A recent Mother Jones headline reads, “Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters.” Shutterstock
According to Mother Jones food and agriculture correspondent Tom Philpott, co-founder of a center for sustainable food education in North Carolina, almonds leave a “rather intense ecological footprint” and thus should be consumed sparingly, as a “special treat,” not pulverized and drained to create the dairy alternative so many Americans are consuming these days. Moreover, what almond milk producers are selling, Philpott says, is actually a “jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds” that doesn’t compare to the nut’s significant nutritional value.
Now, I get why people are switching away from dairy milk. Industrial-scale dairy production is a pretty nasty business, and large swaths of adults can’t digest lactose, a sugar found in fresh dairy milk. Meanwhile, milk has become knit into our dietary culture, particularly at breakfast, where we cling to a generations-old tradition of drenching cereal in milk. Almond milk and other substitutes offer a way to maintain this practice while rejecting dairy. (Almond milk has been crushing once-ubiquitous soy milk, perhaps partly because of hotly contested fears that it creates hormonal imbalances.)
All that aside, almond milk strikes me as an abuse of a great foodstuff. Plain almonds are a nutritional powerhouse. Let’s compare a standard serving (one ounce, about a handful) to the 48-ounce bottle of Califia Farms almond milk that a house guest recently left behind in my fridge.
A single ounce (28 grams) of almonds—nutrition info here—contains six grams of protein (about an egg’s worth), along with three grams of fiber (a medium banana) and 12 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (half an avocado). According to its label, an eight-ounce serving of Califia almond milk offers just one gram each of protein and fiber, and five grams of fat. A bottle of Califia delivers six eight-ounce servings, meaning that a handful of almonds contains as much protein as the mighty jug of this hot-selling beverage.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata