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08/17/2020

Almond Milk vs. Regular Milk in Protein Shakes

Cow's milk – and really traditional dairy in general – has been gradually losing quite a bit of popularity over the past several years.

 

And, while fitness enthusiasts in the past would commonly toss a cup or so of cow's milk into their protein shakes in the past, many are now switching to one of the many milk alternatives that are out there.

 

Of all of these other options, almond milk is one of the most popular varieties available. But why? How does almond milk compare with cow's milk?  

 

What They Are

 

Before we get into the details, though, let's just make sure that we're clear on exactly what we're talking about. After all, how, precisely, does one milk an almond?

 

Really, almond milk isn't milk at all. Instead, it's simply pureed almonds and water. Often, sugar and other flavorings are sometimes added to make the end-product a touch more appetizing. But we'll talk more about that later.

 

Glass of almond milk next to a bowl of almonds

 

Cow's milk, however, is much more familiar and likely doesn't need an explanation. It is important to note, however, that there are several different types of cow's milk with varying nutritional profiles.

 

Generally, these products differ in their fat content – having had large or small amounts of the naturally-occuring fat removed.  

 

Nutrition

 

And that brings us neatly to the real issue at the core of this discussion: the nutrition of these two milks. How do they compare? One cup of almond milk contains: 3.5g of fat 1.5g of carbohydrates 1.5g of protein 40 total calories.

 

Remember, though, that these numbers reflect the make-up of unsweetened almond milk. Once sweeteners get involved, the carbohydrate numbers will multiply rapidly.

 

But what about cow's milk? The numbers look like this: 8g of fat 11g of carbs 8g of protein 146 total calories Clearly, cow's milk contains more... of everything.

 

Jug of cow's milk being poured into a glass on a wooden table

 

Micros

But food is always about more than just macronutrients – vitamins, minerals and other compounds also play a key role in the benefits we derive from food. In that regard, almond milk and cow's milk are vastly different.

 

Almond milk contains very little calcium. Cow's milk, on the other hand, is an excellent natural source of calcium. Usually, both of these products are fortified with vitamin D.  

 

Allergens

 

What about allergies and food sensitivities? Cow's milk, somewhat infamously, can cause some digestive issues for many people. Most of the time, this has to do with the sugar called lactose which naturally occurs in the milk and which the human body sometimes lacks the enzyme to break down.

 

It's also possible for someone to have an allergy to casein – a protein found in milk. This will cause reactions similar to other allergies, including rashes, swelling a difficulty breathing. Although almond milk is free of lactose, it does contain carrageenan which could also cause digestive upset in some people.

 

Glass of almond milk next to a bowl of almonds

  

Ultimately...

 

It's difficult to say that one of these milk sources is clearly better than the other. Both have their pros and cons and some might be strictly off-limits for people with allergies or dietary restrictions.