is composed of roughly 65 percent saturated fat, 30% monounsaturated fat, and 5% polyunsaturated fatty acids. (7)
- COW’S MILK CONTAINS CARBOHYDRATES: Cow’s milk is a natural supply of carbohydrates, specifically simple carbohydrates in the form of sugar, primarily lactose with trace amounts of monosaccharides and oligosaccharides. (8) A cup of 2 percent cow milk contains 12.3 grams of carbs, whereas a cup of unsweetened almond milk contains only 2.0 grams.
- FIBRE: Neither almond nor cow milk contain a significant amount of fiber. A 1-cup portion of 2 percent cow milk has 0.0 grams of fiber, while a 1-cup serving of unsweetened almond milk has 1.0 grams; however, the fiber content of almond milk varies by brand.
- SUGAR: Lactose, a natural sugar found in cow’s milk, is a source of natural sugars. A 1-cup serving of 2 percent cow milk has 12.3 grams of sugar, compared to 0.4 grams in a 1-cup serving of unsweetened almond milk. While unsweetened almond milk contains very little natural sugar, sweetened and flavoured almond milk generally contains a higher amount of added sugar.
- VITAMINS AND MINERALS: Cow’s milk contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and selenium are all present in a 1-cup serving of 2 percent milk. (2) The loss of fat in 1% and 0% milk reduces the content of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are typically fortified as a result. Almond milk, on the other hand, is mostly made of water and hence has very few vitamins and minerals. The majority of almond milk brands are vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium fortified.
Cow’s milk is a complete food containing solely milk. Cow’s milk does not contain any additions or preservatives, despite the fact that some varieties of milk contain added vitamins and minerals. Almond milk, on the other hand, is a minimally processed food because almonds do not grow in liquid form, require processing, and contain additives such as preservatives, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. Although homemade almond milk is made by soaking and blending almonds with water, straining the mixture to remove the solids until only the liquid remains, store-bought almond milk frequently contains additives like gellan gum, sunflower lecithin, locust bean gum, ascorbic acid, and/or natural flavor. (10)(11)(12)
Cow’s milk is one of the world’s most nutrient-dense foods. It’s a good supply of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, as well as a decent balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Almond milk, on the other hand, includes a relatively little amount of all macronutrients due to the fact that its principal ingredient is water, and most of the micronutrients in almond milk are fortified.
Allergies and Intolerances
Cow’s milk is one of the most common allergens in children, with 2-3 percent of children under the age of 5 in the United States allergic to dairy milk. (13) As a result, non-dairy beverages like almond milk have supplanted traditional dairy products including milk, yogurt, and cheese. While some people have a milk allergy, which is an immune system reaction to the proteins in dairy that causes a variety of symptoms, others have lactose intolerance, which is a bodily reaction to the natural sugar (lactose) found in milk caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase, which is required to break down lactose, but does not involve the immune system. (14) Lactose-free cow’s milk and dairy products are commonly accessible for persons with lactose sensitivity. Cow’s milk may be a preferable option for those who are allergic to almonds or tree nuts.
Calories and Weight Loss
Due to the fact that almond milk is mostly water, it has fewer calories than cow’s milk, which is high in naturally occurring carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. Almond milk may be a lower-calorie option for cow’s milk for those looking to lose weight or cut calories. Alternatively, calorie-reduction might be aided by consuming 0% or 1% cow’s milk and dairy products. That said, if total calorie intake is regulated and consumption supports a calorie deficit, whole milk and 2 percent milk can help you achieve your weight-loss goals. (15) Cow’s milk, especially the higher fat ones, may be a more efficient approach to increase calorie consumption for those seeking to gain weight.
Overall, there are advantages and disadvantages to both almond milk and cow milk, depending on the individual’s diet, health goals, nutritional needs, and personal preferences.
So, almond milk vs. cow milk: which one is healthier?
Cow’s milk is one of the world’s most nutrient-dense foods and one of the first superfoods. Cow milk is an excellent nutritious choice because it has a natural balance of carbohydrates, protein, and lipids, as well as over 15 necessary components. Almond milk is a viable plant-based alternative for individuals who cannot or do not want to eat cow’s milk. Almond milk contains less protein, fat, carbs, and micronutrients than cow’s milk, owing to the fact that water is the predominant constituent.
The Bottom Line
Cow’s milk and almond milk are fundamentally different foods, despite the fact that they are frequently compared. Cow’s milk is a natural source of carbs, protein, lipids, vitamins, and minerals, whereas almond milk is a fortified water-based substitute for individuals who can’t eat dairy. If you’re going to drink almond milk, check the labels carefully and choose variants with little added sugar and natural components.
Which milk is the most nutritious?
Hemp milk is prepared from crushed, soaked hemp seeds that are free of the psychotropic ingredient found in Cannabis sativa plants.
Protein and omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats are abundant in the seeds. As a result, hemp milk has a somewhat higher concentration of these nutrients than other plant milks.
Although hemp milk is almost carb-free, some brands include sweets, which raise the carb count. Make sure to read the ingredient label and get hemp or any other plant milk that hasn’t been sweetened.
On the ingredient label, sugar may be described as brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, or cane sugar.
The seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant are used to make hemp milk. While the drink isn’t psychotropic, it does include more healthful fats and protein than other plant milks.
Is almond milk preferable to milk?
Cow’s milk’s key health benefit is that it provides complete protein, as it is an animal product, as well as a variety of important nutrients like B-vitamins. While almond milk has a higher calcium content, dairy milk is still a good source.
Which milk is the most effective for weight loss?
For most people, cow’s milk is the ideal option because it provides a good source of protein and calcium.
Switch to reduced-fat or skim milk if you’re attempting to lose weight.
Lactose intolerant people should choose lactose-free milk.
Soy milk is recommended for those who have a cow’s milk protein allergy or who eat a vegan or plant-based diet because it contains the majority of the nutrients found in cow’s milk.
Calcium and vitamin D are essential in all types of milk, so pick calcium- and vitamin D-fortified versions whenever possible.
Why Lite n’ Easy?
Ashleigh Jones is a Registered Dietitian with over 10 years of experience in hospitals, corporate health, private practice, and the food sector. She is a published researcher who has worked in a variety of fields, including genetics, multiple sclerosis, and sports nutrition. Ashleigh is an expert in endocrine problems, having a special focus in weight loss, pituitary and thyroid disorders, and diabetes management. Ashleigh is passionate about encouraging healthy habits, particularly among busy people, and she provides simple and long-term nutrition solutions.
Almond milk has only 1 gram of protein per cup (240 ml), compared to 8 and 7 grams in cow’s and soy milk, respectively (16, 17).
Protein is required for a variety of body processes, including muscular growth, skin and bone construction, and the generation of enzymes and hormones (18, 19, 20).
Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and hemp seeds are among the high-protein dairy-free and plant-based foods.
If you don’t mind eating animal products, eggs, fish, poultry, and beef are all good sources of protein (21).
Unsuitable for infants
Cow’s or plant-based milks should not be given to children under the age of one year because they can inhibit iron absorption. Until 46 months of age, breastfeed or use infant formula exclusively until solid meals can be introduced (22).
Offer water as a nutritious beverage option in addition to breast milk or formula at 6 months of age. Cow’s milk can be given to your infant’s diet after the age of one (22).
Plant-based drinks, with the exception of soy milk, are inherently low in protein, fat, calories, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin D, and calcium. These nutrients are necessary for development and growth (23, 24).
Almond milk has only 39 calories per cup, 3 grams of fat, and 1 gram of protein (240 ml). This is insufficient for a developing infant (5, 24).
Continue to breastfeed or see your doctor for the best nondairy formula if you don’t want your kid to swallow cow’s milk (23).
May contain additives
Sugar, salt, gums, tastes, and lecithin and carrageenan can all be included in processed almond milk (types of emulsifiers).
Texture and consistency are achieved by the use of emulsifiers and gums. Unless ingested in really large quantities, they are harmless (25).
Despite this, a test-tube study indicated that carrageenan, which is often used as an emulsifier in almond milk and is generally considered harmless, may disturb intestinal health. Before any judgments can be drawn, however, further thorough research is required (26).
Despite these issues, many companies avoid using this ingredient entirely.
Furthermore, many flavored and sweetened almond milks include a lot of sugar. Sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, tooth problems, and other chronic illnesses (13, 14, 27).
Almond milk is low in protein, lipids, and nutrients necessary for an infant’s growth and development. Furthermore, many processed kinds contain sugar, salt, flavors, gums, and carrageenan, among other things.
Is almond milk a good way to lose weight?
Plant-based beverages have fewer calories than traditional dairy milk. Switching to almond milk may help people lose weight by lowering their calorie intake (3).
Weight loss can typically be achieved or aided by reducing food energy consumption (4).
Depending on your goals, small switches from high-calorie items to low-calorie foods can be an efficient approach to reduce or maintain calorie intake (4).
A evaluation of 67 studies suggests that lowering dietary energy consumption may aid with weight loss (5).
Many commercial almond milks, on the other hand, are sweetened or flavored with added sugars, making them higher in calories. Varying brands may use different amounts of sugar, so if you’re concerned about sugar, examine the nutrition label and ingredient list.
Additionally, because unfiltered, handmade almond milk may include more almonds, it may be higher in calories.
Which milk is the most protein-rich?
Dry milk has the largest protein level 26.32g protein per 100g serving for whole dry milk and 36.16g protein per 100g serving for nonfat dry milk but when you rehydrate the concentrated dry milk with water, the protein amount drops.
Is almond milk safe for adults to drink?
Vitamin E, an important antioxidant, is abundant in almond milk. Vitamin E can aid in the prevention of significant health problems such as stroke, heart disease, and even cancer.
Enriched almond milk, depending on the brand, can also be a good source of:
Some critical nutrients found in other types of milk, such as vitamin D and protein, are not naturally present in almond milk. Many almond milk manufacturers sweeten it with sugar.
Look for unsweetened almond milk that has been fortified with elements like phosphorous, which helps with energy levels and bone health, and vitamin D to obtain the maximum nutritional benefit.
Is almond milk more harmful than dairy milk?
Milk is a basic food in many cultures throughout the world. However, dairy can significantly add to our food’s greenhouse gas emissions. It accounts for just over a quarter of the carbon footprint in normal EU diets, and up to one-third in some cases. 1
As people become more aware of this, they are turning to plant-based alternatives. Non-dairy milks are currently consumed by one-quarter of adults in the United Kingdom, according to polls (although not always exclusively). It’s much more popular among younger people, with one-third of 16 to 23-year-olds choosing it. 2
Soy, oat, almond, rice, and coconut milk are among the ‘plant-based’ milk replacements now available. This begs two questions: are plant-based milks truly better for the environment, and which is the best?
We compare milks on a number of environmental criteria in this graph, including land use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and eutrophication, or the pollution of ecosystems with excess nutrients. These are measured in milliliters of milk. 3 I discuss some of the differences in nutritional content of different milks at the end of this post, which are crucial to consider in particular groups.
Across all criteria, cow’s milk has a significantly bigger impact than plant-based alternatives. It produces three times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes ten times the amount of land, utilizes two to twenty times the amount of freshwater, and results in significantly greater levels of eutrophication.
Switching to plant-based alternatives is a fantastic option if you want to lessen your diet’s environmental impact.
Which vegan milk is the best? It all depends on the impact we’re most concerned with. Almond milk emits less greenhouse gases and takes up less land than soy milk, but it requires more water and contributes to eutrophication.
Although all of the options have a smaller environmental impact than dairy, there is no obvious winner across the board.
Is almond milk a fattening beverage?
Sweetened almond milk provides certain health benefits, but there are a few things to remember:
Protein content is low. The protein content of sweetened almond milk is lower than that of soy milk or cow’s milk. Each 8-ounce serving contains 1 gram of protein. If you switch to almond milk, be sure you’re receiving adequate protein from other sources.
Calorie content is higher. Sweetened almond milk is higher in sugar and calories than unsweetened almond milk. Drinking too much sweetened almond milk (or other sweetened beverage) can make you gain weight.
Not suited for children under the age of three. Protein levels in sweetened almond milk are minimal. It is not suggested for babies under the age of one year.
Almond milk that has not been sweetened is healthier than almond milk that has been sweetened. Enjoy sweetened almond milk in moderation if you desire it.