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Almond milk is slightly beige in colour and has a creamy texture and nutty taste. It can be made at home by grinding almonds with water, or it can be purchased with increasing availability. Unlike animal milk, almond milk has neither cholesterol nor lactose and being a plant food, it is often consumed by vegans, vegetarians, the lactose intolerant, and others forgoing dairy. Commercial almond milk often comes in plain, vanilla, or chocolate flavors and is sometimes enriched with vitamins, but can also be made at home naturally via using a blender, almonds, and water.
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 after the Latin name for the almond. It was consumed over a region extending 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 early 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.
Almonds are rich in nutrients including fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, manganese, zinc, potassium, iron, phosphorus, tryptophan, copper, and calcium. "The UK Institute of Food Research found finely ground almonds contain potential probiotic properties that could help boost digestive health by increasing the levels of certain beneficial bacteria in the stomach".
Commercially-sold 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.
Almond milk is a popular alternative to dairy milk; however, it contains less protein than dairy milk, although some commercial almond milks contain more calcium than dairy milk but almost no protein.
Almond milk has a number of health benefits, including:
- Lower caloric content compared to dairy milk;
- No cholesterol or saturated fat as well as low sodium content;
- High calcium levels, which may reduce the risk of developing arthritis and osteoporosis;
- 50 percent recommended daily value of vitamin E;
- Unsweetened almond milk has a low glycemic index, reducing risk of diabetes, and
- No lactose, making it suitable for lactose intolerant people.
Carrageenan is an additive derived from seaweed and is used as a stabilizer and thickener in almond milk. Although it is considered safe by the FDA, some scientists have raised questions about the potentially harmful effects of widespread carrageenan consumption. There is no question that carrageenan itself is safe for consumption, but one of its chemical derivatives, poligeenan (referred to as "degraded carrageenan" in older literature), is a known carcinogen and is not approved as a food additive. The argument over the safety of carrageenan consumption hinges on the claim that carrageenan in food is converted into poligeenan at significant levels in foods or during digestion. Other scientists have concluded that carrageenan is not converted to poligeenan to any significant extent in the gastrointestinal tract. Carrageenan is commonly used to induce inflammation in animal tissues by direct injection; degraded carrageenan (poligeenan) has been shown to cause ulceration in the intestine, but this effect has not been demonstrated with carrageenan itself.
The basic method of modern domestic almond milk production is to grind almonds in a blender with water and honey (or any other sweetener), then strain out the almond pulp (flesh) with a strainer, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag. Almond milk can also be made by adding water and sweeteners to almond butter.
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- Make your own DIY Almond Milk in Two Minutes