Milk alternatives, or “mylk”, are all the rage as people are looking to plant-based ways to ditch the dairy. Let’s take a closer look at two popular options (almond milk & soy milk) and see what makes them so wonderful.
What is the difference between almond milk and soy milk?
Almond milk consists of ground almonds, and soy milk consists of ground soybeans. Both almond and soy milk are made with water, and resemble the appearance of cow’s milk.
As healthy plant-based alternatives, they are both low in saturated fat (beneficial for heart health), and naturally lactose-free (favorable for the lactose-intolerant or those who have a dairy allergy). Research indicates that a growing number of individuals are opting for non-dairy alternatives as the prevalence of food allergies continues to rise.
So which one is generally healthier?
It’s challenging to directly compare almond milk and soy milk because it depends on a number of factors, including personal nutritional needs, taste preferences, food sensitivities, and product variation. From a nutrition standpoint:
- Soy milk contains more protein than almond milk.
- Soy milk contains more heart healthy polyunsaturated fats.
- Almond milk is lower in calories compared to soy milk, and contains more heart healthy monounsaturated fats.
- Almond milk contains slightly more sodium than soy milk, and both milks do not contain lactose.
- Both milks are low in saturated fat.
Important Health Tip: Go with the unsweetened version of both almond and soy milk, and check the label. Look for milk alternatives that contain no added sugars or additives like thickeners or emulsifiers.
Does almond milk contain as much protein as almonds?
A common misconception is that almond milk is a good source of protein. Almonds in their raw form are a good source of protein and healthy fat with ~6 grams of protein per serving (approximately 23 almonds). Compared to one serving (or 8 ounces) of almond milk, it contains only ~1 gram of protein.
Store-bought almond milks comprise mostly of water, where some brands contain only 2% almonds. That makes the other 98% water, added vitamins and minerals, and sometimes emulsifiers.
Which one is better for the environment?
From a climate change perspective, current research suggests plant-based milk alternatives may be more environmentally friendly than cow’s milk. Soy may also have a lower environmental impact on water usage than almonds since almonds are a water intensive crop. That’s because California grows 80% of our almonds, and currently battles against serve drought.
A better, eco-friendly option is to make your own milk alternative at home, which will likely increase the milk’s nutritional value. Keep in mind, that both almond milk and soy milk are not good sources of calcium, although many store-bought brands are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
If you’re making your own plant-based milk, it is important to look for food alternatives that contain high amounts of calcium such as cheese or yogurt, or some great vegetarian options high in calcium are dark leafy greens (like collard greens, turnip greens, kale, bok choy, and broccoli).
What’s your favorite plant-based milk?
HEADER IMAGE: DEMI DEHERRERA
Kim Denkhaus, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with her private practice based in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In a modern-day society focused on convenience and fast-paced lifestyles, Kim is on a mission to help people reconnect with food in a sustainable, healthier way that will help them appreciate where their food comes from and empower them to use use whole foods to fuel and nourish their bodies.