Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Unsweetened Almond Milk Bad For You?



Short answer

Unsweetened almond milk is a low-calorie, dairy-free alternative often fortified with essential nutrients. It’s a good option for those managing weight or with lactose intolerance, but it's low in protein. Watch for additives if sensitive. Environmentally, requires vast water and can impact bees. In moderation, it fits well in a balanced diet.



Recommended Alternative

Long answer

Nutritional Profile of Unsweetened Almond Milk

Unsweetened almond milk is a popular dairy-free alternative that can offer a variety of health benefits, especially for those who are lactose intolerant, allergic to cow's milk, or following a vegan diet. Its nutritional profile is distinct from cow's milk and is composed of a unique set of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. Here we delve into the specifics:

Calorie Content: One of the first things to note is that unsweetened almond milk is quite low in calories. A single cup typically contains between 30 to 60 calories, which is significantly less than the calorie content in whole milk or even skim milk. This makes it a favorable option for individuals who are managing their weight or seeking a lighter alternative to dairy.

Protein: Protein is an essential macronutrient necessary for building and repairing tissues, but when it comes to almond milk, it's not a protein powerhouse. A cup of unsweetened almond milk may contain only 1 to 2 grams of protein, while cow's milk contains about 8 grams per cup. For those who rely on almond milk as a primary milk source, it's important to ensure that adequate protein is consumed from other dietary sources.

Fats: The fat content in unsweetened almond milk is typically low, with most brands averaging around 2.5 to 3 grams per cup. The majority of these fats are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help in the maintenance of good cholesterol levels.

Carbohydrates: An appealing aspect of unsweetened almond milk for those on a low-carbohydrate diet is its minimal carbohydrate content. Generally, it contains less than 1 gram of carbs per cup, most of which come from dietary fiber. In comparison, cow's milk contains around 12 grams of carbs per cup, mostly from sugars.

Vitamins and Minerals: Although almonds themselves are a good source of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium, almond milk is often not as nutrient-dense due to the dilution process in its production. However, many brands fortify their almond milk with additional nutrients. Common fortified nutrients include:

These fortified nutrients can help to prevent deficiencies, especially in those who have excluded dairy from their diets.

Added Ingredients: While unsweetened almond milk inherently does not contain added sugars, it's always prudent to check for the addition of various thickeners, stabilizers, and preservatives which are often incorporated into its composition to improve texture and shelf life. Some common additives include:

Though these additives are generally recognized as safe, some individuals may choose to avoid them due to personal sensitivity or preferences.

Nutrition Comparison Table: The table below offers a helpful nutrition comparison between unsweetened almond milk and whole cow's milk:

Nutrient Unsweetened Almond Milk (1 cup) Whole Cow's Milk (1 cup)
Calories 30-60 150
Protein (g) 1-2 8
Fat (g) 2.5-3 8
Carbohydrates (g) <1 12
Dietary Fiber (g) 1-2 0
Calcium (mg) Varies (fortified) 300
Vitamin D (IU) Varies (fortified) Varies (fortified)
Vitamin E (mg) Varies (fortified) 0

It's worth mentioning that the nutritional content may vary depending on the brand and specific product formulation. Reading labels carefully ensures that you are fully aware of what you're consuming.

In consideration of the provided nutritional details, it is safe to say that unsweetened almond milk poses no inherent health risks when consumed as part of a balanced diet, and can actually contribute beneficial nutrients, especially when fortified. As with any food product, it's essential to understand your own nutritional needs and how almond milk fits into your overall dietary pattern.

Impact of Almond Milk on Allergy Sufferers

For individuals with allergies, especially to nuts, the question of safety regarding almond milk consumption is crucial. Almond milk, as implied by its name, is made from almonds, a tree nut which is a common allergen. For those with a known tree nut allergy, the consumption of almond milk could trigger an allergic reaction that may range from mild to potentially life-threatening.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, tree nut allergies are among the most common food allergies in adults and children. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to almonds can include:

  • Hives or a skin rash
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anaphylaxis, in severe cases

It's essential for allergy sufferers to realize that almond milk is not a suitable dairy milk alternative for everyone. While it is a popular choice for those seeking a lactose-free or vegan option, it is imperative to consider existing nut allergies.

Moreover, cross-contamination can be a concern. For example, facilities that process almond milk may also handle other nuts or allergenic foods, which could unwittingly expose individuals with multiple food allergies to potential risks. Reading labels for potential allergens and cross-contamination warnings is an essential practice for anyone with severe food allergies.

If you have a known allergy to almonds or other tree nuts, it is vital to consult with an allergist or medical professional before adding almond milk or any almond-containing product to your diet. In some cases, allergy testing may reveal that an individual with a tree nut allergy may safely consume certain nuts, but this should only be determined under medical supervision.

For those who do not have a nut allergy, unsweetened almond milk is generally considered safe to consume and can be a part of a balanced diet. However, it is always a good practice to be vigilant about reading ingredient lists and nutritional information, especially when coping with food sensitivities or allergies.

Furthermore, an emerging consideration for allergy sufferers is the concept of oral immunotherapy (OIT), which refers to the medical practice of exposing individuals to small amounts of the allergen in a controlled setting to build tolerance. While OIT for tree nuts, including almonds, is still under research and not yet widely available, this could potentially impact the appropriateness of almond milk for allergy sufferers in the future.

Individuals who are concerned about nut allergies but would like to include a milk alternative in their diets might consider other non-dairy options like soy milk, rice milk, or oat milk, provided they don't have allergies to these respective sources.

Calcium Content and Absorption from Almond Milk

Almond milk is a popular dairy alternative that is often consumed by those who are lactose intolerant, allergic to cow's milk, or adhere to a vegan or plant-based diet. While almonds themselves contain calcium, the amount found in commercially-prepared almond milk varies considerably based on whether it's fortified. Understanding the calcium content and its bioavailability in almond milk is crucial for maintaining bone health and meeting daily nutrition requirements.

Fortified Almond Milk: A Calcium Powerhouse?

Many brands of almond milk available in the market are fortified with calcium, which means that calcium is added to the almond milk to increase its nutritional value. Fortified almond milk can contain calcium levels that are comparable to cow’s milk, often offering between 300-450 milligrams per cup. This fortification can make it an excellent alternative source of calcium for individuals who do not consume dairy products. To ascertain the calcium content of a specific brand of almond milk, it is essential to read the nutritional information on the package.

Calcium Absorption: How Does Almond Milk Compare?

It's not just about the amount of calcium present in almond milk; its absorption (bioavailability) is equally important. The body's ability to absorb calcium from almond milk may differ from that of cow's milk due to the absence of lactose and the presence of other compounds. However, some studies suggest that the calcium added to fortified almond milk is generally well-absorbed. According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, calcium absorption from fortified almond milk was found to be equivalent to that from cow's milk in a small group of healthy individuals (source).

Natural Almond Milk: A Sparse Source of Calcium

In contrast to fortified varieties, natural, homemade almond milk typically contains less calcium. This is due to the filtering process which removes much of the solid content of almonds where the minerals reside. For those who prefer natural almond milk without fortification, it might be necessary to seek other dietary sources of calcium or consider supplementation after consulting with a healthcare provider.

Oxalates in Almonds and Almond Milk

Something to note is that almonds naturally contain oxalates, which are compounds found in many plant foods that can bind to minerals and decrease their absorption. In the context of almond milk, particularly versions that are not fortified, the concern with oxalates is lower as much of the almond pulp—where oxalates are concentrated—is removed during the manufacturing process.

Conclusion on Calcium in Almond Milk

When considering if unsweetened almond milk is bad for you in the context of calcium content and absorption, it is essential to consider the fortification of the product. Fortified almond milk can be a valuable calcium source, similar to cow's milk, for those who do not consume dairy. On the other hand, natural almond milk without fortification is not a reliable source of calcium. For those who rely on almond milk as a primary beverage, selecting a fortified product and understanding its role in your overall dietary calcium intake is important.

Additional Considerations

Beyond directly comparing almond milk to cow's milk, consumers should also consider the broader nutritional context of their individual needs. Including a variety of calcium-rich foods – such as leafy greens, tofu, and fortified cereals – along with vitamin D supplementation, if necessary, can enhance calcium absorption and support bone health within a well-rounded diet.

Environmental Footprint of Almond Milk Production

When analyzing the health implications of any food product, looking beyond the nutritional panel to its environmental impact is becoming increasingly important. Almond milk's popularity has grown due to its plant-based origin, often perceived as more eco-friendly than dairy milk. However, several environmental factors must be considered to understand the full picture.

Firstly, water usage is a significant aspect of almond farming. Almonds require a considerable amount of water to grow, with estimates suggesting that it takes 1.1 gallons (approximately 4.1 liters) of water to produce a single almond. Given that a large proportion of the world's almonds are grown in California, a state which has experienced severe droughts, the water-intensive nature of almond farming raises sustainability concerns.

In addition to water usage, land use for almond cultivation may also impact local ecosystems. Expansive almond orchards can displace native vegetation and the species that depend on them, which could lead to reduced biodiversity. Implementing more sustainable farming practices is crucial to minimizing this potential environmental disruption.

Bee populations are essential for almond pollination, and they are brought to almond groves en masse during flowering season. This practice has been linked to bee health issues, including increased exposure to pesticides and colony collapse disorder, although the industry is actively researching and implementing strategies to mitigate these risks.

On the positive side, almond milk production generally emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to the production of dairy milk, with some studies indicating that almond milk's carbon footprint is about a third of that of cow's milk. This is due to the lower methane emissions from almond trees compared to dairy cows.

However, the transportation of almonds and almond milk also contributes to carbon emissions, especially when almonds are shipped internationally. Locally-sourced alternatives might have a lower carbon footprint, depending on transportation and farming practices.

In conclusion, while almond milk presents some advantages over traditional dairy milk from an environmental perspective, such as lower greenhouse gas emissions, it is not without its challenges. Water use, land use, and impact on biodiversity and bee populations are key factors that need to be addressed to improve the sustainability of almond milk production.

Consumers concerned with the environmental footprint of their choices can look for almond milk brands that prioritize sustainable practices, such as responsible water use, organic farming methods, and support for bee populations. Additionally, considering the balance between dietary needs, personal health goals, and environmental impact can lead to more informed, conscientious food choices.

The Role of Additives in Store-Bought Almond Milk

Many store-bought almond milk options contain additives that are included for various reasons, including consistency, taste, and preservation. While these substances can make almond milk more appealing, they can also raise health concerns for some consumers.

1. Emulsifiers and Thickeners

Substances like lecithin and carrageenan are often added to almond milk to improve texture and prevent separation. While lecithin is deemed safe and even beneficial in moderate amounts, carrageenan has been a topic of debate. Although food-grade carrageenan is approved by the FDA, some animal studies have suggested that it could cause gastrointestinal inflammation or reduced gut health. Nonetheless, further research, especially in humans, is needed to draw substantial conclusions.

2. Gums

Gums such as xanthan gum or gellan gum serve as stabilizers. Most people tolerate these well, but they might cause digestive issues for those with sensitive systems or certain digestive disorders. As such, consuming almond milk with these additives might contribute to gastrointestinal discomfort in susceptible individuals.

3. Fortifying Agents

To enhance the nutritional value of almond milk, manufacturers often add vitamins and minerals. Commonly added nutrients include calcium carbonate, vitamin E, vitamin D2, and vitamin B12. While fortification helps in addressing nutrient deficiencies, particularly in plant-based diets, it's important to monitor intake to avoid potential hypervitaminosis or mineral imbalances, especially if consuming multiple fortified products.

4. Sweeteners and Flavors

In unsweetened almond milk, added flavors, while present, should be minimal and without sugars. However, some brands might include natural or artificial flavors that could be a concern for individuals with allergies or sensitivities. It's essential to read labels carefully to ensure that the almond milk aligns with your dietary needs.

5. Preservatives

Preservatives such as potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate may be present in some products to extend shelf life. While these are generally recognized as safe by regulatory agencies when used in low concentrations, some research links overconsumption of certain preservatives to health issues such as hypersensitivity reactions.

Understanding the role and potential impacts of these additives is crucial for those who wish to consume almond milk as part of a healthy diet. It's always advisable to consult ingredient lists and opt for products with minimal and recognizable additives. For individuals with specific health concerns, a homemade version without additives might be a preferable choice.

Unsweetened Almond Milk in a Balanced Diet

When considering the role of unsweetened almond milk in a balanced diet, it's crucial to assess its nutrient profile in comparison to other dietary alternatives. Unsweetened almond milk is often lauded for its low-calorie content and absence of added sugars, making it a popular choice for individuals monitoring their caloric intake or managing conditions like diabetes. As a plant-based milk alternative, it provides a suitable option for vegans, those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies, and anyone looking to reduce their consumption of animal products.

However, it's essential to remember that while almond milk can be a healthy inclusion within a balanced diet, it should be consumed as part of a varied dietary pattern that includes a wide range of nutrients. Almond milk typically lacks the natural protein and calcium content found in cow's milk, but many commercially available options are fortified to compensate for these differences. The fortification of almond milk with calcium and vitamin D is especially beneficial, as it helps individuals who do not consume dairy products to meet their daily requirements for these essential nutrients.

Let's take a closer look at the nutritional contributions of unsweetened almond milk within a balanced diet:

  • Low-Calorie Choice: A cup of unsweetened almond milk generally contains between 30-40 calories, making it a light addition to cereals, smoothies, or as a standalone beverage.
  • Healthy Fats: Almond milk contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which can contribute positively to cardiovascular health when consumed in moderation.
  • Fiber and Essential Nutrients: Although not a significant source of fiber, almonds themselves are rich in vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium, and some of these nutrients are retained in the milk.
  • Protein Considerations: With typically 1 gram of protein per cup, individuals relying on almond milk as their primary milk substitute should seek protein from other dietary sources.

For those integrating unsweetened almond milk into their diets, it is recommended to:

  • Choose fortified products to ensure adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Vary protein sources throughout the day, including legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and if applicable, animal products.
  • Be mindful of possible additives like carrageenan, which some studies have linked to digestive issues, though scientific consensus is still evolving.
  • Balance almond milk consumption with other nutrient-dense foods to ensure a rich supply of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients.

Critically, recent studies underscore the importance of diversity in plant-based milk consumption. A study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology (2017) suggests that varying types of plant-based milks can provide a broader spectrum of nutrients and benefits. Therefore, while unsweetened almond milk can be a healthy component of a balanced diet, it should not be the sole source of nutrients typically derived from milk products.

In summary, unsweetened almond milk can fit well within a balanced diet when consumed mindfully. Its benefits, particularly for specific dietary needs, should be weighed against its lower natural protein and mineral content, though fortification largely addresses these concerns. A thoughtful approach to inclusion, variety, and overall nutritional balance is key when incorporating almond milk or any food into one's diet.

Frequently asked questions

Unsweetened almond milk can contribute to better cholesterol levels due to its content of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. These fats have been associated with a reduction in levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and an increase in beneficial HDL cholesterol when they replace saturated fats in the diet. However, as part of an overall balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, individual results may vary, and it's important to consult with a healthcare professional about personalized dietary strategies for cholesterol management.

Additives can vary in their impact on health. Emulsifiers and thickeners, while improving texture and consistency, may cause digestive discomfort or have other health consequences for some people. Fortifying agents, such as vitamins and minerals, enhance nutritional value, but excessive intake can lead to imbalances. It is critical to check ingredient lists and choose almond milk with minimal and recognized additives, especially for those with sensitivities or specific health concerns. Homemade almond milk can be a healthier alternative without additives.

Almond milk's environmental impact varies compared to other non-dairy alternatives. While it often has a lower carbon footprint than cow's milk due to fewer methane emissions, it requires significant water use—more so than most other plant-based milks. Non-dairy alternatives like oat or soy milk may require less water and have different land use impacts, making them potentially more sustainable options. Consumers should consider the water usage, land impact, and transportation emissions when evaluating the environmental sustainability of their non-dairy milk choice.

Yes, if you replace cow's milk with unsweetened almond milk, you may need to supplement your diet with other sources of nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, and potentially calcium and vitamin D if your almond milk isn't fortified. It's important to incorporate a variety of other foods that can provide these nutrients, such as lean meats, fish, legumes, leafy greens, and fortified cereals, or consider taking dietary supplements after consulting with a healthcare provider.

Ask a question about Unsweetened Almond Milk and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • gastrointestinal discomfort
  • allergic reactions

Possible long-term side effects

  • nutrient deficiencies (if not balanced with other sources of nutrition)

Ingredients to be aware of


  • low-calorie
  • low carbohydrate
  • heart-healthy fats
  • often fortified with essential nutrients

Healthier alternatives

  • homemade almond milk
  • other plant-based milks (soy, rice, oat)
  • lactose-free dairy milk

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Organic Almond Milk

  • Unsweetened variety
  • USDA Organic
  • Dairy-free alternative
  • Non-GMO
  • 64 Fl Oz size
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-23-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-23-2024

Random Page

Check These Out!