As consumers we often want one straight answer to our question. Which is better almond milk or cow’s milk. The answer is: it depends on what you’re looking for. Cow’s milk has benefits almond milk doesn’t have. Almond milk has benefits cow’s milk doesn’t have. Cow’s milk has dangers completely different than almond milk. Vice versa. I will do a straight forward comparison of nutrients in each.
Nutrients in almond milk vs Nutrients in cow’s milk
As you can see above, commercial almond milk has very little calories (which is good if you’re trying to lose weight but bad if you want your toddler to gain weight). Commercial almond milk has very little protein (because it’s diluted with water), it has very little saturated fats (which is great in comparison to cow’s milk), it has very little zinc (animal products usually have more zinc), it is an excellent source of vitamin E (which is an antioxidant and most people do not get enough Vit E).
So is it better? Well it depends. Are you getting enough zinc from other sources, are you getting enough protein from other sources such as meat? Are you getting enough calories throughout the day? Because if you’re not then cow’s milk would be better nutritionally in this case. This is just to say that it all depends on the rest of the diet. This is my take home point from every workshop, especially toddler feeding workshops. We can not look at one item and say is it healthier or not because we have to look at it in context to the rest of the diet.
How about home made almond milk vs. commercial almond milk?
I would like to show you though a comparison of commercial almond milk vs. almond milk made at home.
As you can see a cup of almond milk made at home is higher in calories, much higher in proteins (which is good if you’re not having animal sources) it is much higher in healthy fats (which is great if you’re not having other sources of healthy fat) it is lower in calcium (because commercial almond milk is often supplemented) . Home made almond milk is also higher in iron, zinc, vitamin E, and magnesium. Much higher actually. This is great because we’re often low on iron and magnesium as well which can cause everything from fatigue to mood disorders. So almonds apply the concept of “Good things come in small packages”.
So is home made almond milk more nutritious than commercial almond milk? Yes. Should it be the only source of calcium in the body? Absolutely not, because it’s high concentration of fats (even if it’s healthy) can become dangerous if consumed in excess. So here too it depends on the rest of the diet.
How about the chemicals in both? Which is better almond milk or cow’s milk?
It is true that there are lots of hormones and antibiotics being put into cows which is then being found in cow’s milk and then our bodies. Babies and young children are more affected by chemicals. For this reason, it is best to consume organic dairy products when possible.
Almonds in comparison usually have a high residue of pesticides. It is best to wash them well and then soak them to remove the pesticide content. Organic almonds are also found.
Bottom line is: your choice of dairy should be looked at in comparison to the rest of your diet (or your child’s diet). It is best to go get calcium from several sources including other non-dairy sources as well such as broccoli, spinach, white beans, sardines, salmon, and sesame seeds.