Are you a fan of almond milk?
While it may be a popular dairy-free alternative, there are some concerns about its nutritional value, particularly when it comes to calcium.
Unlike cow’s milk, almond milk is not naturally high in calcium, and the added calcium may not be as easily absorbed by the body.
So, is the calcium in almond milk absorbable?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the science behind almond milk and its calcium content to help you make informed decisions about your diet.
Is The Calcium In Almond Milk Absorbable?
Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. While cow’s milk is a well-known source of calcium, many people turn to plant-based alternatives like almond milk for various reasons, including lactose intolerance or a vegan lifestyle.
However, almond milk is not naturally high in calcium, and the added calcium may not be as easily absorbed by the body as the calcium found in cow’s milk. This is because the calcium in almond milk is usually tricalcium phosphate, which is the same form that occurs naturally in milk.
Studies have shown that the added calcium in plant-based milks like almond milk is not absorbed as well as the calcium found in cow’s milk. This means that even if you consume a lot of almond milk, your body may not be able to absorb enough calcium to meet your daily needs.
It’s important to note that not all almond milk brands are created equal. Some brands may have added calcium, while others may not. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that if you choose an alternative to dairy milk like almond milk, it should be fortified with at least 100mg of calcium per 100mL of milk.
After fortification, the amount of calcium in almond milk is approximately equivalent to cow’s milk. It delivers about 30% of your daily need for calcium (and 25% to 45% of vitamin D) in each serving. However, it’s still important to keep in mind that even with fortification, almond milk does not have the same natural benefits as cow’s milk, which contains more protein and a package of readily absorbed nutrients that are hard to replicate.
What Is Almond Milk And How Is It Made?
Almond milk is a plant-based alternative to cow’s milk that is made from ground almonds and water. To make almond milk, almonds are soaked in water overnight and then blended with fresh water to create a creamy liquid. The mixture is then strained through a cheesecloth or nut milk bag to remove any solids.
Some brands of almond milk may also contain additional ingredients like sweeteners, thickeners, and emulsifiers to improve the taste and texture of the product. However, it’s important to note that these additives may not be as healthy as pure almond milk.
While almond milk is a popular dairy-free alternative, it’s important to keep in mind that it may not provide the same level of nutrition as cow’s milk. Almond milk is not naturally high in calcium, and the added calcium may not be as easily absorbed by the body as the calcium found in cow’s milk. Therefore, if you choose to consume almond milk, it’s important to choose a brand that is fortified with calcium to ensure that you are getting enough of this essential mineral in your diet.
Understanding Calcium And Its Importance In The Body
Calcium is a mineral that is essential for various functions in the body, including building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, regulating muscle function, blood clotting, and transmitting nervous system messages. The majority of calcium in the body, around 99%, is stored in bones, while the rest is found in blood, muscle, and other tissues.
The body works to maintain a steady amount of calcium in the blood and tissues. If calcium levels drop too low in the blood, the parathyroid hormone signals the bones to release calcium into the bloodstream. This hormone may also activate vitamin D to improve the absorption of calcium in the intestines. At the same time, it signals the kidneys to release less calcium in the urine.
When the body has enough calcium, a different hormone called calcitonin works to do the opposite: it lowers calcium levels in the blood by stopping the release of calcium from bones and signaling the kidneys to rid more of it in the urine.
The body gets the calcium it needs through two ways: by consuming foods or supplements that contain calcium or by drawing from calcium in the body. If one does not eat enough calcium-containing foods, the body will remove calcium from bones. Ideally, this “borrowed” calcium will be replaced at a later point. However, this doesn’t always happen, and it can’t always be accomplished just by eating more calcium.
It’s important to note that individual differences in requirements mean that experts do not recommend calcium supplementation for everyone. Anyone who is considering taking supplements should ask their healthcare provider for advice.
The Calcium Content Of Almond Milk Compared To Cow’s Milk
When it comes to calcium content, many people believe that cow’s milk contains significantly more calcium than almond milk. However, the truth is that there is hardly any difference between the two. On average, there is 124mg of calcium in whole milk versus 120mg of calcium in almond milk per 100ml serving.
While cow’s milk is an excellent source of absorbable dietary calcium, almond milk is bursting with other benefits too. It is full of vitamin E, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin and eyes, and also helps to strengthen the body’s natural defenses against illness.
If you choose almond milk as an alternative to cow’s milk, it is important to look for a calcium fortified brand to ensure that you are consuming enough calcium in your diet. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the added calcium in plant-based milks like almond milk may not be as easily absorbed by the body as the calcium found in cow’s milk.
Factors That Affect Calcium Absorption In The Body
Calcium absorption is a complex process that depends on various factors. While consuming calcium-rich foods is important, it’s equally important to ensure that your body can absorb and use the calcium effectively. Here are some key factors that can affect calcium absorption in the body:
1. Phytic acid: Found in the bran coating of whole grains, phytic acid binds calcium and other minerals, making them insoluble and not absorbable in the intestines. This means that if you consume a lot of whole-grain bread and cereal, you may want to try calcium-fortified products.
2. Sodium: Excessive salt can interfere with calcium absorption. It’s important to watch your salt intake and maintain a balanced diet.
3. Caffeine: The caffeine in coffee, tea, and most sodas acts as a mild diuretic, so valuable calcium is excreted before the body can make use of it. Consuming these drinks in small quantities is relatively harmless, but excessive use can lead to reduced absorption.
4. Smoking: Studies have shown that smoking interferes with the absorption of calcium in the intestines. Smoking also reduces bone mass, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
5. Celiac disease: This health condition is an inherited autoimmune disease characterized by gluten intolerance. It often goes undiagnosed in both children and adults. Celiac disease changes the lining of the intestine and impacts absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D and calcium.
6. Dietary habits: Several dietary habits play a role in calcium absorption beyond vitamin D and calcium. Factors like dietary fat, fiber, protein, carbohydrates, potassium, and alcohol consumption have been found to impact calcium absorption efficiency.
Studies On The Absorbability Of Calcium In Almond Milk
Several studies have investigated the absorbability of calcium in almond milk. One study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found that the calcium in almond milk was less bioavailable than the calcium in cow’s milk. The researchers concluded that the calcium in almond milk was less soluble and more prone to precipitation, which could reduce its bioavailability.
Another study published in the Journal of Dairy Science compared the calcium absorption from cow’s milk and almond milk in healthy adults. The results showed that the absorption of calcium from almond milk was lower than from cow’s milk, even when both were fortified with similar amounts of calcium.
A third study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that the addition of vitamin D to almond milk improved calcium absorption. The researchers suggested that the combination of vitamin D and calcium could enhance the bioavailability of calcium in almond milk.
Tips For Maximizing Calcium Absorption From Almond Milk
If you choose to consume almond milk as a source of calcium, there are some tips you can follow to maximize its absorption. Here are some suggestions:
1. Shake the container well before pouring to help spread out the calcium. Otherwise, the calcium may sediment at the bottom.
2. Soak your raw nuts and seeds, including almonds, before consuming them. Soaking helps reduce the amount of phytic acid they contain, which can interfere with calcium absorption.
3. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption. You can get vitamin D from sunlight or supplements.
4. Consume almond milk along with other foods that are high in vitamin D and calcium. For example, you could have a glass of almond milk with a serving of sardines or a handful of kale.
5. Avoid consuming foods that can interfere with calcium absorption at the same time as almond milk. For example, oxalic acid found in spinach can bind to calcium and prevent its absorption.
6. Talk to your dietitian about other ways to meet your calcium needs if you are lactose intolerant or choose not to consume dairy products. They may be able to recommend other plant-based sources of calcium or supplements that can help you meet your daily requirements.
By following these tips, you can help ensure that your body is able to absorb as much calcium as possible from almond milk and other plant-based sources of this important mineral.