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The Healthier Choice: Almond Milk vs. Milk

Almond milk is a popular milk substitute that is made by mixing finely ground almonds with water. Almond milk has a very high nutritional value and, unlike cow's milk, is safe for those who are lactose intolerant or have gluten and casein allergies. Here's how almond milk and cow's milk compare.

Almond Milk and Its Origins

Almond milk is made by mixing ground almonds with water and straining it to remove almond skins and sediment. Almond milk has been used since the Middle Ages as a substitute for cow's milk. Because cow's milk doesn't keep very long without refrigeration, medieval people processed it into butter and cheese right away to preserve it. They used almond milk in cooking and baking, since it's easier to store.

The Nutritional Value of Almond Milk

Almond milk is one of the most nutritionally valuable milk substitutes available today. It is high in a number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, iron, fiber, zinc and calcium. Almond milk is low in calories, at only 40 calories per eight ounce serving, and low in fat. It contains only three grams of fat per eight ounce serving. Almond milk is lactose, gluten, casein and cholesterol free; it's also free of saturated fats.

The Nutritional Value of Cow's Milk

Whole cow's milk is a very nutritious food. It's high in protein, with eight grams per serving. One eight ounce cup of milk meets 28% of your daily requirement of calcium, and fortified milk helps to fulfill your daily vitamin A and D requirements. However, whole milk is high in fat, with eight grams per serving, and saturated fat, with five grams per serving. Milk also contains 24 mg of cholesterol per serving, and contains 146 calories per serving.

Almond Milk and Cow's Milk Compared

Compared to cow's milk, almond milk is the much healthier choice. Almond milk contains a wide variety of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function. Almond milk also contains high levels of antioxidants, so it can help prevent many types of cancer and slow the signs of aging. Almond milk is also great for those who can't drink cow's milk due to lactose intolerance, or a casein or gluten allergy; however, those with tree nut allergies should avoid almond milk because it could elicit a dangerous allergic reaction.

Whole cow's milk contains a lot more calories and fat than almond milk, making almond milk the better choice for those on a diet. Cow's milk also contains saturated fat and cholesterol; almond milk is free of both saturated fat and cholesterol, making it a healthier choice, especially for those with heart problems.

While cow's milk contains high levels of calcium, and is fortified with vitamins A and D to help you meet your daily requirements of these vitamins, almond milk contains high levels of a wide range of necessary vitamins and therefore has a higher nutritional value than cow's milk. The only thing that cow's milk has more of than almond milk is protein; cow's milk has eight grams of protein per serving while almond milk has only one gram per serving.

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