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This guest post was written by Elisha of My Health Maven. She is deeply passionate about educating people and empowering them to lead healthier lives. We encourage you to check out her blog and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!

Nondairy milk is all the rage, which isn’t so surprising since 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. That being said, people who are dairy intolerant are grateful to have so many options available to them. But how does non-dairy milk actually stack up against the nutritional benefits of cow’s milk? Is it actually a healthier option?

13 reasons to avoid cow’s milk

First, let’s address the controversy behind whether dairy products are good for us to begin with. We’ve all been told from a young age that cow’s milk produces strong bones, teeth and a great source of calcium, but recent science is pointing to the fact that consuming dairy may actually be contributing to a number of health conditions and illnesses. (1)

According to Dr. Mark Hyman the majority of adults stop producing lactase sometime between the age of two and five. (2) Which may explain why many adults have a difficult time digesting dairy products. Lactase is an enzyme that the body needs to metabolize lactose. That in itself is the reason many people give up dairy, they simply don’t feel well when it’s consumed.

Below are some other reasons to give up dairy based on research:

Acne-Dairy consumption has been linked to increased acne. (3)   

Allergen-Milk is the most self-reported food allergen. (4)

Bone fractures-Bone fractures are actually higher in countries that consume the most dairy and animal protein.(5) According to a study from BMJ, “Michaëlsson and colleagues suggest that milk is harmful because a metabolite of lactose, D-galactose, that can mimic aging through inflammation and oxidative stress in animal models. (6)

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Constipation-Children with constant constipation may simply have a milk allergy. (7)

Children’s illnesses-An allergy to cow’s milk “should be considered in children with symptoms such as wheezing, rhinitis, dry cough, vomiting, laryngeal edema, acute asthma with severe respiratory distress, anaphylaxis. Late reactions due to cow’s milk allergy are atopic dermatitis, chronic diarrhea, blood in the stools, iron deficiency anemia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, constipation, chronic vomiting, colic, poor growth”. (8)

Diabetes-Cow’s milk protein may play a role in triggering type 1 diabetes through a process called molecular mimicry. (9)  

Ear infections-Chronic ear infections are frequently linked to dairy allergies. (10)

Heiner’s syndrome-This respiratory disease in infants is primarily caused by consuming milk. (11)

Increased cholesterol-Milk fat contains a broad range of fatty acids and some have a negative impact on the cholesterol rich lipoproteins. It is important to note that this is dependent on frequency and quantity of consumption. (12)  

Inflammatory– D-galactose in milk is inflammatory and increases sign of aging. Individuals with cow’s milk allergies also rate high on inflammatory scores. (13) Studies have connected full-fat dairy with disrupting our gut microbiome, actually decreasing levels of good gut bacteria which are key in reducing inflammation. (14)

Multiple Sclerosis-Countries that consume higher amounts of dairy, also have higher rates of MS. (15)  

Nasal Polyps –An allergy to cow’s milk may be a contributing factor in chronic nasal polyps.  (16)

Ovarian & prostate cancer risk-Evidence shows that consuming milk or dairy products may contribute to the risk of prostate and ovarian cancers. (17)   

Introducing Almond Milk

Almond milk is a wonderful option for anyone who is dairy or soy intolerant. This milk is high in iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, sodium, phosphorous and magnesium.  Almond milk is also rich in vitamin C, B6, E thiamine, riboflavin, folate and niacin. (18) To ensure you’re getting the most nutrient dense version of almond milk, simply make it at home.

Here is a basic recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of almonds, soaked overnight
  • 4 cups of filtered water
  • Pinch of cinnamon, sea salt and sweetener (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Blend together and
  2. then strain with cheesecloth
  3. Store in fridge for 3-4 days

The Benefits of Almonds

Aside from being a delicious food, almonds offer an extensive number of benefits. Studies have shown health benefits of nut consumption including reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, gallstones, hypertension, cancer, inflammation, blood pressure and metabolic syndrome. Here are just a few reasons to consider adding this healthy food to your diet. (19)

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Cancer fighter-Gamma tocopherol (a type of vitamin E) is a potent antioxidant that can fight oxidative stress and free radical damage which are linked to cancer. Studies link higher vitamin E intake with lower rates of prostate and colon cancer. (19, 20, 21)

Weight loss-Almonds contain monounsaturated fat which help to curb appetite and can prevent over eating. This study shows that people who consume almonds at least twice a week are more likely to remain at their ideal weight, rather than those who rarely or never consume almonds. (23)

Lowered Cholesterol– Almonds have been found to have a consistent LDL lowering effect in healthy individuals, and in individuals with high cholesterol and diabetes. (24)

Diabetes– Almonds are high in healthy fat, protein, fiber and magnesium. Magnesium is also needed for more than 300 bodily functions including controlling blood sugar levels. (25)

Blood pressure– Magnesium deficiency is linked to blood pressure problems. Almonds are high in magnesium and may be able to help reduce blood pressure issues. (26)

Heart Health-Some of the ingredients in almonds such as arginine, calcium, copper, manganese, magnesium, and potassium are important nutrients for heart health.

Nutrient Rich-Almonds are rich in fiber and protein. They also contain vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, manganese, copper, calcium, iron and phosphorous. (27)

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Brain health– Almonds contain L-carnitine and riboflavin two ingredients that positively affect brain activity and actually help prevent with cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s– Several studies link lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease to high vitamin E consumption., as well  as less cognitive decline with age. Thankfully almonds are high in vitamin E. (28, 29)

Immune system– Almonds contribute to the body’s alkalinity and have high levels of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that destroys free radicals in the body. Research also shows people whose intake of vitamin E is high are 30-40% less likely to suffer with heart disease. (30)

Gut Health– Almonds and almond skins are rich in fiber and other components that have potential prebiotic properties. This study showed significant increases in the populations of Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp. (31)

Nutrition of almonds

One cup of almonds (roughly equals 23 almonds) contains: (32)

  • Fiber: 3.5 grams.
  • Protein: 6 grams.
  • Fat: 14 grams (9 of which are monounsaturated).
  • Vitamin E: 37% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 32% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 20% of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and phosphorus.

So What’s Better Nutritionally? Cow’s Milk or Almond Milk

They each have their benefits. Almond milk offers higher amounts of Vitamin E, D and A, as well as offering 20% of calcium daily values, compared to cow milk’s 28 %. Cow milk offers higher levels of protein, fat, carbs and calories. So it’s important to consider your nutritional needs, as well as the healthiest options for you.

While the calcium and protein levels are higher in cow’s milk there are certainly numerous food options for those who are dairy intolerant, or who wish to avoid any potential health risks.

Almond Milk Whole Milk
Calories 40 146
Carbs 2 grams 12.8 grams
Protein 1 gram 7.9 grams
Fat 3 grams 7.9 grams
Fiber 1 gram 0
Vitamin E 10 milligrams  (50 % DV) 0.1 mg (1% DV)
Vitamin D 100 IU vitamin D (25 % DV) 97.6 IU  (24% DV)
Calcium 200 milligrams (20 % DV) 276 mg  (28% DV)
Vitamin A 500 IU  (10 % DV) 249 IU (5% DV)
Magnesium 16 milligrams  (4 % DV) 24.4 mg. (6% DV)
Phosphorous 40 milligrams (4 % DV) 222 mg. (22% DV)

A Final Note

There are many reasons people give up dairy, for some it is a conscious choice to not consume animal products, for others it is simply a health choice. If you don’t enjoy almonds, there are numerous other options for dairy-free milk including cashew, hemp, coconut, rice, macadamia, oat, pumpkin seed, and soy to name a few.

Additional Sources:

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Elisha McFarland
Health Expert
Elisha McFarland, N.D. is the founder of My Health Maven. She turned her debilitating illness from mercury poisoning into a dedicated passion for helping people.
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