Unlike animal milk, almond milk contains neither cholesterol nor lactose. As it does not contain any animal products, it is suitable for vegans and vegetarians who abstain from dairy products. Commercial almond milk products often come in plain, vanilla, or chocolate flavors and are sometimes enriched with vitamins. Almond milk can also be made at home by grinding almonds with water in a blender. Vanilla flavoring and sweeteners are often added.
Almond milk is slightly beige in colour and has a creamy texture and nutty taste. It is easy to make at home or purchase in long-life cartons at the supermarket.
In the Middle Ages, almond milk was known in both the Islamic world and Christendom. As a nut (the "fruit of a plant"), it is suitable for consumption during Lent. Almond milk was a staple of medieval kitchens because cow's milk could not keep for long without spoiling.
Historically, almond milk was also called amygdalate. It was consumed over a region stretching all the way from the Iberian Peninsula to East Asia. Le Viandier, a 14th-century recipe collection, contains a recipe for almond milk and recommends its use as a substitute for animal milk during fast days.
In the United States, almond milk remained a fairly niche health food item until the late 2000s, when its popularity began to increase. In 2011 alone, almond milk sales increased by 79%. In 2013, it surpassed soy milk as the most popular plant-based milk in the U.S. Popular brands of almond milk include Blue Diamond's Almond Breeze and WhiteWave Foods' Silk PureAlmond. Almond milk and tofu are popular in China as well. One popular brand in China is Lulu Almond Drink (露露杏仁露).
Almonds are rich in nutrients including fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, manganese, zinc, potassium, iron, phosphorus, tryptophan, copper, and calcium. Almond milk has less protein than cow's milk and other animal milk substances.
For children with atopic dermatitis under two years of age, almond milk is not a suitable replacement for breast milk, cow's milk, or hydrolyzed formulas due to the low protein. "The UK Institute of Food Research found finely ground almonds contain potential prebiotic properties that could help boost digestive health by increasing the levels of certain beneficial bacteria in the stomach".
Almond milk is not a nutritional alternative to human or dairy milk. Some scientific research suggests that carrageenan, a common stabilizer and thickening agent in some, but not all, almond milk is harmful in animals.
The basic method to make almond milk at home is to run soaked almonds in a blender with water and any sweeteners, then strain out the almond pulp (flesh) with a strainer or cheesecloth. One can also blend almond butter with water and sweeteners.
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