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Is Almond Milk Okay on the Carnivore Diet?

by | Last updated Jul 3, 2024 | Drinks, FUNDAMENTALS

Almond milk is a plant-based drink and is certainly not considered a carnivore food. However, we’ve been asked whether it’s okay to use almond milk (e.g., in coffee or tea) while following a carnivore diet, especially for individuals with dairy sensitivity. Let’s explore this question in this post.

Table of Contents

How Almond Milk Is Made

Almond milk is typically made by blending almonds with water and then straining the mixture to remove the solid particles. Here’s a basic process: [1, 2]

  • Soaking Almonds: Start by soaking raw almonds in water overnight or for 8-12 hours. This softens the almonds and makes them easier to blend.
  • Draining and Rinsing: After soaking, drain the water from the almonds and give them a quick rinse under running water. You may also peel the skins off if you want a smoother texture.
  • Blending: Put the soaked almonds into a blender and add filtered water. Optional add-ins such as vanilla extract, strawberry, dates, cocoa powder, or cinnamon can also be added at this stage. The ratio of almonds to water can vary depending on how creamy you want your almond milk to be, but a common ratio is 1 cup of almonds to 4 cups of water. You can adjust this based on your preference. Blend the almonds and water together until smooth. This usually takes a couple of minutes.
  • Straining: Once blended, pour the mixture through a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl or pitcher. This will separate the almond pulp from the milk. Squeeze or press the pulp to extract as much liquid as possible. For an even smoother texture, you can strain the milk a second time through a finer mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
  • Storing: Transfer the strained almond milk into a clean glass jar or bottle and store it in the refrigerator. It can last for about 3-4 days when properly refrigerated.

What’s in Almond Milk?

Home made almond milk contains just almond, water and optional flavorings like vanilla, strawberry, cocoa and cinnamon. As it does not contain additives that prolong shelf life like store-bought versions, it should be consumed within a few days.

Commercial almond milk, on the other hand, often contains ingredients other than almond and water such as: [3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

  • Sweeteners: Some brands of almond milk may include sweeteners such as cane sugar, agave syrup, rice syrup, or other natural or artificial sweeteners to enhance the taste.
  • Starches: starch such as tapioca starch, rice starch or corn starch may be added to thicken almond milk, giving it a creamier texture. Additionally, starch can also help prevent separation of ingredients in almond milk, ensuring a more uniform product.
  • Emulsifiers and Stabilizers: Emulsifiers and stabilizers such as lecithin, gellan gum, or carrageenan are often added to prevent separation of the almond solids and water, as well as to improve the texture and mouthfeel of the milk.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Many commercial almond milk products are fortified with vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin B12, to enhance their nutritional value and mimic the nutritional profile of cow’s milk.
  • Flavorings: Some almond milk products may contain natural or artificial flavorings, such as vanilla or chocolate, to add variety to the taste.
  • Preservatives: Some brands may include preservatives to extend the shelf life of the almond milk and maintain its freshness.

Nutrition in Almond Milk vs Whole Milk

Because ingredients in commercial almond milk can vary significantly, its nutritional contents also vary and depend upon the added ingredients apart from almond and water. Cow’s milk nutritional profile, however, is relatively consistent.

Below is a comparison of the nutritional contents of an unsweetened almond milk sample and whole milk. [8, 9]

Due to the added ingredients, almond milk can appear to be nutritional rich and sometimes its nutritional profile is very similar to that of cow’s milk. However, while cow’s milk and other animal sourced milk (goat and sheep’s milk) are unprocessed whole food, almond milk is an ultra-processed food with artificial nutrients added to make it appear more nutritious and healthy. [10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16]

The major differences between almond milk and cow’s milk are noted below:

  1. Calories: Almond milk is generally lower in calories compared to cow’s milk. Unsweetened varieties typically contain around 30-60 calories per cup, depending on the brand and added ingredients.
  2. Fat: Cow’s milk contains more fat than almond milk, particularly saturated fat. Almond milk typically has less fat, and the fats are primarily unsaturated.
  3. Protein: Cow’s milk is a richer source of protein compared to almond milk. It contains almost four times the amount of protein found in almond milk. While cow’s milk typically contains around 8 grams of protein per cup, almond milk generally has only 1-2 grams per cup.
  4. Carbohydrates: Cow’s milk contains more carbohydrates, mainly in the form of lactose. Unsweetened almond milk is low in carbohydrates, typically containing around 1-2 grams per cup but sweetened varieties may have higher carbohydrate content.
  5. Fiber: Almond milk naturally contains a small amount of fiber from the almonds.
  6. Vitamins and Minerals: Many almond milk products are fortified with vitamins and minerals to enhance their nutritional profile. Common fortifications include calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin A.
  7. Calcium: Fortified almond milk often contain calcium and some brands provide as much calcium as cow’s milk, while others may have slightly lower amounts.
  8. Vitamin D: Like calcium, vitamin D is crucial for bone health, and many almond milk products are fortified with vitamin D to support the absorption of calcium.

Should You Have Almond Milk on Your Carnivore Diet?

In my opinion, the answer is a definite no for several reasons.

Firstly, almond milk is a plant-based food, so if you want to strictly follow the carnivore diet, it is off the menu.

Secondly, the nutritional content of pure almond milk made from just almonds and water is inferior compared to animal-sourced milk such as cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, or goat’s milk. Therefore, manufacturers commonly fortify almond milk with essential nutrients to make it appear healthier. However, there is no essential nutrient in almond milk that you cannot get from animal-sourced milk or other animal-sourced foods.

Thirdly, almond milk, especially commercial varieties, is an ultra-processed food with added chemicals to improve taste and texture, prolong shelf life, and make it appear more nutritious and healthy. Ultra-processed foods should be avoided regardless of whether you follow a carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan diet.

Over millions of years of evolution, our bodies have developed the ability to distinguish between whole foods found in nature and ultra-processed foods created in factories. Consuming these ultra-processed or “fake” foods can trigger a response in your body due to the presence of harmful chemicals and stimulants. This response can lead to inflammation and various health problems. For example, carrageenan, a seaweed extract commonly used as an emulsifier in almond milk, has been linked to gut health disruption, increased inflammation, and even carcinogenic properties. [17, 18, 19]

A food should not be considered healthy simply because one of its ingredients is healthy; how it is made and what other ingredients are added during the process are equally important.

If you are sensitive to real milk (e.g., cow, goat, and sheep’s milk), it’s best to stick to water and avoid almond milk.

However, if you’re still set on enjoying almond milk, making your own with organic almonds is likely the best option. Almond farming often relies heavily on pesticides to achieve commercially viable outcomes, which can contribute to environmental damage and pesticide residues on the almonds are unavoidable. [20, 21]

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DisclaimerThe information in this post is for reference purposes only and is not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. Please check out our disclaimer for more detail.